INSIDE Chico State
0 December 13, 2001
Volume 32 Number 8
  A publication for the faculty, staff, administrators, and friends of California State University, Chico




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Life After Retirement Is Grape!

Anthropologist Tom Johnson partners with his family in Sonoma Winery

Naomi Johnson Brilliant, Tod Brilliant, and Professor Emeritus Tom Johnson,

Naomi Johnson Brilliant, Tod Brilliant, and Professor Emeritus Tom Johnson, Department of Anthropology, are partners in Roshambo Winery in the Russian River Valley.

photo by: Lori Maxwell

Tom Johnson’s children, Naomi and her brother, Morgan, used to play “ro sham bo” or, when they lived in Japan, “jan ken po,” (rock paper scissors) to solve disputes and to entertain themselves. When the Johnson family was looking for a name for a winery that would be unpretentious and meaningful to the family, Roshambo just “clicked.”

Tom Johnson, professor emeritus in anthropology, his children, and son-in-law are partners in the winery, located in Healdsburg, California. Roshambo is the fulfillment of a dream held by Tom’s father, Frank Johnson, who purchased 55 acres of apples and prunes in Healdsburg in 1970. He replanted the orchards with grapes, and wines made from his grapes began winning awards for a number of highly regarded Sonoma wineries. By the early 1980s, Frank’s vineyards had expanded to 120 acres and was making outstanding wines of his own. He began to dream of creating a winery. In 1999, the year he retired, Tom and his brother helped Naomi and Morgan purchase a piece of property that adjoined their grandfather’s, overlooking the Russian River Valley, and the family decided to realize Frank’s ambition. Naomi Johnson Brilliant, 29, is the winery president and oversees all of the winery operations with her husband, Tod Sorum Brilliant, 30. Tom takes care of the endless paperwork that has been part of establishing the enterprise.

Tom, Naomi, and Tod visited Marion Baldy’s Introduction to Wines class on Nov. 26 to share what it has been like to start a winery with no previous experience. “We came to tell the students that there is still room in theindustry—it isn’t impossible to start out small and grow,” said Naomi.

Tom, his wife, Kimie, Naomi, and Morgan lived in Japan for several years. Tom has acted as a translator and consultant to a Japanese friend who has an international gun distribution business. “I thought I knew everything about dealing with bureaucracies given my experiences as a consultant—the bureaucracy in Japan doesn’t begin to compare with the amount of paperwork and hoop-jumping the alcohol, tobacco, and firearm bureaucracy requires. It’s been an eye-opener.”

Naomi and Tod, who also have a design business, designed the marketing materials and label for the winery, make marketing and financial decisions, work with the wine maker, Paul Brasset, and oversee the construction of new buildings that include both production and visiting facilities. They’ve created a concept for a new kind of winery. “What gets us both fired up,” said Tod, “is to try to do our part to change the industry. Wine is marketed in a way that tends to make it intimidating. We want to make it accessible and fun.”

Roshambo Winery logo

Roshambo Winery logo

The winery tasting room is an example of the kind of atmosphere Naomi and Tod are creating at Roshambo. “The lines are modern, and there is an art gallery for emerging artists that I curate,” said Naomi. “The feeling is artsy, comfortable—the opposite of pretentious.” The tasting room will open in March 2002.

Naomi graduated from Lewis and Clark College in photography and art. Tod is a graduate of CSU, Chico in religious studies. Tom taught in the Department of Anthropology from 1970 to 1999. His focus was on East Asian folklore (especially in Japan), child and adolescent behavior, and folklore in the United States. He also taught at universities in Japan and Korea.

Tom was instrumental in establishing the Resources for International Studies in Education (RISE) program at CSU, Chico. The new Tom Johnson International Studies Resource Library, honoring his contributions to RISE, is a cornerstone of the academic program.

Kathleen McPartland


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