A pioneering rancher, conservationist, winemaker and teacher, Sharon Mendoza Doughty died of cancer Nov. 19. She was 72.
Doughty grew up on her parents’ historic B Ranch on the Point Reyes Peninsula, but she didn’t fully learn the nuts and bolts of cattle ranching until her second husband died in the early 1980s.
Together, they owned an 800-acre dairy in Point Reyes Station but it was her husband, Bill Bianchini Jr., who ran the dairy on a daily basis. Doughty, trained as an accountant and a teacher, kept the books for her father’s dairies. “When Bill died, it was either sell the ranch or learn to run it,” said Steve Doughty, Sharon’s husband. “She decided to learn it and stay on and ranch.”
She did so with help from her father, her brothers, neighbors and a local veterinarian, he said. Ranching became her life. “She loved it dearly. That’s her claim to fame, being a farmer.”
No hands-off owner, Doughty put her boots on every morning and afternoon to watch the cows come in. She gained the respect of her four male farmhands through her knowledge of the trade.
Adamant about preserving ranchland, she served two terms as president of the Marin Agricultural Land Trust and one term as an alternate member of the California Coastal Commission. She was also on the board of directors of the Marconi Conference Center in Marshall and active in 4-H.
She became a successful dairywoman and leading member of the dairy industry, Steve Doughty said.
In 2007, her community involvement and leadership in agriculture prompted then-Assemblyman Jared Huffman to name her “Woman of the Year.”
When she went into “town” — Point Reyes Station or Petaluma — she always swapped out her farm clothes for more formal attire.
“She was always a lady when she was in town,” said Steve Doughty.
He met her in Point Reyes Station in 1985. She had stopped into the Old Western Saloon with friends on the way to dinner. Doughty, a private investigator, was living in Napa at the time but had come to the area with a friend to drop off a camel for a Christmas nativity scene. They headed to the saloon for a drink, and that’s where he first encountered his future wife.
“It was pretty much love at first sight,” he said. “It was her smile, mainly, then her beautiful personality. She was very outgoing and vivacious and she loved everybody.”
They married in 1987 and ran the dairy together for 25 years.
Then, seeing challenges ahead for the dairy industry, they decided to use part of their land to create a winery and bed & breakfast.
They consulted with winemakers Saralee and Richard Kunde, who recommended they plant Champagne grapes. They did so, starting Point Reyes Vineyards and Point Reyes Vineyard Inn.
They opened the first winery and tasting room in Marin County since prohibition, Steve Doughty said. Through their bed and breakfast, they met around 5,000 guests from all over the world, something Sharon Doughty greatly enjoyed, her husband said.
She was very personable and made lasting friendships. One set of friends she’d made decades ago while living in Petaluma, Joe and Marilyn Schoeningh, came up from Southern California to be by her side for the last month of her life. “She was a person that when you met her, you felt you’d known her forever,” Joe Schoeningh said.