Let’s play a game we’ll call, “How Much Do You Know About American Canyon’s Connection to the Wine Industry?” We’ll start with how many square feet of wine distribution exists in American Canyon? Second question: Where does American Canyon rank among this country’s wine distribution centers in terms of its size? Well, there’s one person who knows the answer to both questions—Bill Harper, the General Manager of Valley Wine Warehouse, which has five locations in the ever-expanding Green Island area of American Canyon, with 75 employees who Bill supervises. Valley Wine Warehouse alone has more than a million square feet of distribution space, and there are several million more square feet of distribution in American Canyon.
Bill has spent most of his adult life working in various positions within the wine industry. He joined the American Canyon Chamber of Commerce in 2019 and has been the president of the Chamber since January, 2020. Bill he has been a quiet, but strong supporter of American Canyon Community & Parks Foundation during that entire time. Growing up, Bill was raised in Stockton, attended Amos Alonzo Stagg High School and received his undergraduate degree in Fermentation Science from UC-Davis in 1975. He came to American Canyon in December, 1999, working for Peter Stravinski, owner of HP Consolidation, who was one of the first to see American Canyon as an ideal location for wine distribution and storage. “It’s interesting that not many people who work along Green Island Road know much about American Canyon and vice versa,” Bill notes. “We and Green Island businesses have been distanced from the American Canyon community. Now that Valley Wine Warehouse has a new facility on Commerce St., we feel closer to American Canyon.”
The Green Island part of American Canyon is growing exponentially, with Amazon and Ikea just two of the recent companies to realize the benefits that American Canyon’s location offers businesses. To come back to the two questions that led off this article, “American Canyon is the largest wine distribution center in California and probably the largest in the United States,” Bill notes. “We attract more than just the Napa wineries. We get wines from Oregon, southern California, and Washington–from all over. It’s just easier to ship to other parts of the United States from here. American Canyon is where the majority of wine shipping is done in America!”
When he’s not managing wine distribution, Bill, who lives in Sonoma, enjoys fly fishing and playing bridge. “I have always enjoyed being outdoors, and when I was growing up, my family would spend time in the Sierras fishing and hiking, so I’ve fished most of my life. I try to do at least one fly fishing trip a year, usually 4-5 days.”
He has traveled to Wyoming, and Montana to fish and next on his list is a trip in September on the Madison and Snake Rivers. He’s also hoping to fish the Yellowstone River in Yellowstone National Park at some point in the future. Growing up, Bill’s family was also important in his introduction to and enjoyment of bridge. “I got drafted by my mom as a kid to play and I played in college and took a couple of bridge classes. It’s stimulating and can be rewarding–if you don’t take it seriously.” His family includes his wife, Victoria Bonnington, two sons, Bill V, a captain in the Sonoma Valley Fire Department, and Cole, who graduated from Northeastern University in Boston, and works for a financial management company in San Francisco. Bill and Victoria live in Sonoma, and Victoria, who earned an MBA from California State University-Sacramento, recently retired after a 40-year career in Human Resources in the wine industry. Like Bill, she loves playing bridge.
Asked how he and came to support ACCPF, Bill states, “It’s always been part of Valley Wine Warehouse’s DNA to support community groups. We’ve supported the AC Parks Dept. and once you go up to Watson Ranch, you realize how special it is. So we appreciate the balance the Parks Dept. and ACCPF bring to the community to protect the open space.” At the same time Bill notes, “It’s important to support development that makes American Canyon feel good.” To underscore his point, Bill quotes the line from folk singer Joni Mitchell, who once sang, ‘They paved paradise to put up a parking lot.’ Speaking as someone who bridges the span of the past, present and the future of American Canyon, Bill states quite perceptively, “Once our open space is gone, it’s gone for good. So it’s vital to maintain that balance of open space and responsible development.”