The story that led to Bright Angel Wines.
Patrick Pipp’s journey into wine and winemaking started late in life. On 9/11/11, Pat completed his one and only Ironman in Madison, Wisconsin. The next day, he and his wife, Robbin, flew to Napa for the first time to celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary. They both fell in love with the amazing landscape, incredible hospitality, and of course the wines of Napa and Sonoma.
Pat’s desire to make wine started quickly after that trip. His first wine was made at his home in Geneva, IL. He bought frozen grapes from a winery in Napa, thawed them in the basement shower and enlisted a retired friend to come to the house 3-4 times a day to punch down the cap during fermentation while Pat was at work. The process was educational and fun, but the wine, not surprisingly, was just not that good. Pat was driven to make better wine.
Pat enrolled in and completed a program at Sonoma State, where he studied both winemaking and the wine business. This led to the discovery of The Wine Foundry. He now had access to iconic vineyards, equipment, and a seasoned consulting winemaker.
Fast forward to a holiday dinner at Quartino’s in Chicago in December of 2014. Pat and Robbin told their three children–- Allison, Mike, and Katie-– of their plan to start a boutique wine business selling high-end wines into the Chicagoland market. The kids were enthusiastic and the family started throwing ideas to name the winery.
A couple of bottles later, Allison suggested naming the winery after a cherished family vacation taken earlier that year–a drive from Las Vegas to the south rim of the Grand Canyon, and then a 220-mile shuttle ride to the north rim. The family spent the next two days hiking across the Grand Canyon “Rim to Rim”. After hiking 13 miles down the north rim on day one, day two was spent going up the 11-mile “Bright Angel” trail.
The name was perfect! Not only did “Bright Angel” have a great connotation, but it also represented a significant challenge that the family conquered together.
The Bright Angel story continues in early 2015 when Pat’s longtime friend Ken Stemke joined Bright Angel. Pat and Ken met at their first job out of college in 1984 working at then Libertyville National Bank. Ken has stayed in the banking industry the past 35+ years while working with Pat on Bright Angel Wines. In 2015, they introduced their first two wines–a 2013 Sonoma Coast Chardonnay and 2013 Napa Valley Cabernet.
Each varietal’s label tells our story, while the front of the label maps our journey. Each varietal on our label is a different color ranging from the straw yellow of Sauvignon Blanc progressing to a deep purple of Zinfandel.
Today, you can find our Bright Angel wines featured in restaurants, country clubs, and fine wine shops in the greater Chicagoland area.