Flying by the Seat of Their Pants

Sonoma’s newest wine destination is a family affair—the brainchild of San Francisco Bay Area natives Mark and Elizabeth Hanson and their daughter Sarah Hanson Citron

While on a hard hat tour of Bricoleur Vineyards’ 40-acre Windsor estate, we pass through the cavernous hospitality barn, a pavilion with sprawling views of the rolling vineyards, rose garden, bocce ball courts, ponds (two!), an estate villa, and a refurbished, historic milk barn—all nestled in the countryside of the beautiful Russian River Valley. Set to launch with curated tasting experiences, outdoor yoga classes, community-focused events, and many more surprises, “flying by the seat of their pants” has certainly worked in the Hanson family’s favor. Ahead of its grand opening, proprietor Mark Hanson shares a few tidbits about his family’s ambitious venture.

Mark Hanson (center) with his wife Beth (left) and daughter Sarah Hanson-Citron (right)

How did Bricoleur Vineyards come about?

My wife, Beth, and I always dreamed of owning a vineyard property in Sonoma County after our children graduated from college. That vision evolved into purchasing a property where family and friends could come together, like an incubator for the community, focusing on supporting local charity organizations. We started looking at properties that could be adapted as a multi-functional agricultural venue where charities and corporations could come together to enjoy the beauty of Sonoma County with exceptional food and wine. Whether you’re interested in playing a game of bocce ball, taking a cooking or gardening class, practicing yoga, or simply enjoying world-class wine and food pairings in a beautiful setting, we wanted to create that space and those experiences here at Bricoleur.

What does “Bricoleur” mean?

[Our] logo plays off the definition of bricoleur which, in French, means “one who starts building something with no clear plan, adding bits here and there, cobbling together a whole while flying by the seat of their pants.” The letters in the logo are “adding bits here and there, cobbling together a whole.” Our other logo, “Flying by the Seat of Our Pants,” also plays off the carefree French definition of what bricoleur means. We initially decided to do a secondary label when we produced our second Rosé of Grenache. So many people enjoyed the playfulness of this new label, we expanded the “Flying by the Seat of Our Pants” portfolio with our second wine, the Brut Sparkling, with more to come.

Tell me more about your varietals.

When we bought our Windsor estate vineyard in 2015, we knew it was already producing premium Russian River Chardonnay and Pinot Noir for several notable labels, such as Paul Hobbs, Lando Family Wines, and Patz & Hall. In 2017, we hired Cary Gott—Joel Gott’s father—as our winemaker to help us craft Bricoleur Vineyards’ wine portfolio. Our first vintages featured three wines from our estate-owned Russian River property, including our Rosé of Pinot Noir, Russian River Chardonnay, and Russian River Pinot Noir. We also decided to make an Alexander Valley Zinfandel in tribute to Elizabeth’s great grandfather, Pietro Carlo Rossi, who made Zinfandel for Italian Swiss Colony in the late 1800s in the wine region of Asti in Piedmont, Italy.

In 2017, we purchased a well-known, premium vineyard named Kick Ranch in the Fountaingrove District AVA in the southeastern hills of Santa Rosa. In 2018, we were excited to expand our portfolio and bottled a Rosé of Grenache, Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier, and Cabernet Sauvignon all from our new estate-grown Kick Ranch grapes. Additionally, we decided to produce a North Coast Brut. Nearly all our boutique-style wines come from our California certified sustainable estate vineyards, with the exception of the Zinfandel and Sparkling Brut.

The pavilion at Bricoleur Vineyards

Can you tell me more about philanthropy as a part of Bricoleur’s mission?

Giving back is a huge part of what we do. Bricoleur’s mission is to partner with charities to help raise money and assist those organizations in any way we can. We plan to host multiple wine and food auctions and other nonprofit events starting this year with the goal of significant fundraising for these charities.

Additionally, we have been pouring wine and donating various hospitality and food and wine packages for various charities all over the country to auction off in silent and live auctions. We have actively participated in a number of events outside of California over the last year, including the Emeril Lagasse Foundation in New Orleans supporting the St. Michael’s special needs school, the Triangle Wine & Food Experience in Raleigh, North Carolina raising money for the Frankie Lemmon School for disabled children, the Nashville Wine Auction raising money to help fight cancer, and the Southwest Florida Food & Wine Fest raising money for children’s charities.

We support charities that deliver significant value to its constituents. Today, we mostly focus on organizations that provide food, shelter, or meaningful children’s programs. We were introduced to the Redwood Empire Food Bank about five years ago, which is an amazing organization with programs aimed at children and seniors. Their Kitchen Collective program provides 60,000 freshly cooked meals to low income seniors and families each year. We try to donate food from our garden to this program whenever we can during the summer and fall growing seasons.  Unfortunately, hunger is a significant and growing issue in Sonoma County with the multiple fires and now COVID-19. We are currently running a promotion where 10 percent of Bricoleur Vineyard’s wine proceeds are donated to The Redwood Empire Food Bank to help relieve this issue.

Tell me more about Bricoleur’s non-vineyard offerings.

The estate villa at Bricoleur Vineyards

We want Bricoleur Vineyards to be much more than just a special label—we are creating a hospitality destination where people can enjoy the beauty of Sonoma County. We believe a complete farm-to-table, food-wine experience is essential to this vision. We have planted over 210 olive trees and produced three vintages of cold-pressed Bricoleur extra virgin olive oil thus far. Additionally, we have multiple apple, pear, fig, persimmon, pomegranate, peaches, and nectarine fruit trees and an organic herb and vegetable garden situated in over 20 raised beds made from recycled material from our old barn. We are planning to use the fruit, herbs, and vegetables as part of the Bricoleur culinary program to highlight fresh farm-to-table products in our chef’s daily dishes. We also raise free-range chickens and honeybees, which naturally help with the pest control and pollination of our plants.

What do you love about Sonoma County?

My wife and I both have deep ties to Sonoma County, since I was born in Santa Rosa and my wife spent every summer for almost 15 years of her childhood on their family ranch near Cloverdale. For the next 20 years while we were raising our children, we spent many weekends at the family ranch every summer, sharing many wonderful outdoor meals and building memories. Over the last 10 years, my wife and I have really enjoyed exploring the lesser known towns nearby, trying a variety of farm-to-table restaurants and boutique wineries which are laidback with amazing food and wine. We continue to be in awe of the natural beauty of the peaceful rolling hills covered with oak trees or vineyards, the towering redwoods, and the amazing coastline of the magnificent Pacific Ocean.

Mark, Sarah and Beth go boating on one of the vineyard property’s two ponds

Bricoleur Vineyards is scheduled to open to the public in May 2020. For more information and updates, visit