How We Started
Two lifelong friends, Kevin Healey, and Sherman Smoot, founded Bella Luna Estate Winery in 1998. They met playing t-ball on the Central Coast and then went on to become the quarterback and center of their High school football team in Atascadero. After serving their country in the Vietnam War, their lives took very different directions, ultimately reuniting them later.
Bella Luna was born from a night of reminiscing and catching up on lost time. In the morning, it still sounded like a good idea to become partners in a winery, and at the young age of 50, they planted dry-farmed Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Ruby Cabernet.
They both had children. Sherman had a daughter named Carly and a son named Jimmy. Carly was the only 8-year-old on the planet who didn’t want a pony, and instead, Sherman named the vineyard after her. Kevin has a daughter named Nichole, who was often grounded in high school and made to work with him either in the vineyard or winery as punishment. Well, she enjoyed being in the vineyard and winery, and she went to Fresno State and got a BS in Enology and Viticulture.
Nichole ended up making wine in Australia after college. Her three-month internship turned into 7.5 years after she met and fell in love with Lukas, a local in the wine industry in Margaret River, Western Australia.
In 2018 Lukas and Nichole immigrated back to California to help her dad expand Bella Luna and be close to family as they raise their kids, Stevie and Zephyr.
Our premium estate vineyard, which bears the name Carly in honor of Sherman’s daughter, was planted in 1998 and is situated just east of the Salinas River. It is one of the few dry-farmed, head-trained Sangiovese vineyards in California and is planted with the noble Sangiovese and cabernet sauvignon varieties.
In 2020 we planted Kevin’s Vineyard, named after the man himself. In true Bella Luna fashion, it is also dry-farmed, but instead of head training, we are vertical training this vineyard. On it we planted, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Dolcetto.
The ten-acre estate of Bella Luna has some extremely distinctive features. We benefit from the evening breeze because they are influenced by the Pacific Ocean, which originates from the well-known Templeton Gap.
In 1970, after serving in the Army during the Vietnam war, Kevin returned home. He decided he needed a “sabbatical from civilization,” so he took up residence on a large vineyard in Adelaida’s hills to reflect, as he puts it. There, he learned all the aspects of viticulture from a seasoned dry farmer—Mel Casteel.
Kevin developed a love and respect for how Mel nurtured his dry-farmed vineyard. He spent roughly twenty years as the assistant winemaker at Pesenti Winery alongside Frank Nerelli. When he started in the Paso Robles wine industry, there were only three wineries!
Today, Kevin can be seen in our estate vineyard, enjoying his tractor time and off-day fishing and playing with his grandchildren.
After serving in the Navy with distinction, piloting F-4Js from aircraft carriers, Sherman decided to go into commercial aviation. He has spent more than 30 years traveling the world and has had the amazing chance to experience wine from almost every nation. Sherman consequently acquired a taste for unusual wines from around the world.
Sherman’s degree in biological sciences from Washington State University has aided him in his convictions that while the artisan method and the scientific method occasionally spark heated arguments at the vineyard, in the end, it is how he does what he genuinely enjoys.
Running around the Pesenti vineyards during her childhood days in the late 1980s is where Nichole’s career in wine began. She didn’t learn practical experience from her dad till she was in her teenage years.
Working in the vines served as her way of establishing a solid foundation in her family. It might involve pruning, suckering, thinning, or bird netting, depending on the season.
Kevin finally asked her what she wanted to do with her life as her senior year approached. This—standing in Carly’s Vineyard at Bella Luna—was the response.
Winemaker / Viticulturist
Sherm and Kevin approached Lukas and Nichole in 2016 while they were on vacation in California celebrating the first birthday of their daughters to let them know that they needed all hands on deck as the label was about to expand. They started the immigration process right away without pausing. They arrived in America after a very trying two years.
Lukas began working as an associate winemaker at Eberle Winery in August 2018. Three harvests in a single year set a new record for him that year!
Bella Luna was prepared for Lukas to join the club in January 2020, and he is keen to inject some Australian flavor into Bella Luna. The final component of the puzzle for the following generation is now complete!