Passing the Torch to her Daughters – Randy Schock Named Lead Winemaker

Lulu McClellan, Milla Handley, Jojo & Megan Handley Warren

After 40 years of crafting gold medal, environmentally sustainable wines, Milla Handley is retiring to make way for a third generation of family vintners. Her daughters, Lulu McClellan and Megan Handley Warren, will be co-owners of the winery, with Lulu acting as National Sales Manager. Former co-winemaker Randy Schock will be promoted to lead winemaker. “My sister and I are thrilled to be carrying forward the legacy that my parents started,” says Lulu. “As we enter our 36th vintage, we could not be more proud of Handley Cellars’ past or excited about its future.” With a combination of skill and principles, Milla Handley has fostered an atmosphere at the winery that supports dynamic and creative people while making excellent wine that respects and celebrates the environment. Lulu and Megan intend to follow in her footsteps, making sure the business will continue to be more than just a winery. “We are a family, part of a larger community, and stewards of our land.”

During her years at the helm, Milla has created a brand that is true to a place as well as a set of values. One of the first women to graduate with a degree in Fermentation Science from UC Davis, she spent time working with winemakers Richard Arrowood at Chateau St. Jean and Jed Steele at Edmeades. When she decided to start her own winery, she chose to locate in the largely uncharted winemaking territory of Anderson Valley in Mendocino County. Realizing from a young age that she wanted a rural lifestyle, Milla was captivated by the valley from the moment she arrived with her late husband, Rex. “I could see that the people here possessed an independent spirit. I felt I could follow my own path, somewhat removed from the entrenched winemaking culture,” she says. Her first vintage, 250 cases of Chardonnay, was produced in the basement of her house in 1982. With that first vintage, she made more than just wine. She made history, becoming the first woman winemaker and owner in the US to establish a label with her own name. Since then, she has been a role model for other female winemakers in the highly competitive, male-dominated industry.

“We at Handley Cellars firmly believe in caring for our environment and our community through sustainable and organic farming, preserving the land for future generations. We live in a wonderfully diverse community, with people always willing to step up and help each other. I am proud and happy that my daughters want to be the next generation to farm this land and give back to the community,” says Milla.

Handley wines are unique because Milla’s style is to encourage them to reflect the vineyards of their origin. With each vintage, she has worked to capture the essence of the weather, soil, and varietal, creating wines that clearly express their terroir. The Handley Estate vineyard was certified organic in 2005. Milla chose to pursue certification because of her desire to minimize her impact on the land, as well as her conviction that many of the methods used in organic farming leave a wine freer to express its own regional character. Today, every wine bearing the Handley label is crafted from grapes grown in the family vineyards or sourced from trusted small growers in the region whose farming practices are in keeping with Handley’s principles.

To carry on the legacy of what Milla started, the family has promoted Randy Schock to lead Winemaker. Randy has been involved in winemaking at Handley since 2012, and has paid close attention to Milla’s methods. Under his direction the winery continues to produce wines that are true to her style. Randy’s focus on letting the grapes speak through the wine is true Handley Cellars’ Winemaking. He acknowledges with gratitude Milla’s influences on him. “During our walks through the vineyard, she would suddenly stop to marvel at the smallest things that most of us never notice. She is a guiding hand, keeping me open to new ideas and excited about what nature and life provide,” Randy reflects.  “She has taught me so much more than winemaking. Her motherly nurturing has helped me to be a better father, husband and member of my community. I am very lucky to have worked with Milla Handley.”

Travis Scott, Randy Schock & Milla Handley

Milla, Megan and Lulu are entrusting Randy with maintaining the tradition of producing gold medal-winning wines. Handley’s Pinot Noirs are known for their fruit-driven complexity, balanced ripeness and acidity, with minimal oak influence, and all of their wines are created with as little intervention as possible. They are truly wines of place. Chardonnay and Alsace varietals thrive in Anderson Valley’s climate and the cooler coastal weather at the Estate Vineyard site is perfect for producing superior sparkling wines. Handley Cellars is excited to announce that in honor of Milla’s retirement, they are releasing a Vintage 2015 Estate Blanc de Blancs.

Newly promoted Associate Vice President Travis Scott, who has managed the business side of the operation for two years, discusses how Milla has shaped him: “I have only worked with Milla for four years, but she has profoundly influenced me, both professionally and personally. Her attention to detail and mastery of every facet of the business, along with her skill at instilling core values at all levels of her company, is inspiring. While Milla’s most public role has been as a winemaker, she has played every role in the company’s operations, from vineyard management to supervision of her characteristically down-to-earth staff. She has set an incredibly high standard for me to strive for. As Handley Cellars matures into its middle age, I look forward to our continued growth not only as a business but as a part of our community. “

“Travis is such an asset to our team, carrying on the tradition of instilling a wonderful community spirit in our staff,” states Megan. “His organization, dedication and efficient business skills make the winery a friendly and productive place to work and visit.”

Lulu, speaking on behalf of the entire family, concludes, “It is an honor to live, farm, and make wine here in this community and beautiful valley. At the core of Handley’s history is a love of Anderson Valley and a desire to connect people with this beautiful place we call home.”


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