My Life Before the Wine Industry, Part Two

Rebecca Germolus on Mar 29, 2024

In part one of My Life Before the Wine Industry, we explored the lives of two people impassioned with their new careers. This time you’ll meet four more people who found their paths to the winery industry in different ways, but the common theme continues. The beautiful surroundings, wine country lifestyle, fast-paced varied roles at wineries, and opportunities to meet people from around the world continue to lure folks into the wine industry.


Troy Newton: Every Day is a Good Day

With a career in law enforcement that begin when he was just 21, Troy Newton spent 30 years keeping the peace. Being a peace officer definitely isn’t easy, but we’re grateful folks like Troy are there for us when we need them.

Early in his career, Troy transferred from the Del Norte County Sheriff’s Department to the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office. While serving in Sonoma County, Troy worked various assignments including uniformed patrol, as a detective, and on the SWAT team. His final rank was sergeant when he retired in 2019.

Wine Enters the Mix

“Wine was always a hobby of mine,” said Troy. “I liked collecting, aging and learning about wine. I specifically remember working each year at the Silver Oak Release Day parties. Silver Oak is a responsible business and would contract with the Sheriff’s Office for security. Over several years, I got to know the employees. Each year I enjoyed coming back to work the Release Day parties as a cop. The vibe was always very fun and positive. Which made me think to myself — when I retire, I want to come work for Silver Oak.

“The day I retired from law enforcement I came to work for Silver Oak,” Troy said smiling. “This was a year after Silver Oak opened their new LEED Platinum-certified facility in Alexander Valley. I work in the tasting room as a hospitality associate, wine educator and tour guide for private events.”


A group of people standing in front of a Silver Oak sign, some holding wine glasses and other large wine bottles
Troy Newton is the fellow holding the very large bottle of Silver Oak Cabernet Sauvignon


The Right Fit

I met Troy at Silver Oak when he led a tour for a group of wine industry folks. During the tour, in which Troy held the attention of this tough crowd, we had no idea of his previous career. It wasn’t until our final stop on the tour, as the group started chatting, that we learned of Troy’s previous life.

Asked if he’s happy with his new career path, Troy responded, “I went from dealing with people on their worst day or in a crisis situation, to dealing with people on their best day. Everybody is happy to see me when I am filling up their glass with wine. In my previous career no one was ever happy to see me when I showed up with my badge and gun. I did a full 180 and went from a constantly negative stressful environment to a positive relaxed environment.”

Troy still dabbles in law enforcement, like private investigations, executive protection and he’s done some work for the state as a special investigator. But in talking with Troy, you can tell the job he loves is being a Tasting Room Associate at Silver Oak.

“The most rewarding part of my wine industry career is the long-lasting friendships I’ve made with some of our guests that come in,” Troy explained. “I meet people from all walks of life coming into the tasting room, which makes everything exciting and unpredictable.”

Hope you get the chance to meet Troy and maybe enjoy one of his tours while you sip the renowned Silver Oak wines.


Diane Bucher: Infectious Enthusiasm

Enthusiasm is Diane Bucher’s trademark — whether it’s for Bucher Wines, Bucher Vineyards, farm life, her family, her community or so much more.

Diane Bucher’s path to the wine industry was very different from Troy Newton’s. When Diane was dating local farmer John Bucher, she knew John had a large herd of organic dairy cows. It wasn’t until John opened a bottle of William Selyem Pinot Noir Bucher Vineyards for them to share that she discovered she was also dating a grapegrower.

Before Farm Life

Before moving to Healdsburg, Diane worked and lived in and around San Francisco, with a stint in Seattle while employed in the offset printing business. Although she didn’t know it at the time, her early career in printing was the perfect background for designing and printing wine labels, or creating the right esthetics for a website or printed documents. Handy knowledge to have when launching a new wine brand.

Moving from printing to textiles, Diane found herself traveling from the San Francisco Bay Area to New York and Troy, Michigan. She recalls how trips to these locations during the winter months weren’t always her favorites, but necessary for her job. Diane’s career move to home textiles deepened her appreciation for good design and also honed her business, customer service and sales skills. Again, she was preparing her for her future path without her knowing it.

Bucher Wines

While still working for a home textile company, Diane decided to settle in Healdsburg, where she met John Bucher. Her life and career were about to change.

Diane and John Bucher were married in 2007. For a few years, Diane’s focus switched to being the mother of their blended family — three girls and two boys. John and Diane begin to talk about having a legacy to leave their children. Bucher Vineyards had gained a solid reputation for vineyard designated Pinot Noirs from wineries like William Selyem, Merry Edwards and more. Making their own wine and developing a premier wine brand seemed to be the next logical step for John and Diane.

2011 was their pivotal year. The Buchers received their winery bond (government license to make and sell wine commercially) and harvested and produced their first estate wine. Those 160 cases of 2011 Pinot Noir, along with a 2012 Chardonnay, were released in 2013.


A smiling man and woman with a vineyard map behind them and five open wine bottles in front of them
John and Diane Bucher


Established Brand

Now over 10 years old, Bucher Wines has made its mark as a premier Pinot Noir producer. Diane continues to wear many of the winery hats, while John’s focus until recently was primarily the vineyards and dairy.

When ask if she was satisfied with her new career as a winery owner, she replied, “Yes! I’m in the fun business. People come to the Sonoma County Wine Country to have fun, sip wine and learn about wine, grapegrowing and local agriculture.”

