Experience the enduring love and inclusive wine culture of Longevity Wines.
Founded by Debra and Phil Long, this family-run, certified minority-owned winery has blossomed from a garage hobby into a thriving urban destination in Northern California’s Livermore Valley wine region.
The name “Longevity” itself is a loving tribute to the bond between Debra and Phil, as well as their shared passion for wine and togetherness. Sadly, Debra was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2016 and passed away in 2019.
The iconic heart logo adorns every bottle of Longevity wine. Crafted by Phil himself, the design features intricate details of hearts, grapes, and intertwining vines. It is a tribute to the artisan glass hearts that Phil lovingly gifted to Debra each Valentine’s Day, a symbol that signifies their deep connection and shared life.
“Before she left us, Debra went with me to see the heart tattooed on my entire arm, said Phil. “I wanted her to know that she will always be remembered and she’ll always be part of our brand.”
Although Debra’s untimely passing in 2019 was a profound loss, Phil draws strength from their love story as he continues to carry their legacy forward.
With the help of their son, Assistant Winemaker Phil Long Jr., the winery produces around 2,500 cases of Longevity Vintner Select wines each year. Plus, a partnership with Bronco Wine Company has expanded their reach, allowing Longevity’s Classic California wines to be enjoyed by wine lovers across America and beyond.
We interview Phil Long, Founder and Winemaker at Longevity Wines to learn more.
What type of wine do you specialize in?
Phil Long, Founder and Winemaker: Because we started out as a small, family winery, the varietals we made were dictated by the fruit we could get, not necessarily by the fruit we wanted. We grew into those varietals and started to do well, but over the years our specialties seem to be white wines.
In early 2024, we expect to have eight white wines on the winery menu including two sparkling wines, a Ramato-style Pinot Grigio, Pinot Blanc, Albarino, Sauvignon Blanc, Rosé of Zinfandel and Rosé of Petite Sirah. The national side of our business has another three labels with even more wines to enjoy.
I’m especially proud of the Phil Long Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon.
What makes your wine unique?
Phil Long, Founder and Winemaker: First and foremost, as a winemaker I have always tried to achieve balance in our wines. And, especially now that my son is the second winemaker at Longevity, all the wines are made from the heart, from love. Our wines reflect our family bond, which is where Longevity began, and where the focus remains today.
For example, one of our newest wines, a GSM blend, is called Genuine Soul Mate to pay tribute to the beautiful relationships in our lives.
What drew you to the idea of having your tasting room in a barn?
We just wanted to do us….
Debra and I always wanted a barn….so….we built a barn. The barn has become the main feature of the barrel room. The room itself was not so much about what we wanted it to be, as much as what we didn’t want. We didn’t want to be an Italian villa, or a French Chateau, we just wanted to be us, and be comfortable and inviting.
Most of the items inside I built, some came from family etc. The large Karastan rug was in my home when I was in kindergarden. The shed I built to be a garden shed in SoCal, now its another feature and houses all of our Christmas decor.
We opened during the days of cattle call tastings. We wanted everyone to feel like family, enjoy, relax, and be comfortable without being rushed.
What’s one thing you wish more people knew about your winery?
Phil Long, Founder and Winemaker: I wish more people realized that we are truly a small, family winery. Since the brand went national in 2020 (and now international) with the help of Bronco Wine Company, people assume Longevity is a huge winery. In reality, we’re still just mom and pop or rather new mom, same pop, son, and grandsons. The wines sold at our winery in Livermore Valley are made here by my son, Philip, and me.
How did you get started in the wine industry?
Phil Long, Founder and Winemaker: My late wife, Debra, and I started making wine in our garage back in 2002 as a couple project. We had no aspirations of becoming a winery, we just did it for fun, as a hobby. That hobby grew into a business and then into a second career. Once I was in the industry, I had several mentors, including Thomas Coyne of Thomas Coyne Winery, Hal Liske of El Sol Vineyards, and Mac McDonald of Vision Cellars.
