Our Story

Firmly Rooted in Family

Blanchard Family Wines is more than a tale of two brothers with a desire to start a business together.  It is the story of how wine can bring people together, shatter barriers, and can ignite passions that make dreams come true.  Blanchard Family Wines is a company formed to express two brother’s vision of the uniting qualities of great wine shared between friends and family.

Although this is a first generation wine venture, the roots of the company are grounded in a family concept. The founders, Mark and James Blanchard, follow the tradition of two Blanchard brothers that can be traced back to at least the last four generations in the family. Only separated by two years in age, they played the same sports, had the same interests, and the younger Mark was often seen following James around in emulation. In fact, they ran so closely as children that everyone referred to them simply as the Blanchard Boys.  

Brothers Growing Apart

However, as they grew in age they separated through distance, ideology, and lifestyle. James joined the military through the Air Force Academy, earned degrees in business finance, and became a combat helicopter pilot. Mark became a freer spirit studying music and poetry, following rock bands around the country, and earning his degree in creative writing. Their differences became so great, their beliefs to strong, they rarely spoke for years. Occasional meetings at holiday gatherings led to disagreements on every topic imaginable and the fear of a lifelong fracture between these two childhood allies.

As fate would have it, from a Midwestern family that would sooner have domestic beer in the fridge than wine in the cellar, it was actually fine wine that changed the relationship and path of these two boys. During Mark’s studies at a liberal arts college in the Chicago area, he began a job as a stock boy at a local specialty liquor store.  Quickly his interest in this mysterious culture of wine began to grow and after graduation he became the manager and wine buyer for the location. At the same time across the country James was stationed at Vandenberg Air Force Base in the Central Coast wine region of California.  James would fly his helicopter over the vineyards of Santa Maria, Santa Ynez, and Paso Robles and then later go visit these wineries and educate himself about winemaking and became quite a consumer and collector of fine wine. Mark was finding education through sales and daily tastings with wine distributors, while James was discovering the world of wine first hand in California.

A Passion For Wine Creates a Bond Between the Brothers

These experiences didn’t eliminate their differences completely, but at least created a common topic of discussion at the family gatherings. Mark would share his wine knowledge and stories of great wines he had sampled while James could share stories of the wineries he visited and the wine makers he met. Although developed completely separately, their wine preferences were amazingly similar and it led to Mark’s first visit to California to jointly explore the great wineries of Napa Valley with James. After years of separation and animosity, James and Mark were sitting together in the vineyards of Napa Valley, sharing a glass of Cabernet and remembering that their similarities were far greater than their differences. It was during one of these visits that Mark determined that wine would take a prominent role in his life and he was called to Napa for a new career. 

Over the next six years Mark worked for various wineries in both Napa and Sonoma County, eventually settling down in the town of Healdsburg in the Russian River Valley. James moved several times with the Air Force, spending significant time in Florida and Colorado, but continued to visit Mark to re-grow their relationship and expand their wine knowledge. Mark primarily gained his education through the hands-on approach of working in sales, hospitality, and production for large massed produced wineries as well as small boutique operations.  James dug deeper into the world of wine through tasting, reading, and courses at UC Davis. All the while, they both dreamed of someday making and selling their own wine. 

The Birth of a New Family Legacy

They both had seen how wine had created togetherness and camaraderie between their friends, their family, and each other, and they shared this story with anyone that would listen.  They knew that someday the time would be right and they would launch their venture. During one of James’ visits to Sonoma County for Mark’s 30th birthday, the Blanchard Boys were relaxing for the evening with a cigar and a glass of wine, James turned to Mark and said that enough was enough, the right time was now. It was there that the foundations of Blanchard Family Wines were born. 

  James (left) and Mark Blanchard relaxing at one of our Sonoma County vineyard sources.  Photo by Steve Blanchard.

James (left) and Mark Blanchard relaxing at one of our Sonoma County vineyard sources.  Photo by Steve Blanchard.

Company Philosophy

Blanchard Family Wines is dedicated to the creation of limited production, hand crafted, artisan wines, sourced from the top vineyards in the Sonoma Valley. We know that great wine is born in the vineyard so we choose growers that have the same focus and passion that we do for quality. We attempt to showcase the world class appellations of Russian River, Chalk Hill, Dry Creek, and Alexander Valley and most of our wines are either 100% varietal or single-vineyard products.

Our family roots blend into our company philosophy from our logo to our product names. The BB symbol used as our company logo was created by the founder’s father, Steve, as a tribute to the family tradition. The two interlocked B’s in the center of the symbol represent the two Blanchard brothers joined in a common bond. This not only represents the brothers up to James and Mark, but continues to James’ two boys, Jackson and Cash, the fifth generation of Blanchard Boys. The outer B of the symbol takes a feminine shape to pay tribute to the mother’s role in the shaping of the generations of Blanchard boys. After all, James’ ex-wife Sylvia gave birth to their second son during the midst of the 2009 harvest. And without the mothers in the family, there would be no success to the Blanchard boys.

Winemaking Philosophy

Early in the development of Blanchard Family Wines, we were lucky to meet Jene Chapanar, a veteran winemaker, craftsman, and friend. Jene has since become a great mentor, nurturing Mark's growth as a winemaker and helping provide oversight to our vineyard sources. We work closely with the farmers that provide our fruit, ensuring that our wines are made from the very best grapes in Sonoma County. All of our wines are handcrafted in our small facility in Healdsburg, creating elegant wines in limited quantities. With each new vintage, we strive to develop exciting blends and work with lesser known varietals, adding to our dynamic portfolio.