The Buchers’ most recent project, an extension of their superb hospitality, was adding two short-term rentals on their property, which overlooks the 38-acre Bucher Vineyards, planted to Pinot Noir (36 acres) and Chardonnay (2 acres). The Buchers encourage their guests to learn more about Sonoma County agriculture and their adjacent vineyards during their stay, with Diane and John at the ready to share their farming knowledge.


Beautiful view of vineyard, trees and mountainous hillside
The view from Bucher Vineyards


The Rewards

When I asked about the most rewarding part of being in the wine industry, Diane didn’t hesitate. She loves that they have been able to help out some wonderful charitable organizations through donated auction lots — a stay on their property coupled with visitors being able to take a deeper educational dive into Sonoma County agriculture, Bucher Wines and Bucher Vineyards.

Diane seems very satisfied with her new career and her boundless enthusiasm for sharing her wines shines through. To meet Diane and enjoy some Bucher Wines, book a tasting here.


Jack Seifrick: Business Adventurer Discovers Wine Country

When Jack Seifrick graduated from Ohio State University and started his accounting career at Arthur Anderson, owning a winery wasn’t on his radar. Jack’s a guy who always wants to learn and be challenged, so he soon moved on to Harvard Business School.

Searching for the Next Challenge

After graduating with his MBA, Jack proved his skill set at growing businesses and absorbing knowledge. His career path included controller for a shrimp importer and processor, CEO at a commercial real estate advisory firm, founder of two separate community banks, and partner and business manager for an architectural designer firm. This foundation would serve him well when he turned his focus to wine.

From Texas to California

How did Jack transition from founding a bank in Austin, Texas to starting a winery in Sonoma County?

In 2011, on two-week vacation to Wine Country, Jack and his wife Ann discovered Healdsburg and the Dry Creek Valley. Drinking in the bounty and beauty of the area, Jack didn’t take long to determine his next business venture. He soon found property he knew was well-suited for a vineyard and winery in the heart of Dry Creek Valley. By 2012, Jack broke ground on his new project, and in 2014, Cast Wines opened their doors for business.

Jack ensured the vineyards were sustainable from their inception, and after much work from his team, the vineyards were recently certified organic. “Moving in the direction of being organic is just the right thing to do,” explained Jack. The farming costs have almost doubled, but Jack and his partners want to be good stewards of the land, preserving it for the generations that follow.


a woman and man holding wine glasses in a vineyard filled with fall colors
Ann and Jack Seifrick


Building on His Background

Like Diane Bucher, Jack’s background led him to be successful in his current role of founder and managing partner of Cast Wines. Working in the specialty food business, real estate, banking and for high-end properties all contributed to his knowledge base when navigating his way through his new career. Jack also said that knowing how to find and hire the right people for each job is key to a business’s success.

Wine Country Rewards

When I asked Jack about the most rewarding part of his job, he came up with several answers:

  • Visitors to the winery are always in a good mood and happy to be there.
  • Wine, when used responsibly, creates a joy-filled environment that brings people together and creates great memories.
  • He works and lives in a beautiful place.
  • He enjoys the Wine Country lifestyle.
  • Working as the managing partner, Jack gets to continue to acquire knowledge and skills, which helps him stay fresh and young.

If you’d like to visit Jack’s beautiful corner of Dry Creek Valley, you can book at tasting on the Cast website. Just the view and meeting Duke, the canine concierge, is worth the visit. Add in the wine tasting, and you’ve scored!

A brown and black dog laying down looking at the camera.
Duke, the canine concierge at Cast Wines


John Viszlay: Living His Dream

After 25 years in the shopping center industry creating real estate deals and negotiating leases, John Viszlay headed west to fulfill his dream. Living in the Midwest (Minnesota’s Twin Cities area and Chicago) was great, but John always loved being in Sonoma County Wine Country.

In 2010, John found an existing winery and vineyards for sale and was able to launch his own wine brand, Viszlay Vineyards. With a lot of sweat equity and other resources, John created a premium wine brand. As winemaker and vineyard manager, John’s plate is very full, so he was lucky to enlist the full-time support of his daughter Abby. Abby is now a seasoned veteran in the tasting room. Her brother Tony retains his banking career in Chicago while working remotely on the financial side of the business, and flying out to help with winery events.


a man in a blue jacket pulling red wine from a wine barrel using a wine thief, two men and a woman laughing
John Viszlay sharing his wines during the 2024 Wine Road Barrel Tasting Event; Tony, John & Abby Viszlay


Content With His New Life

When I asked John if he was happy with his new career, he resoundingly responded, “Yes! I’ll never get rich doing this, but I sure smile a lot.” John’s happy place is in his vineyards and connecting with the Sonoma County agricultural community. He also loves the chance to meet new people as they discover Viszlay Vineyards and stop by to taste John’s wines.

I wondered if John had any regrets about leaving his old life behind, or if there were any aspects of his new life he didn’t enjoy. He didn’t hesitate as he said, “Not a thing, not even one letter.” (Can you tell John’s a movie buff?)


Behind the Scenes

You’ve now meet four more people who had long careers before they entered the wine industry. If you want to meet these folks in person, come visit along the Wine Road to meet Troy Newton, Diane Bucher, Jack Seifrick and John Viszlay.

There are so many more stories to share about people who had very different lives before the wine industry pulled them in. Stayed tuned as the next installment of Life Before the Wine Industry will appear in the coming months.

Happy Sipping!

Posted by Rebecca Germolus

Rebecca Germolus, co-owner of Maximum Value Marketing, loves Sonoma County and playing along the Wine Road. Rebecca daily immerses herself in wine country by providing cost-effective marketing and writing solutions to wineries and restaurants.

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