Alison Thomson

Alison Thomson

Lepiane (Winemaker and Owner)

Alison Thomson is originally from El Sobrante in California’s Bay Area, and attended the University of California, Santa Barbara, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in 2001, focusing on courses in Italian and Habitat Restoration. Her interest in Italian prompted Alison to spend a semester abroad in Sienna as an exchange student during her sophomore year in college. It was in Sienna that she turned 21 years old and celebrated the occasion in the kitchen of her host family. In her own words, “That’s when I fell in love with Barolo and Barbera, . . .” Moreover, her time there was when her “love for Italian food and wines turned into a healthy obsession.”

After completing her degree, she remained at UCSB for several years, working on native landscaping at the university. But horticulture was not to be her professional career, as tasting room jobs at Sunstone in Santa Ynez and Pine Ridge in Napa convinced her that winemaking was. Alison enrolled in the graduate program in Horticulture and Agronomy, with a specialization in Viticulture, at the University of California, Davis, in 2004 and completed the degree in 2007. During this period she made two forays to Italy, first to Barolo where she met Angelo Gaja and tasted some of his Nebbiolos, and then to Piedmont in the following year for an internship with Sergio Germano.

With her degree in hand, Alison worked at Sine Qua Non in Ventura County for six months and then moved on to a three-year stint as Assistant Winemaker at Palmina in Lompac. Subsequent employment in a similar position at Samsara in the Santa Ynez Valley convinced her that she didn’t need a ton of cash in order to have her own brand. So, Lepiane was born!

The name of her brand honors her great-grandfather, Luigi Lepiane, who emigrated from Piane Crati in Calabria, Italy, and founded a winery near Hollister, CA, in 1935. Alison has opted to produce Barbera and Nebbiolo wines as well as Grenache, sourcing the grapes from various vineyards in Santa Barbara County. She vinifies her wines at the Lompoc Ghetto winery facility of Jalama Cañon Ranch and Vineyard, where she is also the vineyard manager and winemaker. In addition, she oversees another vineyard in the Santa Ynez Valley, and winemaking for a client in Montecito.

Alison, her husband George, and their two children live near Goleta. Both Alison and George are avid surfers. When time permits, she loves gardening and canning her own fruits and vegetables.