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Our People

Nate Belden - Chief Proprietor

Raised on a horse farm in Colorado, agriculture has always played an important part in Nate’s life. With one grandfather operating a cattle ranch in Montana and the other farming dairy and corn in Nebraska, it isn’t surprising that Nate developed a deep passion for the land, fantasizing about tractors and livestock the way his friends dreamed of fast cars and high tech gadgets.  

After graduating University of Colorado, Boulder, Nate put his rural dreams on hold in the name of a very urban finance career that led him to New York City and then to San Francisco. But the farming bug never left him.  In fact, the further away he got from an agrarian life, the more he missed it. 

In 2004, while still toiling away at his city job, Nate spent a holiday weekend with friends in wine country, and decided to steal away to look at an available farm in Sonoma. Despite the fact that the property was both well beyond his budget and his time available to operate a working vineyard, it was love at first sight.  The visit fueled an entire year of monthly drives to Sonoma Mountain Road, where he would park in front of the property’s mailbox and fantasize about becoming a wine grower.

On one such pilgrimage to Sonoma in early summer 2005, the "For Sale" sign had been pulled, bringing his fantasy to an abrupt halt.  After a few weeks of deep disappointment, Nate called the realtor to see if any similar properties were available, only to learn that the sale had fallen through.  This time, he leapt at the opportunity to plant a flag on the site we now call Belden Barns.

These days, when Nate’s not immersed in planning this year's crops or next year’s harvest and bottling, he is most likely adventuring around the Bay Area with Lauren and their two small children, Olivia and Milo. Active volunteers, Nate and Lauren also focus their efforts on improving the lives of orphans near Arusha, Tanzania, and put a portion of wine sales towards this cause.

 

Lauren Belden - Chief Creative Cultivator

While Nate’s childhood was spent caring for race horses, roping cattle, and planting crops, Lauren grew up in New York City, never getting much closer to farming than a disappointing attempt to “raise” sea monkeys in her kitchen.  When she planted her first row of seeds in Sonoma many decades later, she literally screamed with joy the morning she woke to find the starts of edible salad vegetables bursting out of the dark brown dirt. 

Lauren is a passionate brand expert, who prior to establishing a freelance branding and innovation career, worked for a number of advertising agencies and brand strategy shops, helping clients like Domino’s, FedEx and Chanel create products and experiences that transform consumers from occasional brand users to passionate brand loyalists.  With a deep-rooted addiction to understanding what makes people tick, Lauren takes great pleasure in the art of identifying unmet consumer needs and finding creative, exciting solutions for them. Lauren is thrilled to help Nate turn Belden Barns into a truly unique tasting experience that offers its members the kind of welcoming and engaging community she delights in building from the ground up.

Lauren is a graduate of Dartmouth College, where she majored in English and Creative Writing. She is a published writer, avid traveler, and obsessive collector of seashells and heart-shaped rocks.

When she’s not busy working with Nate to envision the future of Belden Barns or helping her freelance clients, you’ll find Lauren volunteering, enjoying the great outdoors, or entertaining (and being highly entertained by) the two Belden munchkins, Olivia Bird and Milo Field.

 

Chris Bowland - Vineyard Manager

Chris Bowland is the type of person you luck into meeting and over time question how you would have been able to manage without.  He has a strong and varied background in agriculture, and happens to have expert knowledge in beekeeping, as well. He studied at Cal Poly San Lois Obispo, and graduated with a B.S. in Agribusiness Management. After farming organic vegetables for a number of years in Sonoma County, he began his grape career with Sonoma Grapevines, where he expanded his knowledge of viticulture and grape growing and also completed his AS in Viticulture from the highly respected SRJC.

Dedicated to vineyard management since 2000, Chris, his wife Tanya, and a group of committed employees have grown Bowland Vineyard Management into one of the premier viticultural groups in Sonoma County. Chris currently manages over 400 acres of ultra-premium wine grapes in both the Russian River and Bennett Valley AVAs, including the highly-regarded estate vineyards of Williams Selyem.

Chris began working with our estate vineyards in 2005, and has helped with every step of development.  The quality of fruit achieved by our vineyard is in large part due to Chris and his team's efforts.  

 

Justin Harmon - Winemaker

Proof that good fences can create more than good neighbors, our winemaker, Justin Harmon, has been our fence-line neighbor on Sonoma Mountain for the past ten years.

To this day, Justin cannot pinpoint the moment when the wine-bug bit him.  Raised in Chicago in a home where wine was a non-factor, the source for this passion remains a mystery.  But after nearly a decade of devout wine consumerism, a desire to know more took hold.  Vacations began centering on wine - vineyard tours, tasting room visits and gaining audience with winemakers to pick their brains.  In time, Justin’s interest progressed to enology textbooks, trade journals, home winemaking, and the realization that creation, not consumption, was where his true passion lie.

A chance meeting with a California winemaker and an open invitation to “help with harvest” led to Justin’s first opportunity to participate in the commercial process.  After a harvest internship in Sonoma, his fate was sealed.  The following year, he became a professional winemaker upon founding Argot Wines and assuming its winemaking duties.  Currently, Argot produces approximately 2,000 cases each vintage.

Justin is a rising star in Sonoma winemaking and has a combination of impressive skills.  A chemical engineer by training, he knows what should and shouldn’t be going on in the fermentation tank.  Justin also has a broad tasting context - his passion has led him to taste and understand the benchmark bottlings of North American and International wines flying each of our estate’s varietal flags.  Those skills and experiences, matched with a gifted palate, are what really creates a special winemaker.   Justin is a talent we are very excited to have on the Belden Barns team.