The Former CEO and Director of Winemaking Forms Consulting Firm in Addition to New Focus on Artiste Wines
SANTA YNEZ, California; January 17, 2020 – Bion Rice, CEO and Director of Winemaking at Sunstone Vineyards & Winery in Santa Ynez, California, has announced his resignation from the business, handing over control to his family and new investors effective from September 2019. Since he took the helm of the Santa Ynez winery in 2011, Rice successfully repositioned the Sunstone brand, which attracted investors. The change in management comes with his calculated decision to focus on his Artiste wine brand as well as his new consulting firm, Cultivate Growth Advisors.
Sunstone Vineyards & Winery is a family-owned business established in 1992 by husband and wife team Fred and Linda Rice. In January 2011, after the passing of Linda, in the midst of family crisis coupled with the severe effect of the economic recession on the business, eldest son Bion Rice stepped forward to assume the role of CEO. Under his direction, Sunstone stabilized its business operations and laid the foundation for the company’s growth and future success. From 2011 to 2015, the brand pivoted from the company’s historic wholesale distribution focus and transformed the business plan to an “experiential” direct-to-consumer focus at the estate. This strategic move transitioned Sunstone’s business model toward destination experiences and private events, enhanced by Bion’s commitment to high-quality winemaking.
As CEO and Director of Winemaking at Sunstone, Bion was responsible for all aspects of winemaking, operations, marketing, sales, events, finance and accounting. He directed a team of over 30 employees with a sophisticated strategy directed at consumers seeking immersive lifestyle experiences around wine and food in a spectacular Santa Ynez Valley vineyard setting. By 2019, Sunstone had risen to prominence as the “must-see” destination winery experience in Santa Barbara County, with over 40,000 visitors, 3,000 club members, and over 9,000 cases sold 100% D.T.C. annually, with nearly $5 million revenue and $1.5 million in earnings.
With his new firm Cultivate Growth Advisors, Bion offers his 25-year expertise as an experienced CEO, winemaker and entrepreneur in the wine and spirits industry as a consultant to startups, turnarounds, M&A, investors and private equity groups. Additionally, the combined team of Bion and wife and business partner Anna Rice will continue their leadership at Artiste Winery, expanding the wine program and exploring new directions with their wine club concept, tasting experiences, art genres and creative mediums.
“The decade ahead is going to bring exciting opportunities. I look forward to expanding my abilities and sharing my experience and capabilities to help people grow and prosper in their business and personal lives,” states Rice.
About Bion Rice:
Bion Rice was born and raised in Santa Barbara, California. His great-great-grandfather farmed wine grapes in the Napa Valley in the late 1800s. Following in the family footsteps, Bion’s parents planted a 25-acre vineyard in the Santa Ynez Valley in 1990, where the Rice family built Sunstone Winery, opened in 1994. After a decade of working in various roles at his family’s winery, Bion Rice founded Artiste Winery in 2003, combining his two passions for art and wine. As CEO of Sunstone for the past eight years, he repositioned the brand into a 100% DTC hospitality experience, making it the “must-see” destination winery in Santa Barbara Wine Country. He and his wife Anna live in Santa Barbara with their two sons, Miles and Mason.