Milla Handley has spent many years creating her unique wine brand, true to a place and to a set of values.
After earning her Fermentation Science degree in 1975 at the University of California at Davis, Milla worked for winemakers Richard Arrowood at Chateau St. Jean and Jed Steele at Edmeades. In 1978 she headed to Anderson Valley, which was then largely uncharted viticultural territory, and established Handley Cellars in 1982. “I was captivated by the valley’s possibilities,” Milla says. “The people here possess an independent spirit, and I felt I could follow my own path, somewhat removed from the entrenched winemaking culture. I wanted my wines to capture the essence of this extraordinary place.” Thirty years later, Handley Cellars’ wines do just that.
The Handley Cellars label reflects Milla’s love and respect for nature. Her parents were collectors of tribal art, and she was raised in a household surrounded by objects reflecting the beauty of the natural world. When working on the design for the Handley Cellars label, she was inspired by the ancient tribal textiles of the African Kuba tribes. The tasting room décor, too, reflects her love of tribal art.
Milla’s commitment to responsible and organic farming began long before it was popular, and led her to obtain organic certification for the Handley Estate Vineyard in 2005. Every case the winery produces is crafted from grapes grown in the Handley family vineyards in Anderson Valley, or by trusted growers in Mendocino County appellations such as Anderson Valley, Mendocino Ridge, Potter Valley, and Redwood Valley.
Milla carefully balances the roles of proprietor and winemaker at Handley Cellars. She is involved in every aspect of the winery operation, from vineyards and wines to her unique tasting room. Milla’s down-to-earth nature makes Handley Cellars a welcoming and comfortable place.
President and Milla's Daughter
Lulu is the younger of Milla Handley’s two daughters. She and her sister Megan grew up on the Handley Estate, riding the bus to the winery after school every day. When she was a child, the vineyard and gardens were Lulu’s playground. After graduating from Anderson Valley High School, she moved to the San Francisco Bay Area where she studied Rhetoric at UC Berkeley, and worked part time at Chez Panisse. She loved being part of the food community but realized her place was in the country, working in the fields, so she traveled to Galicia, Spain, where she apprenticed in the cellar at Do Ferreiro Winery. There, she learned how to make and appreciate the Spanish varietal Albariño.
Upon her return from Spain, Lulu moved to Maine, seeking to learn, first-hand, old-world farming and homesteading skills. Since then she’s been apprenticing on diversified farms, learning to drive horses, work sheep with Border Collies, and survive harsh winters. She’s also been working with The Greenhorns, a grassroots non-profit organization of young farmers working to promote responsible small-scale farming and the communities that form around that lifestyle. Lulu currently lives and farms in Maine, with her boat-building partner Scott, but comes back to California often to check in with winery staff, visit her Mom, and renew her deep bond with the land and community here in Anderson Valley.
At Handley Cellars, Lulu has done a little of everything over the years. She’s worked both in the office and the Tasting Room, helped maintain the vineyard and grounds, made wine in the cellar, and represented Handley at tastings around the United States and in England. Now, in 2015, she is taking on the duties of Handley’s National Sales Manager.
Randy has lived in Anderson Valley since 1998 with his wife Gina and their three sons, Paul, Owen, and Finn. His winemaking career began as assistant winemaker at Fieldstone in Alexander Valley. Before long, the opportunities and rural beauty of Anderson Valley led him to a harvest-time job with Navarro Vineyards and as winemaker at Philo Ridge Winery during its startup years. In 2004 Randy jumped at the opportunity to join Handley as our Cellar Master.
In 2013 Randy was promoted to Co-Winemaker where he thrives on making balanced wines that showcase the local terroir. He is dedicated to his work and appreciates that his career is closely tied to agriculture and the natural cycles of the seasons. Pleasing Handley customers is one of Randy’s greatest motivations.
Chris was born in the Normandy region of France. He grew up in the hospitality industry, his family having run restaurants and hotels there for over 110 years. His parents were travelers, and when he was 9 they moved to Marbella, Spain where they opened up a little restaurant on the beach. The time spent there as a boy exposed Chris to many different cultures. After three years in Spain, the family moved again, this time to the United States, where they settled in the San Francisco Bay Area. His parents opened a restaurant in Danville, California and lived there for the next 20 years. Chris has worked in his family’s businesses all his life. The passion for wine he developed there and his involvement in the hospitality industry eventually led him to visit Anderson Valley. He was immediately drawn to the region and the distinctive wines produced here. Handley Cellars was always his favorite winery during those visits, and now he feels blessed to be living in Anderson Valley, working as a part of the Handley team.
Estate Vineyard Manager
Since 1989, José has been Handley Cellars’ vineyard manager and is a chief member of our team. The Estate’s 30 acres of organically farmed Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Gewürztraminer vines are cared for and nurtured by José. He oversees and performs year ‘round duties of pruning, irrigation, weed control, replanting, leaf removal, and harvest…just to name a few.
José and wife Ester (another valued Handley employee) are originally from San Martin, a pueblo in the state of Jalisco, Mexico. Anderson Valley has been their home for years, living on the Estate, and raising three lovely children.