Founder & Co-owner, Winemaker & Viticulturist
Born and raised in San Luis Obispo, Bill Wathen is a true Central Coast native. He chose to attend Cal Poly University where he graduated in 1975 with a degree in Fruit Science, specializing in vineyard management. Bill’s first job after graduation was to work for two Santa Barbara County viticultural pioneers, Dale Hampton and Louie Lucas, at the Tepusquet Mesa Vineyard (now owned by Cambria Estate) and the Nielsen Vineyard (currently owned by Byron Vineyard.)
In 1978, Bill went north to become vineyard manager at Chalone Vineyard, where he was mentored by California wine pioneer, and Chalone founder, Dick Graff. It was here at Chalone that Bill learned traditional French winemaking techniques, and it was Graff’s influence that still inspires Bill’s minimalist winemaking philosophy to this day.
Returning to Santa Barbara County in the early eighties, Bill joined long-time friend, Dick Doré, and began making plans to make wine together. He co-founded Foxen with Dick in 1985 when they made their first wine on Dick’s basketball court at the Rancho Tinaquaic.
Bill lives in the Santa Ynez Valley with his wife, Becky (who is Foxen’s Controller), where he enjoys his free time gardening, cooking and traveling with his family.
Here’s what Bill has to say about his winegrowing philosophy:
“First and foremost, I have always been a vineyard guy. I look at each individual vineyard and its unique terroir as the building blocks for the wines I cultivate from these sites. This belief was ingrained into me during my early years as the vineyard manager at Chalone Winery under the mentorship of Richard Graff.
At Chalone in the seventies I was cultivating grapes in one of the most incredible terroirs in California, learning to respect the vine and let the wines make themselves with little or no intervention.
Like anything else, wine growing evolves with technological advances. However, my belief remains that best winemaking is always the least intrusive, resulting in wines that are honorable to each site. I see my job of the winegrower is to record the organoleptic history of the vineyard year in the bottle, with as little fingerprint as possible. If I can accomplish this each vintage, then I have rewarded myself.”
Founder & Co-owner, General & Sales Manager
Life has come full circle for Dick Doré. Born and raised on the family-owned Rancho Tinaquaic, this sixth generation Santa Barbara County resident returned to his roots in 1985 by establishing Foxen with long-time friend, Bill Wathen. After working as a banker in the late sixties and seventies, this University of California at Santa Barbara graduate gave up his nine-to-five job and moved his young family to Europe. Over the next year and a half, Dick traveled the back roads of France, Italy and Spain, where he also developed a love of wine.
Dick and his family returned to the Rancho Tinaquaic, which was purchased by his great-great grandfather and Santa Barbara County pioneer Benjamin Foxen in 1837 in the late seventies. At that time the Santa Barbara County wine industry was just emerging. With his passion for great wines firmly established, he initially worked to support his family, which included working for the Tepusquet Mesa Vineyard. It was here that Dick and Bill’s employment paths crossed and their friendship was solidified.
Dick makes his home in the Santa Ynez Valley, where he lives with his wife, Jenny. Together, they form Foxen’s sales force. When he is not on the road selling Foxen wine and hosting dinners, Dick’s free time is spent nurturing their seven-acre Williamson-Doré Vineyard in the Santa Ynez Valley, tending his vegetable garden or pruning his olive trees, and occasionally playing golf.
Jenny Williamson Doré
Marketing and California & Florida Sales
Jenny has been involved in the Santa Barbara County wine industry for nearly thirty years in public relations, communications, marketing and sales. In 2001, she decided to step back from her position as the Director of Sales and Marketing for Cambria Winery to devote her full time and energy to FOXEN's communications, marketing and sales.
Jenny and Dick are settled in the Santa Ynez Valley where they enjoy life as growers of their seven-acre Williamson-Doré Vineyard, and travel--FOXEN business and pleasure. When she’s not out selling wines or her volunteering as the current Board President of the Santa Barbara County Vintners' Foundation, Jenny can be found tending her garden or playing with their many grandkids.
Born the year Dick and Bill began making wine together in 1985, David Whitehair, began his tenure at FOXEN in 2007. As a “true local boy” who was born and raised in the Santa Ynez Valley, David has Santa Barbara wine country in his blood.
In 2006 David began his winemaking career working harvest for Brander Winery in Santa Ynez and his passion for winemaking was quickly established. His interest to learn more led him to New Zealand to work at Cloudy Bay for their 2007 harvest, and continued his hand-ons winemaking education back to the States where he joined the winemaking crew at Chalk Hill in Healdsburg. David then returned to his beloved Santa Barbara County, and a chance meeting with Bill Wathen led to his immediate hiring at Foxen in the fall of 2007. David became Foxen’s assistant winemaker in 2008 and was promoted to Winemaker in 2016.
David sums up his experience at FOXEN as, “a privilege and an honor to be Billy’s apprentice”…and that winemaking, “begins with the vines and soil and ends in the glass. It’s a fine balance between science and art.”
During lunch breaks you can find David running along Foxen Canyon Road training for mountain climbs and marathons. To date he has climbed Mt Whitney three times and run five marathons.
When Becky teamed up with Bill Wathen in 1984, she married into the wine business. College in Santa Barbara at UCSB and then graduate school at UC Berkeley led to her MBA and CPA. She returned to Santa Barbara in 1982 where Dick Dore’s sister set her up on a blind date with Bill. Bill and Dick were already in the early stages of their wine making partnership. A couple of years later Becky asked “Is this a hobby or a business?” and Foxen Winery was founded.
Becky is a self-employed CPA, specializing in the wine industry. She spends most of her working time overseeing things at Foxen, but she has several other winery clients. Becky served multiple terms on the Board of the Santa Barbara County Vintners Association and was a founding member of the Vintners Foundation. Today she heads the Board of Santa Ynez Valley People Helping People.
Becky is a bookworm. She and Bill love road trips and gardening together. They have two grown children who also work in the wine industry.