Russian River Brewing Company (RRBC) was originally owned by Korbel Champagne Cellars in Guerneville, California and was founded on their historic and beautiful property amidst vineyards and redwoods near the Russian River. When Korbel decided to get out of the beer business in 2003, they generously offered the brewmaster, Vinnie Cilurzo and his wife Natalie the rights to the brand. On April 3, 2004, Vinnie and Natalie reopened RRBC as a brewpub in downtown Santa Rosa to great success and began self-distributing to nearby clients. In 2008, they opened a production brewery about 1 mile from their brewpub allowing them to triple production, take on more accounts locally, and distribute some beer in 4 more states.
In the early days on the Korbel property, Vinnie not only brewed the beer, but made the sales calls and deliveries as well. Eventually they hired a sales/delivery guy to help with all of that so he could focus on brewing! Korbel planted a small hop field where Vinnie received a “field” education on growing and brewing with “wet” hops. It was from those amazingly fresh hops, grown just a few yards away, that he made his first wet hops brew, “Hop-Time Harvest Ale”.
Vinnie has become a well-known brewer in the craft-beer community by not only making great beers but for his innovation and willingness to share everything he learns along the way. Vinnie has earned dozens of awards for his beers at the Great American Beer Festival and World Beer Cup. During the 3 years he and his then partners owned Blind Pig Brewing Company in Temecula, CA, he won critical acclaim for being the first brewer to commercially make a Double I.P.A. But his most prestigious professional accolade came when he received the Brewer’s Association Russell Schehrer Award For Innovation in Craft Brewing in 2008. He continues to be innovative and enjoys playing with a wide variety of funky bugs and critters with 600 wine barrels!
Vinnie grew up on a vineyard as his parents owned a winery in Temecula, California. Natalie had an interest in the wine business that took her to Temecula where she met Vinnie. She spent 19 years in the wine industry before joining Vinnie as a partner in RRBC.