Most people know Dusty Baker as the baseball legend who managed the San Francisco Giants from 1993 to 2002 and is currently managing the Washington Nationals. Dusty was the first National League manager to earn “Manager of the Year” honors three times. What people might not know, however, is Dusty’s deep love for growing things. His father, Johnnie B. Baker, Sr., introduced Dusty to gardening. “My dad always had a garden,” Baker says. “He had a green thumb, and I got a green thumb from him. I like working in the dirt.”
Before starting a vineyard, Dusty had a backyard garden, which included assorted fruit trees and a plot of summer vegetables. In between seasons, he was often found tending his plants. “I was doing a lot of physical work – I found it interesting and rewarding,” says Dusty.
When Dusty bought five acres of land located in the Sierra Foothills east of Sacramento in 2007, he decided to create a “gentleman’s vineyard.” Starting a vineyard came naturally to Dusty. During his days managing the San Francisco Giants, he had joined the advisory board of the Robert Mondavi Winery, giving him access to prime grape rootstock.
While researching winemakers who shared his passion for quality, he found Chik Brenneman. Chik was then a Production Lan Manager at Woodbridge by Robert Mondavi. Now the the winemaker and manager of the teaching and research winery at the University of California Davis, Chik planted Dusty’s vineyard and became his winemaker and business partner. Later, William “Bill” Matthews, a UC Davis economist, joined Dusty’s team as a second partner and business manager.
At first growing grapes and making wine was a hobby, and Dusty gave his premium wines away to friends and family. When people started asking where they could purchase his wine, Dusty decided to sell it. He enlisted his daughter, Natosha Baker Smith, a graphic designer, to develop his label, which evokes a close-up rendition of baseball stitching.
Because lot sizes are small, Baker Family Wines are sold online, at the Treasure Island Wines tasting room in San Francisco, and a few select restaurants. When Dusty is in town, he enjoys walking through his vineyard and helping with pruning and harvesting. Dusty and Chik also enjoy hosting winemaker dinners at select restaurants.