GAN EDEN Wines- Craig Winchell's CV

Who is Craig Winchell?

I began my years in the wine industry managing a wine shop in Greenwich Village, in 1977/'78.  I honed my retail acumen as wine manager of State Liquors in Louisville, KY, then headed to a BS in Fermentation Science from the University of California at Davis, received in 1981.  After a year to study viticulture and graduate level classes in various subjects, I got my first Winemaker position in 1982, and have been a winemaker ever since.

I spent 3 years making wine for others, then upon becoming Sabbath observant, convinced family members to help me establish a winery that would allow me to continue my observance.  GAN EDEN garnered a reputation for being the world's premier producer of kosher wine. Concurrently, we earned an excellent reputation as a California winery.  My uncle, aunt, cousins, my wife and I owned and operated GAN EDEN for 20 years, the corporate name having been Yayin Corp.  I was the President, my uncle was the Chairman of the Board.  My push to sell the winery and dissolve the corporation coincided with a very difficult period of providing my children with a Jewish education, the quest for which grew more difficult every year.  The winery facility was sold and Yayin Corp was dissolved in 2005, 20 years after it was established.

I spent a couple of years unemployed, then decided to establish a restaurant.  I researched concepts, and decided to establish a kosher BBQ restaurant, Smokin'! Wood Smoked BBQ, a pioneer in a cuisine which now seems ubiquitous in the Jewish world (except in Los Angeles, where nobody else has taken a crack at it- I guess they know they could not surpass the memory of my food).  However, the timing was definitely wrong, the location was probably wrong, and I ended up closing in August of 2010.

Almost immediately, I was invited to be the winemaker of a local 25,000 case winery, Agua Dulce.  A failed winery, it had recently been acquired by an investor as a turn-around play, and they wished to increase their chances for success (or so I thought).  The draw was a substantial profit sharing position if when they became profitable.  I took the job, and made some incredibly good wine.  However, after 5 years, they had discovered many ways to avoid profitability.  A discussion about it became heated, and led to my termination in 2015. 

Since that time, I have worked in kosher supervision, largely for the OU, in a variety of food products, including grape concentrate production at large producers which sometimes crushed several times as much in a day as I ever crushed in an entire harvest season.  It provided me the opportunity to evaluate the efficiency of their methods against those I had employed in my smaller winery settings, and adapting some of their methods to a smaller productions.

Since the time I worked for Agua Dulce, I have also received training in the Lean Six Sigma continuous process improvement, and Project Management.  I have not yet certified as a Black Belt or PMP, but am utilizing the methodologies involved, and will utilize them in the course of operating the winery I am proposing.

In the meantime, my youngest child has graduated from Valley Torah High School.  I am no longer locked in to the community here, and am again able to relocate my family to other locations more conducive to winemaking. This option has made re-establishing GAN EDEN, or establishing another winery, quite attractive.

Craig Winchell - Curriculum Vitae


Career Accomplishments



There are now kosher BBQ restaurants in many of the major metropolitan areas of the USA.  Much of this expansion of this eclectic kosher food is directly attributable to the critical success of my restaurant, Smokin'! Wood Smoked BBQ, in Los Angeles.  After having sold my winery, and having spent several years unemployed, I had a hankering to create.  I saw the early popularization of BBQ among the general US population, going from a regional, local ingredient basis to a stylized, ubiquitous genre, and saw the Texas, beef-based paradigm as one which could translate well into kosher food.  I learned all I could about BBQ, purchasing first a small offset smoker, and then a commercial restaurant smoker, experimenting at home until I was capable of making good BBQ under all conditions and with a variety of meats.  I also learned to pickle my own briskets and create homemade pastrami as an alternative.  After becoming adept, I acquired a location, and after enlisting my wife's help in creating recipes for sides and desserts, opened my restaurant.  Most of the current kosher BBQ purveyors in the USA, and many hobbyists, credit Smokin'! with opening their eyes to the wonderful flavors of traditional BBQ.



As an employee of other wineries early in my career, my emphasis was on learning the business. I had already been a most capable retail wine manager, good with consumers, especially those with knowledge. My initial jobs in wine production taught me how to incorporate my understanding of wine processes with operational aspects that can only be learned in industry. Understanding how budgeting converges with winemaking, and where tradeoffs can be made, sizing equipment not only for current but also future utilization, are a few of the things I learned during those years. They came in handy when I established my own facility and brand in 1985.  My brand, GAN EDEN, was known to be the highest quality kosher wine in the world; an opinion found in James Halliday's Wine Atlas of California, the tome for California's wine industry at the time. He found my dry reds, especially my Cabernets, to be quite compelling, and they were the equals of non-kosher wines of their types, both in wine quality and price. However, I was also known for my innovative sweet wines, which were quite successful for me well before the current sweet-wine trend.  Especially successful was my Black Muscat, a sweet and aromatic red which was among the first unfortified wines of its type on the market.  In my own way, I left my mark on California's enological history.  My dry reds, from Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, Syrah and Grenache, were well received as consistently outstanding.  Also outstanding were my vintages at Agua Dulce, most of which have yet to be released, where Merlot and Sangiovese were added to my portfolio.  Crush of 2015 and 2016 saw me in large-scale production as kosher consultant at Delano Growers and Gallo, Fresno; wineries capable of crushing up to 2000 tons per day, in the case of Delano, and an order of magnitude greater than that level in the case of Gallo.  I was involved with the crushing, pressing and concentrate production, and I saw the operational solutions that these wineries had adopted to deal with problems and situations common to wineries of every size.  It was quite instructive.   



