Lisa Howard

Lisa Howard

Tolenas Winery (Winemaker & Owner)

Lisa Howard grew up working on her parents’ farm near to Fairfield in the Suisun Valley of Solano County. Not seeing farming in her future, she enrolled in the engineering program at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, earning a B.S. degree in bioresources and agricultural engineering and licensing as a professional engineer in California and Arizona. Her first job after graduation was in Arizona, where she was involved in building large irrigation systems for farmers there.

When her husband Cliff, a policeman, opined that she was a “fish out of water” and urged her to return to her farming roots in the Suisun Valley, Lisa’s response was “You’re crazy, you didn’t grow up on a farm, and I know it looks glamorous and special and fun, but it’s hard work, and there’s no time off.”

Despite this retort, the two of them returned to Suisun Valley in 2013, purchasing a 55-acre farm. “Growing up surrounded by farmland, we knew the hardship and sacrifice that cultivating grapes required. Nevertheless, we felt driven to abandon the safety of our careers for a chance to cultivate our shared passion here, among the hills of the Suisun Valley.”

They founded Tolenas Winery in 2015, where Lisa oversees the entire production process, all the way from the vine to the bottle. On top of this, she is responsible for marketing, packaging, product development, branding, sales, and managing wine club memberships. Lisa is committed to sourcing all of her fruit from the Suisun Valley, and currently uses it to produce Sauvignon Blanc and Rosé. She is also one of the few winemakers producing a white Pinot Noir; hers was awarded a gold medal at the 2019 International Women’s Wine Competition. Another recognition she has received is being named as one of the North Bay Business Journal’s 2021 Forty Under 40 Awards winners.

When not performing all the duties she has with the winery, Lisa is involved in a number of activities that rely on her academic and agriculture expertise. Among them are the Solano County Agricultural Advisory Committee; the Cal Poly San Luis Obispo BioResource and Agricultural Engineering Advisory Committee; and the Suisun Valley Vintners and Growers Board of Directors.

Lisa and Cliff are rearing three children. The family somehow finds to for recreational interests that include boating, hiking, cycling, and camping.