Nikola Kirigin-Chargin began his winemaking career in his native Croatia on the Adriatic Coast. For generations the Kirigin family operated their vineyards and winery there until the Communist Yugoslav government took their land. As a young boy, he learned his family’s winemaking art and then earned a degree in enology at the University of Zagreb in 1941. After local family helped him come to America in 1959, he distinguished himself as a winemaker, working at San Martin, Almaden, Pirelli-Minetti, and Canadagua Wineries. His eye, however, was on Bonesio Winery in the Uvas Valley, which reminded him of his family winery in Brac, Croatia. Although Nikola and his wife, Biserka, were ready to retire by the time Louis Bonesio was ready to sell, in 1976 they took over this historic winery on the land and climate reminiscent of their homeland. The desire to produce premium quality wines in an old European manner, combined with the best aspects of modern American technology, is the realization of a life-long dream. Nikola quickly became a favorite among local wine lovers. After retiring, Nikola split his time between Croatia and his home here in Gilroy. He passed away on May 14, 2011, on the Croation island of Brac, where he was born.
Allen Kreutzer, the winemaker, started at Kirigin Cellars in 1984. He is a 33-year veteran of the wine industry, holding a BS in Fermentation Science from UC Davis. Allen completed his Masters Degree in Agricultural Chemistry from Fresno State in 1990. Over the years, Allen has worked for a number of wineries either in winemaker positions or as consulting enologist. His own winery, Drytown Cellars, opened in November 2001 in the Sierra foothills of Amador County. Among his many awards, he has received prestigious accolades such as "Best of Show" at the Orange County Fair (California's largest wine competition) and "Best of Class" at the San Fransisco Chronicle. His is also the ONLY winery featured in the internationally recognized Lonely Planet travel guide. In addition to Allen's passion for wine, he has a passion for music. A lifelong drummer, he has play with rhythm and blues band Sharon Allen and The Firebirds, based in Santa Cruz County, for two decades. After all these years of playing, Allen assures us that he must be famous.
Dhruv Khanna, the owner, came to the United States from New Delhi, India, to go to college and attend Stanford Law School. He became a successful telecommunications attorney and was one of the founders of Covad. However, it was his love of sports that brought him to Kirigin Cellars. Dhruv is passionate about cricket, a sport very popular in Commonwealth nations. The bay area is home to several cricket teams, but no cricket pitch. Dhruv decided to fix this, and in 2000, discovered the perfect piece of land, located next to the vineyards at Kirigin Cellars. Nikola Kirigin was, at age 84, finally ready to retire. Dhruv bought the winery, and has since added soccer fields, inspired by his love of children & sports.