Grabbing Life by the Vines

By Carrie Barrett – December 1, 2017
Photography by Weston Carls

Bruce and Ronda Prothro inspire us to continue to pursue our passions, stay active, and prioritize relationships and community at every age. They have found a challenging yet sustainable way to maintain these priorities through their winemaking. With their zeal for life, it is no surprise that their once hobby eventually turned into a successful business. 

The message on the label of their signature 2014 Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon says it best: “The line between old and new…past and present…good and great…This is the inspiration behind our small lot, single vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon. We call it Demarcation. Something new, something unique, something memorable…for today and tomorrow. This wine represents the line of Demarcation in our lives. We are excited to share it with you.”


For Bruce and Ronda Prothro, of Prothro Family Wines, rediscovering their old passion for winemaking and sharing it with others is proof that a little vino and a lot of hard work can, indeed, produce a life that is filled to the rim with health and happiness. 

Their passion for winemaking started in 1991 out in Los Gatos, California, where the young newlyweds made their home. Bruce, a former football player for the California Golden Bears, and his wife Ronda, a former collegiate track standout, became obsessed with the process of winemaking. “Bruce is a chemist by education and when he fixates on something,” says Ronda, “it won’t go away until he does it.” That year, they purchased and hand-picked heaps of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Zinfandel grapes and started producing their very first bottles of Prothro Family Wines—an instant hit among friends and party guests. 

Being home winemakers can certainly be a full-time job. However, this couple kept it a hobby (albeit a labor intensive and all-encompassing one), since both of them still had demanding careers.

The first Prothro foray into winemaking lasted until 1998 when their foray into making children started. Winemaking may be a hobby, but child rearing certainly isn’t! Job transfers eventually brought the Prothros to Central Texas in 2011, where they settled, raised their two children, and left winemaking behind. 

One thing they didn’t leave behind, though, was their dedication to remaining fit and healthy. Both Ronda and Bruce have competed in fitness competitions, 10K races, and triathlons. To this day, Ronda still boxes and runs regularly, while Bruce has discovered a love of Masters Swimming. Together, they enjoy doing H.I.I.T workouts together. Bruce jokes that life stays interesting when you have two former college athletes living together who insist on competing with each other almost daily! 

Rediscovering Their Passion

In 2016, with their oldest son in college and their youngest daughter getting ready to graduate from high school, the Prothros started contemplating life as empty nesters. The line of demarcation from their old life to their new one was starting to become apparent. Bruce had just retired from his job, Ronda had pursued a new career in real estate, and they downsized their house. 

“You start to evaluate who you are and where you are,” says Ronda. “We wanted to reacquaint ourselves with the people we used to be before we became parents.”

While unpacking boxes in their new Austin home, they came across old photos of their home winemaking days, and it stirred all sorts of emotions. They recalled the connection they shared with each other as well as the community through their winemaking endeavors. “We talked about the early times in our marriage and the parts that really brought us a lot of joy,” says Bruce. “Winemaking, as hard as it was, brought us a lot of joy and allowed us to connect with people.” 

After months of research and preparation, the Prothros relaunched Prothro Family Wines in the Spring of 2017 with their signature Cabernet Sauvignon as well as a Sauvignon Blanc. In their first year, both wines went on to win medals at the prestigious San Francisco International Wine Competition! The Cabernet Sauvignon took home gold, and the Sauvignon Blanc garnered a bronze medal—both rare accolades for a first-year release. 

The Prothros are no longer making the wine in their garage (they work with a consulting winemaker in Napa). However, they remain involved in every step of the process, from selecting the grapes and creating the blends to designing the label to monitoring social media and the website.

This isn’t a high volume operation, they explain. It’s a labor of love for two people who desire to create memorable experiences and connections with people. 

Speaking of creating more memorable experiences, the Prothros are releasing many new wines in 2018 including a Rosé, Cuvee, and new Cabernet. Most can be ordered or reserved now. And, not to neglect their active lifestyle, they’re also planning a 120-mile walk on the Camino De Santiago. 

Sharing good memories, pursuing your passion with a loved one, and returning to what brings you unbridled joy—that’s certainly a recipe for happiness and health, and we’ll definitely raise a toast to that. Cheers!


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