Kosher Consultant/Contractor                                                September 2015- Present

Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, NY, NY

I worked for several weeks as a consultant to some kosher concentrate production (largely the crush and initial evaporation), at Delano Growers (7 weeks per year) and at Gallo, Fresno (1 week per year).  I was a kosher supervisor, largely in the evaporator control room, but also operated presses and performed other functions at Delano.  At Delano, we crushed and processed up to 1400 tons per day, while at Gallo, we crushed and processed up to over 3500 tons per day.  I was able to see and understand the strategies large wineries use to perform operations at scale, to take advantage of efficiencies and perform several operations simultaneously or sequentially, and was privy to understanding the organizational components associated with large winery production.  I have also worked on several other projects with the OU in addition to wine. I supervise other food products as well for the OU, throughout the year, when they require my services.  For instance, I supervised Passover production of safflower oil earlier this year and last year.


Winemaker                                                                                        2010-2015

Agua Dulce Winery, 9640 Sierra Highway, Agua Dulce, CA  91390

I was hired as part of the turn-around effort for Agua Dulce Winery, which had many unbottled vintages of poor quality wine in bulk inventory, and which was being sold entirely through the tasting room.  I fashioned some good quality 2008 and 2009 wines from the inventory, as well as nonvintage proprietary wines, and sold 40,000 gallons of inferior bulk wine to Vie-Del.  I crushed 5 new vintages, only the 2010 of which was selling at the time I left, with the 2011 vintage having just been bottled (due to peculiarities within the organization, new wines are bottled only as the previous vintage is in danger of being sold out- the owners spend money “just in time”, and their sales efforts were not accelerating their sales as they had expected.) I was in charge of winemaking, vineyard management and production facilities management.  I crushed 5 vintages of sometimes truly extraordinary Bordeaux variety and Syrah fruit from our 75 acre vineyard.  I was rehabilitating the vineyard until our wells ran dry, after which I kept it alive as well as I could, pending a new water source.  Fruit, in the meantime, was brought from the owner's ranch in Paso Robles.  I largely rehabilitated the winemaking facility, and established a laboratory for the most basic analyses.  I identified major electrical problems which had plagued the winery since its inception in 1999, promoting stable power, and embarked upon an equipment maintenance program to ensure our ability to accomplish our winery goals. Three of my 2010 vintage wines were bottled and released, each to critical acclaim, those three wines having won about 30 medals in 2014 and early 2015.  Unfortunately the other 2010 vintage wines and succeeding vintages remained unbottled because of surplus previous vintages of those varietals, and a company philosophy of “Just in Time” as far as expenditures and case goods inventory control.


  Owner/Pitmaster/Cook                                                                       April 2008 - July 2010

Smokin’!, 12514 Burbank Blvd., Valley Village, CA  91607

After moving to the Los Angeles area for the sake of my family, and having spend 3 years unemployed and wanting to be productive,I researched and created a kosher beef-based Texas smokehouse concept, purchased a location and made the concept a reality, attaining a reputation for high quality bbq.  Unfortunately, we opened a very short time before the nationwide financial melt-down, and Smokin’! became a victim of the recession despite having earned a reputation for excellent food, with accompanying high ratings.


President/CEO/Winemaker                                                                              1985-2005

Yayin Corp., 4950 Ross Road, Sebastopol, CA  95472 (DBA: Gan Eden Wines)

I brought this winery from concept to reality.  I designed, built and equipped this winery, presided over winemaking and every facet of its operations.  20 years brought GAN  EDEN wines into 28 states as well as Ontario, Quebec, Denmark and Japan.  By 1995, with a stable means of fulfillment, I was migrating the company to direct sales through the web and by telephone.  Although the quality of our wines across the board was exceedingly high, we were best known for our traditionally styled Cabernet Sauvignon (one vintage of which was widely considered the top US Cab of the year) and innovatively styled, beautifully balanced sweet whites and reds.  Over the course of the winery’s existence, my dry reds became less powerful and more elegant.  I was among the more successful pioneers of California sweet wines, now a major growth sector, and I was the innovator of a very successful concept, red sweet wine, with the introduction in 1992 of my Black Muscat at 5% RS, a concept which has garnered imitations by others in reaction to ours.  I produced very successful late harvested Chenin Blancs, which were compared to Moulin Touchais, and my Late Harvest Gewurztraminer, at about 7%RS and high acidity, became a standard in our portfolio.  Although I produced a full line of wines, the classic reds and innovative sweets became standouts largely due to my feel for balance.  I closed the winery and left northern California in order to provide a Jewish education for my children.  Recently a cache of 3000 bottles of my GAN EDEN 1990 Cabernet Sauvignon was discovered in upstate NewYork.  The owner decided to enter it into the 2017 New York International Wine Competition.  It took a Silver medal, 27 years old. It later received a rating of 88 in Wine Enthusiast Magazine. (I know my winemaking!)


Winemaker                                                                                                      1983 – 1985   Vina Vista Winery, 24401 Redwood Hwy N., Geyserville, CA  95441


Winemaker                                                                                                      1982 – 1983 Tucker Cellars, 70 Ray Road, Sunnyside, WA  98944




1981- 1982      University of California at Davis

                        Graduate level courses in enology, full basic viticulture curriculum

1980 - 1981     University of California at Davis, BS in Fermentation Science,                             Departmental Citation

1975-1977       Haverford College (Philadelphia) and University of Louisville                             (Louisville,KY), Physics and Chemistry major, respectively


Degree and Academic Awards

1981    Bachelor of Science in Fermentation Science, specializing in enology

I was awarded the prestigious Departmental Citation


Professional Member of ASEV

Professional and Personal References Available on Request


Craig Winchell, Tel:  (707) 494-7095  Email: