Waiting in the massive lines that will accompany Friday’s annual, two-week release of Russian River Brewing Co.’s Pliny the Younger is something of a rite of passage for Sonoma County craft beer drinkers. People come from all corners to sip what’s regarded as one of the world’s best brews.

Winemakers From Down Under

There are fewer than 20 Australians and New Zealanders working now in the California wine industry, the majority as winemakers. Some others migrated to Washington, Oregon and British Columbia from their home country.

Most of those interviewed for this article agree that Grant Taylor, a Kiwi winemaker, was the first to come to California in 1979, to work at Pine Ridge in the Napa Valley. Taylor returned to New Zealand in 1993 and is the owner of Valli Vineyards in Central Otago.

The following is a partial list of Aussies and Kiwis, in chronological order by the date they first came to California and their present position in the California wine industry.

Rex Smith (Australia): 1984, winemaker William Knuttel Winery, Sonoma.

Daryl Groom (Australia): 1989, co-owner Colby Red Wine and Groom Wines

Nick Goldschmidt (New Zealand): 1989, Goldschmidt Vineyards and Nick Goldschmidt Consulting

Chris Loxton (Australia): 1991, owner/winemaker Loxton Cellars

Michael Scholz (Australia): 1991, vice president, Winemaking & Vineyards, St. Supery Estate Vineyards & Winery

Mick Schroeter (Australia): 1992, director of winemaking, Sonoma Cutrer

Toni Stockhausen (Australia): 1999, Winemaker, Bennett Valley Cellars

Wayne Donaldson (Australia): 2000, vp production, Deutsch Family Wine & Spirits

Sean McKenzie (New Zealand): 2001, senior winemaker, The Dreaming Tree

Susan Doyle (Australia), 2003: chief winemaker, Spring Mountain Vineyard

Matt Parish (New Zealand), 2003: managing dir., Matt Parish Wines, sold through Nakedwines and International consulting winemaker.

Matt Johnson (Australia), 2008: chief winemaker Americas, Treasury Wine Estates

Andrew Bilenkiji (Australia), 2012: winemaker, Ledson Winery

Sam Glaetzer (Australia), 2016: senior vice president wine & spirits production, Constellation Brands

- Gerald D. Boyd