Share a popular tasting experience?
Phil Long, Founder and Winemaker: These days, the most popular experience at Longevity is tasting accompanied by free, live music on Sundays. We have great wines and fresh food—charcuterie boxes, sandwiches, dips and desserts—available for purchase so we typically pack the house.
We also have special events like wine and chocolate pairings and murder mystery parties.
My personal favorite tasting experience happened when Debra and visited the Sterlings in Mendocino (Esterlina Winery). We drove up once during Crab week and I’ll never forget sitting out on the balcony with a view of half of the world while we were served hot, steamed crab with our tasting.
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned in the winemaking process?
Phil Long, Founder and Winemaker: Winemaking is a fascinating process. Over the years, I have learned that it is better to get it right from the start than to try to fix things in the end. I think the other major lesson I have learned in the business is that there are a lot of winemakers in this world who can make a great wine.
The real issue is, how do you sell the wine that you’ve made?
Do you remember the first time you fell in love with wine?
Phil Long, Founder and Winemaker: Actually, I do remember and I have to attribute both experiences to a really good friend of mine. His name was Tim Ottinger. After graduating college, I started to get out and date and to experience wine, but I had no wine education. In fact, while I was in college, I had no idea wine was made in this country.
Ironically, my alma mater, Cal Poly Pomona, is in the process of archiving the Longevity brand in their university library special collections unit.
Anyway, my good friend Tim had a vertical flight tasting of Silver Oak. It was the first time in my life I experienced very good wine and what very good wine costs. Then, for an anniversary Debra and I had together, Tim gave us a bottle of BV Syrah that we took on our trip to Cambria.
As usual, we poured a glass of wine in a plastic cup and walked down to the beach to watch the sunset. I have to say that one bottle of wine, and sitting there, watching the sunset, was my epiphany. It was the first time I had ever tasted fruit in wine. Before that, I didn’t even know Syrah was a varietal.
Describe your winemaking approach.
Phil Long, Founder and Winemaker: My “Phil-osophy”? Today, I avoid being locked into expectations and the direction I thought we were going to go. Instead, I try to have an open mind and constantly explore options. Sometimes you surprise yourself. I have always said, “the minute you think you know it all in the wine business, it’s time to get out.”
Do you have a favorite story about working at your winery?
Phil Long, Founder and Winemaker: Yes, and I learned this from watching similar experiences in Europe. Ever since we started Longevity, whoever is working that day whether in the cellar, in the tasting room, sales or management, we all sit down for lunch together at the same table. We share stories and we are all equals. We are a family. I think that’s the experience I cherish the most.
You’re the president of the Association of African American Vintners. What is the mission of AAAV?
Phil Long, Founder and Winemaker: The truth is, I never set out to be a Black winemaker. That’s what I am, not who I am. However, when I realized how few of us there are in the wine industry—less than 1%–I knew I needed to help.
My job as president of the Association of African American Vintners (AAAV) is to increase that number and help make wine inclusive. We provide scholarships for wine education and grants and mentorship to help Black wine entrepreneurs build their businesses. Please follow us on social media and learn more at aaavintners.org.
What do you love about winemaking?
Phil Long, Founder and Winemaker: I love that every harvest is different. Every year we try to improve on the previous vintage, but it’s always a challenge. Some piece of equipment is always breaking down. Some grapes are late. The challenges are endless. I’m rewarded each year toward the end of harvest by that cool, fall breeze in my face, which is the promissory note that winter is coming. It is one of the best feelings in the world.
How does your team help you as a winemaker?
Phil Long, Founder and Winemaker: I love that my team is always willing to jump in wherever there’s a need. But, more importantly, our family approach has helped us build a relationship that allows us to say anything we need to say without being judged. We are a family striving together to make and sell great wine. They are more than free to tell me something isn’t right.
My job is to listen and to try to make it better and vice versa. That’s what good teams do.