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Beyond the Boardroom

Pete Downs

Author: Sarah Treseler
October, 2016 Issue


Edgar B. “Pete” Downs is currently serving as acting president of Family Winemakers of California, a trade organization of more than 400 wineries. A graduate of UC Davis with a degree in fermentation science, began his career in 1973 as a chemist with Italian Swiss Colony in Asti. He later worked as research director at Korbel before arriving at Chateau St. Jean as a sparkling winemaker and overseeing custom programs for a variety of wineries including Gloria Ferrer, Shadow Creek, Sebastiani and Cueno.
 
In 1992, he was named general manager of Kendall-Jackson’s Vinwood, Lakeport and Edmeades wineries before he became the company’s chief ambassador for trade organizations and community affairs. Downs retired in 2012 after 20 years of service at Kendall-Jackson to launch his own consulting firm and has been an active board member of Family Winemakers and head of the legislative committee. Last year, the American Society of for Enology and Viticulture honored Downs with a special Merit Award for industry contributions during his years at K-J.
 
Downs currently works in the marine unit of the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office as an active participant in the Volunteer in Policing program and formerly served as a board member of Friends of Henry One, a nonprofit organization supporting the Sheriff’s aviation unit.
 
Are you a North Bay native?
I’m from Schenectady N.Y. but have been in Sonoma County since 1973. I currently live in Windsor.
 
Are you married? 
I’ve been happily married to Mary Ellen for 49 years. We have two children and five grandkids.
 
 
What do you love to do outside of work?
Travel would be number one, then woodworking and volunteer work.
 
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Other than my marrying my wife, I’d say getting the Merit Award from the American Society for Enology and Viticulture in 2015.
 
Would you describe yourself as more of a thinker or a feeler?
I’m definitely a thinker. I love to analyze problems and come up with unique solutions.
 
At what time of day do you feel your best?
I’m not really a “morning person.” It takes me a while to get going, but give me a project and everything kicks into gear.
 
Of all the things you’ve done in your life, which are you most proud?
My kids: They’re healthy, happy responsible adults with great kids of their own.
 
What do you miss most about your college days?
The total immersion in my chosen field.
 
What food do you eat almost every day?
A glass of red wine with dinner—red wine goes with almost everything.
 
What kind of music do you listen to?
I’m a blues lover, specifically Chicago blues—Buddy Guy, Little Walter and, of course, Charlie Musselwhite.
 
What section of the newspaper do you turn to first?
I start at the front page then read all the way through to the end.
 
What’s your favorite book?
The Mason Williams Reading Matter by Mason Williams
 
Where would your dream vacation be?
The one we just had for our 49th anniversary, on the Windstar line in Tahiti for an 11-day cruise.
 
What’s something few people know about you?
I was awarded the Air Medal with one Oak Leaf Cluster after flying 77 missions during the Vietnam conflict as an in-flight fueling specialist for the US Air Force Strategic Air Command.


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