Young Entrepreneurs: Cole Thomas

Cultivate Your Passion to Succeed


Local native Cole Thomas met Ken Swegles on a bottling line in 2013. Three years later, after traveling, tasting, and working with wine, they decided to create their own label, Madson Wines. They launched their first bottles in 2018. The seeds of Cole’s inspiration were initially planted while working for Jeff Emery at the Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyard. “Jeff made wine for 40 years there, and his devotion to the land, the vineyards, and his craft was inspiring,” explains Cole. “Jeff and his winemaking predecessor, Ken Burnhap, would get together and open bottles…from the 70s and 80s. They would discuss the weather that year and the people who made the wine. I was blown away by how much they could remember… I realized that each bottle was a time capsule that told a story. I was inspired to craft my own wine and tell my own story.”

Today, Cole and Ken farm small, rustic vineyards in the Santa Cruz Mountains, crafting wines specifically for their wine club ( Cole’s biggest piece of advice to aspiring entrepreneurs is, simply, “Find something that you are passionate about and do that. I have found success in this industry because of my immense passion for growing wine grapes and making wine.” Sage advice from a young winemaker.