How it all started
After my father returned from WWII he settled in Clairton, PA were I was born in 1949. I went to high school at Thomas Jefferson High. I worked in the steel mill and as a union laborer out of Pittsburgh before going to tech school in Columbus Ohio to be a Chef/ Rest. Manager. In 1971 I joined then ARA now Aramark Corp. located at 11th and Market. In Jan. 1972 I was made the food production manager at Westchester State Teachers College where ARA had the contract. After 17 years working in 8 states and moving 20 sometimes all with Aramark I was made VP of the Healthcare Group running 10 western states based out of San Francisco. I moved to Napa and became a wine groupie. I married Roxanne in 1994, which is when we started planning my exodus from Aramark and our entry into the wine industry.
In 1996 I left Aramark and in Sept. 1999 we purchased a 13-acre property with 5 acres of old walnut trees and a house that was vacant for 15 years and built in 1976. The brown shag carpet and pumpkin colored counter tops were the interior high lights. We learned that the property had been planted in grapes for wine in 1926. The walnut trees and some grapes were planted in 1976 when the house was built. Roxanne and I started studying at UC Davis in 1998 and completed over 75 classes covering everything from soil to finished wine. We spent a 10 days in France, four weeks in Tuscany, took a 19-day Viticulture tour in Australia with Dr Richard Smart and finished our trip in New Zealand for 16 days. In June of 2003 we completed the Level 3 Advanced Certificate in Wine and Spirits from the Wine and Spirit Educational Trust out of London. We are now qualified to take the exam for the Master of Wine designation.
In Oct.of 2004 we released our first wine under our Eagle Eye label. Roxanne is the artist and designer of the labels. On Oct. 12, 2005 there was a wine warehouse fire at Mare Island,Ca. There were 90 plus wineries that stored their wine there of which we were one. All of our wines including all of our future releases were destroyed in about 3-4 hours. We were picking our Cabernet from our vineyard that day and did not know the fire had happened. After a 14-hour day we passed out at 10 pm. I woke up at 5:30 am and climbed in the hot tub to get ready for another days picking. I remember sitting in the hot tub thinking about the $12,000.00 a year I was paying for insurance and wondering if it was really worth it. I came in, poured my coffee and turned on CNN. As I am listening and reading the bottom of the screen I see the news that there was a wine warehouse at Mare Island. That was the first I heard of it. I woke Roxanne and told her the news. Knowing she would be upset I said think of it this way, "We never sold so much wine in one day to one customer with no marketing expenses...The Insurance Company!"
Bill Wolf has Pittsburgh roots and some of them happen to be in the wine-and-beer trade. His great-grandfather came from Germany to the United States in the mid-nineteenth century and opened a bakery in Blair (now Clairton), Pa.
Bill's grandfather left that family business in 1902 and opened a store nearby with a license to sell beer, wine and whiskey. One photograph is of a horse-drawn delivery wagon filled with kegs and a large sign on the side panel displaying the company name: M. F. Wolf and a child to make the deliveries. The photo of delivery day shows all the horse and wagons loaded and ready to go. In the photo of the store front you can see the horse barn in the back.
Another picture was of a cellar stacked with barrels. Some were equipped with spigots to make it easier to fill the jugs brought in by regular customers for refills. It is decorated for Christmas and the store key is hanging on the counter.
Wolf also bought a beer distributorship as the Duquesne photo with the 2 white horses proudly shows.
In those pre-prohibition days, alcoholic beverage distributors in Pennsylvania could sell to both wholesale and retail clients. Now it is all state controlled.