Winemaking is Tondi Bolkan's passion, but she fell into that career by unusual circumstances. Growing up in the suburbs of Chicago, she left the cold winters to pursue an education and career in California. Determined to join her family's legacy of medical professionals. Tondi Bolkan enrolled in the University of California, Davis in 1993. After earning a Bachelor of Science degree in Neurobiology, Physiology, and Behavior, she took a medical internship in Sacramento. It was while watching her first procedure that Tondi passed out cold on the operating room floor.
After recovering, she turned her enthusiasm for the medical and scientific field into something that would capture some of her own interests as well. Combining her organic chemistry and biology background with her artistic personality, she turned her attention to winegrowing - a profession that allowed her to express her creative side through science and craftsmanship, keeping her in the vineyard instead of the ER.
Launching into her career in the winemaking industry, Bolkan set her sights on Napa Valley, joining the winemaking team at Pine Ridge Winery as a lab technician in 1999 where she contributed to the production of Cabernet Sauvignon and performed daily analyses for quality assurance. After a couple of years mastering the analytical and systematic approach to wine quality, she joined what was then called Niebaum-Coppola Winery (what would become known in later years as Rubicon Estate, followed by the current name Inglenook) as an enologist, helping craft the estate's famed Rutherford grapes into critically acclaimed wines. Under her direction, she led the winemaking team in implementing a new scientific wine testing technique called the Adams-Harbertson Assay, an inexpensive, reliable and accessible measurement of a wine's tannins, anthocyanin levels and total phenols - - all important characteristics that contribute to a wine's flavor profile.
Over the next seven years, Bolkan devoted her expertise to seven vintages, demonstrating a genuine talent for balancing the technical side of the laboratory with the visionary aspect of wine production. She was promoted to assistant winemaker in 2005 and was responsible for creating some of the winery's single-vineyard small production wines. During that time, winery owner Francis Ford Coppola started his eponymous Sonoma County winery in Geyserville, providing a distinct home for some of the popular, flourishing brands. Recognizing her skills would be a valuable asset to the new winery, Winemaking Chief Corey Beck promoted Bolkan to associate winemaker and she joined her colleagues at the Sonoma County destination winery in 2008.
In 2017, Bolkan was promoted to Winemaker and now leads the Francis Ford Coppola Winery winemaking department. In her role, she makes wines for the Sofia brand, a vibrant and sophisticated line of wines names after Francis's daughter. Included under the Sofia umbrella are the Sofia Blanc de Blancs, Sofia Minis, Sofia Riesling, Sofia Rosé, Sofia Chardonnay and Sofia Brut Rosé.
A valuable member of the wine industry, Bolkan is a regular speaker at some of the area's most groundbreaking conventions including Napa Valley Grapegrowers Symposium and Unified Wine & Grape Symposium, and she often lends her expertise as a guest instructor for the renowned Wine & Spirit Education Trust examination. In her spare time, she enjoys spending time with husband Cem, daughters Anla and Leyla and experiencing the world through traveling, especially to her ancestral home of the Philippines.