Beyond the Boardroom
Author: Alexandra Russell
June, 2011 Issue
The Ledson family has been an important part of the Sonoma Valley since 1919, when Windsor rancher William Lamb Cunningham purchased a 105-acre ranch near Kenwood and moved south. Not long after, Cunningham’s daughter, Edna, and her husband, Barker Ledson, bought adjacent land and relocated from San Francisco with their three young sons. Fast forward to Steve Ledson, representing the fourth generation, who’s continued his family legacy through farming, business and philanthropy.
Ledson Vineyards & Winery
on Highway 12 is an architectural showpiece, initially designed by Steve to be his family home. Instead, he now resides in a restored heritage home in Sonoma, across the street from one he built and donated to HGTV’s 2009 Dream Home contest. The boutique Ledson Hotel
on the town plaza has recently undergone a facelift and reopening, and the Harmony Foundation
, which he launched in 2002 to support children in need, has to-date donated more than $100,000 to local youth.
Did you go to college? I went to the School of Hard Knocks.
Describe one of your happiest life moments.
I enjoy helping kids, who are the future of America, through my Harmony Foundation. I also have the best memories of growing up and learning from my father.
Describe a proud personal moment.
Watching the first customer walk in the door of the winery that I built and made wine for, and seeing their faces as they tasted my wine and enjoyed the atmosphere that I had worked so hard to provide.
Are you more of a dog person or a cat person?
I’ve had some great dogs in the past. Dogs will actually go out on the ranch and hunt with me. Cats just like to sit inside.
Did you do anything wild when you were a teen?
Racing my corvette, which at the time went to 142 mph in 10 seconds.
Do you have a lifelong dream or ambition?
To follow the law of nature and leave whatever I touch better than when I found it—especially for my employees. If I can make a positive change in their lives, I feel I did something right.
Ever broken a bad habit? What was it and how did you do it?
I quit chewing tobacco cold turkey.
Of all the things you’ve done in your life, what are you most proud?
Continuing my family’s heritage of leading local businesses and supporting children however possible.
What silly thing have you done in the name of love?
I’ve gone far out of my way to blend certain wines, such as Ti Amo and Bellisimo, just for my wife, Amy.
What would you like to be known for?
Leadership that was able to develop not only a company but also people.
Tell us about the gas pump in the picture.
I believe it’s from 1911 but it may be possibly closer to the 1920s. I’ve been restoring projects like this my whole life—growing up on the ranch didn’t give me much of a choice—and I especially enjoy restoring old tractors and cars. I’m currently working on a Caterpillar 22 tractor from the 1930s and a 1950s Studebaker truck, and I have a 1967 Corvette Stingray Coupe to restore someday.
What’s one guilty pleasure you enjoy too much to give up?
Work. As much as I’d like to be up at my ranch all the time, I can’t stop working. I truly love my job.
What’s your favorite or most memorable line or scene from a movie?
It’s from “Forrest Gump”: “Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re going to get.”
What’s your favorite quote?
My father, Noble Ledson: “Before you do something, consider the worst possible outcome.”
What’s your greatest fear?
A family member or close friend experiencing a debilitating injury.
Which of the five senses do you treasure most?
Sight. This world is so beautiful. I can’t imagine not being able to experience nature with my eyes.
How competitive are you?
I’m extremely competitive. No matter how well I may do something the first time, I always know that I can do it better.
If you could do any job in the world for one day, what would it be?
I’d bat clean-up for the New York Yankees.
If you could do something daring without fear, what would you do?
Rescue innocent people from a hostage situation.
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