|John Bigelow, Owner/WinemakerWhat would possess a successful 40-year-old software executive to try his hand at winemaking? Aside from a passion for wine, it was John Bigelow’s work in high-tech that fueled a desire to try something high-touch.
“While I enjoyed working in technology, I couldn’t shake a nagging urge to create something tangible,” says John. “The only thing better than pulling a cork on one of our wines is knowing that someone else has enjoyed drinking it as much as I have enjoyed making it. It’s tremendously satisfying.”
Committed to producing high-quality wines, John’s path from enthusiast to vintner was well-considered. He began by studying winemaking in the mid-1990s, taking courses at U.C. Davis and reading every technical manual he could find. By the fall of 1998, he and his wife Peggy had converted the basement of their Seattle home into a winery where they fermented and aged 100 cases of wine for their own enjoyment. Encouraged by the success of their first vintage, John made 350 cases of Tre Fanciulli in 1999. JM Cellars was officially launched.
With the goal of slowly increasing production to 2,000 cases, John moved to Walla Walla for the 2000 harvest. It gave him the opportunity to work in the vineyards and practice his craft along such acclaimed winemakers as Charlie Hoppes, Mike Januik, and Holly Turner. Later that year, he and Peggy established a permanent home for JM Cellars in Woodinville, less than 30 minutes from their Seattle residence.
From the beginning, John’s ultimate goal was to focus on winemaking, but after three years of dedication to JM Cellars alone, he resumed his career in technology to ensure the winery and the Bigelows would prosper. The winery’s proximity to Seattle, Peggy’s involvement in JM Cellars’ daily operations, and John’s willingness to work nights and weekends allowed him to manage both careers for six years.. According to John, “The fast pace of high technology and the patient pace of the wine industry proved to be a great mix”. In 2006, John was able to leave his technology career behind to dedicate himself solely to winemaking for JM Cellars.