Tondi Bolkan

Tondi Bolkan

In 1993, after leaving the cold winters of Chicago behind, Tondi Bolkan enrolled at the University of California, Davis, to study neurobiology. Hoping to join her family’s legacy of medical professionals, she studied and received a B.S. degree in Neurobiology, Physiology, and Behavior.

During an internship at the UC Davis Medical Center in Sacramento, Tondi fainted while watching her first operation. She subsequently attended a career fair at UC Davis and made a fateful inquiry about vinology; this became her passion. From there, she didn’t look back, even though her family was disappointed that she had chosen not to pursue her medical school studies. A case of her own wine helped turn around the family’s attitude. Tondi has turned her love for science toward winegrowing, a profession that combines art, agriculture, organic chemistry, and biology.

In 1999 she began her career as a lab technician focusing on production of Cabernet Sauvignon at Pine Ridge Winery in Napa Valley. In 2001, she joined Niebaum-Coppola, renamed as Rubicon Estate (and now Inglenook), also located in the Napa Valley. At Rubicon, she devoted seven vintages to the winery’s portfolio and demonstrated a talent for balancing the technical side of the laboratory with the creative and artistic processes of winegrowing and winemaking. Tondi was promoted to assistant winemaker in 2005 and was responsible for making some of Rubicon’s single-vineyard, small-production wines.

In January 2008, Tondi started a new chapter with the company and moved to the Francis Ford Coppola Winery in Geyserville as associate winemaker. As of 2017, she was named winemaker and attended to the Sophia brand, special projects, and custom winemaking clients. She left Coppola in early 2020 and joined Colavita USA for a year before becoming general manager at Draxton Wine Cellars in Healdsburg.

Tondi had also created her own brand, Alejos Cellars. She felt fortunate to have friends and mentors who are growers, winemakers, and artists. They enabled her to create the Tondi Bolkan Napa Valley Merlot and Pinay Muscato, Tondi’s sweet dessert wine. She named her muscato, Pinay, a term used for Filipina, in honor of the people of the Philippines. She had hoped to be able to introduce both Pinay Muscato and Tondi Bolkan Merlot to the Philippines, a country that is part of her family’s heritage, but her brand unfortunately no longer exists.

When not involved in operations at the winery, Tondi enjoys spending time with her husband, Cem, and two daughters and traveling the world, particularly to her ancestral home in the Philippines.