By Bob Tagert
Rick Myllenbeck – Owner, Wine Boss & Mystery Man
Rick Myllenbeck, owner of Sonoma Cellars in Old Town is truly a guy on the move. An adventure seeker with a flair for technology, Myllenbeck has found a way to combine the two throughout his life. Growing up in Silicon Valley in California, he was immersed in the technology culture at an early age.
He started his career at Amdahl Corp, a manufacturer of mainframe computers. This certainly was the dark ages. In 1987 he move to Apple Computers where he experienced one of the high points of his career. “It was during the glory years when Apple was pushing business marketing,” he says. Little was known about the networking ability of the Mac, which had been considered by users and the media to be a stand alone machine. The whole area of networking was an exciting new market, but it was a problem explaining the technology to unseasoned business and technology reporters. “The editorial community was skeptical and not familiar with networking technology, which was complicated, “ he explains. “They weren’t sure what questions they should be asking, and they didn’t understand the answers.”
Myllenbeck’s solution to the problem was to hold a seminar on networking technology for 40 reporters in Cupertino, CA, bringing in technology experts to lecture and write chapters on their particular subjects for a take-home binder. Apple’s PR team was then positioned as a resource on the subject, providing clarification on specific tech questions. “The benefit was huge,” he says. “The reporters walked away with enough knowledge that when they came back we had some ground to work with.” When asked what he thought of Steve Jobs, Myllenbeck reflects, “He was such a visionary…he could see things before anyone else.”
After Apple, Myllenbeck worked at financial services newcomer Start, then moved to Novell and Creative Labs, and had a brief stint at UpStart Communications. Sybase hired him, in part, to help fulfill its long-term objectives of building relationships in the business press.
Myllenbeck is a former US Navy pilot and today serves as a captain in the US Naval Reserve. He has served n the military in America’s war against terrorism in the office of Naval Intelligence. His love of flying came from his dad who was a test pilot during WW II. “I would always hang around my dad, he was my hero,” he says. “Every day I wake up loving my freedom and life.”
Myllenbeck’s love of speed is not just limited to jets. He owns a 1962 Ferrari 250 GT and a 1983 Toyota Starlet, which was the first car Toyota built in the US for racing.
When Myllenbeck moved to Alexandria he brought with him his love and passion for California wines. A year ago Rick and his wife Elizabeth opened Sonoma Cellar, a on/off premise wine tasting room and restaurant located in the heart of Old Town. This unique wine tasting room leverages the historic, pre-revolutionary provenance of the locale, while providing a traditional and unique wine tasting experience found in Sonoma County California wineries. For Rick and Elizabeth, wine is viewed as creative content – much like music and art – ready to be shared for the enjoyment of all.
While Rick attends to his Naval career, Elizabeth runs the business. Since opening, they have added a chef and are now serving dinner. There is a courtyard out back for dining as well as inside. On Tuesday nights it is cigar night in the courtyard.
On this particular Tuesday night I learned a little more about the compassion of this career Navy man. I was introduced to a young man, Terry, who Rick had given a job and helped him find his way back to T.C. Williams High School and an education. I overheard Terry tell Rick, “If it weren’t for you, I just don’t now what might have happened.” This is the sort of caring that not only Rick displays, but also Elizabeth and the whole restaurant staff.
You can bring your own cigar or buy one of the ones that are hand rolled for you that night. The pairing of the wines with the cigars make for a truly festive time. While I was sitting there talking with Rick, a gentleman comes over to shake his hand and utters, “Thank you man for doing this!” and then takes a big puff on his cigar.
Rick is definitely one of a kind.