When Willamette Wineworks came to Folsom, its much anticipated arrival to the Historic District was overshadowed by the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic, bringing all celebration and fanfare surrounding its new Folsom location and any grand opening festivities to a screeching halt. 


This past week, Willamette ownership, staff and members of the community came together inside its beautiful tasting room to finally celebrate like any new establishment should, with dignitaries, fellow business owners and patrons enjoying food and spirits leading up a long-awaited official ribbon cutting with the Folsom Chamber of Commerce, now better known as Choose Folsom. 

Occupying the top floor of the new Round House building in Folsom’s Historic District above Scott’s Seafood, Willamette Wine Works is known as a micro-winery which is a wine, blending and food experience created by Willamette Valley Vineyards. The unique hands-on wine-blending experience allows guests to learn more about the process of winemaking and enjoy their own wine creation all at the same time. 


Willamette Wineworks, in Folsom is a collaboration of two brothers, Jim and Jerry Bernau Jim is the Founder of Willamette Valley Vineyards in Oregon. Jerry is a local builder and developer, operating Kensington Homes, Inc. and Bernau Development Corporation has been the one that has worked diligently to redevelop the historic Folsom railyard while preserving its history. The Roundhouse Building was the latest phase of the ongoing project.

“Willamette Wineworks opened in Historic Folsom right before the start of the coronavirus pandemic and the team in Folsom worked diligently through the pandemic to reach out to the local community and draw in wine enthusiasts from the area,” said Jim Bernau. “The ribbon cutting was a chance to celebrate our opening and the end of the pandemic restrictions with our supporters.”


The roots of the now acclaimed Oregon winery wound their way through Folsom when the Bernau brothers’ grandfather was asked by Warden Plummer in the late 1930s to build and operate an auto garage just outside of the prison entry to help inmates develop marketable skills. 


The Bernau brothers’ father, an attorney from Roseburg, Oregon, was hired by the first emigrating California winemaker to grow and make Pinot Noir in Oregon to help him acquire the first winery license post Prohibition. He allowed small tastes of Richard Sommer’s wines at the dinner table, lighting a path for Jim.

Willamette Valley Vineyards, since its founding by Jim in 1983, has become the leading producer of Pinot Noir designated from the Willamette Valley American Viticultural Area, resulting in the winery being named “One of America’s Great Pinot Noir Producers” by Wine Enthusiast magazine. 


Willamette Wineworks and the entire winery organization has benefited from the support of its more 20,000 wine enthusiast owners and is enjoying getting to know the growing Folsom community.

Folsom’s winemaking history dates back to the mid 1800s with the planting of the celebrated Natoma Vineyard along the American River. In the early 1900s, Natoma Vineyard boasted 2,000 acres and was one of the largest vineyards in the state when gold was discovered on the property — and the vines were replaced with dredgers. Our dream is to reestablish Natoma by crafting local wines and celebrating its place in California wine history.   

“It’s a joy to be part of the Folsom community, which is a supportive, wine loving region,” said Jim Bernau. “Willamette Wineworks is like a boutique winery offering very small production brands in a small, intimate site. The community is still discovering the tasting room and with it our Willamette Valley Vineyards wines made in Oregon and our Natoma wines made in California.”

When Bernau says the word “community,” it’s a word comes from the cornerstone of the philosophy behind Willamette Valley Vineyards. He believes among the healthiest forms of business are those owned by the community. 

Jim’s vision of organizing the support of wine enthusiasts to make world-class wines through shared ownership is unique in the wine industry. Willamette Valley Vineyards became the first SEC-authorized community-funded business in the United States through the first successful Regulation A self-underwritten public offering in 1989. The winery has grown with the support of wine enthusiasts through Preferred Stock Ownership (NASDAQ: WVVIP) funding new vineyards, wineries and experiences.

If you haven’t paid a visit to Willamette Wineworks in Folsom yet, Bernau and his local staff hope you will add it on your to do list soon to experience it first-hand. Hours are Wednesday through Friday 3 p.m. until 9 p.m; Saturday 1 p.m. to 9 p.m. and Sunday 12 p.m. until 6 p.m. 

Reservations are not required but you are welcome to do so at www.willamettewineworks.com.  You can learn more about the company’s history and all they have to offer throughout its website as well. 

The tasting room address is 824 Sutter Street, Ste. 200 and can been reached by phone during business hours at 916-542-7417.

Bill Sullivan
Author: Bill Sullivan

Bill Sullivan has over 25 years of professional journalism and content creation experience in which he has earned 37 professional awards. He is the co-founder/publisher of Folsom Times an All Town Media LLC product.