This is the first release for Tony Arcudi under his own label, and hats off to a great debut! Talk about a long, winding road to get here. Tony is from a big Italian family, and grew up near Boston with a love of food and cooking. He helped in the kitchen when he could “hardly see over the stove,” watched Julia Child on TV, and read Escoffier as a kid. He admits to not a being a great high school student — this all is sounding very familiar to me at this point. As he began to figure out what he would do to pay the bills, he realized that while his heart lay in cooking, the Navy was a better career choice. And so he went off to become a missile navigation engineer on a nuclear submarine. Later he landed a job with IBM as a product manager.
He never lost his love for cooking, however, and that eventually led to a serious interest — OK, obsession — in wine. The bug bit hard, and soon he was making wine at home, buying grapes from California, and even trying to grow grapes near his home in Boston. He finally realized that he really wasn’t happy in his career, and that his passion and interest was in wine — also, grapes don’t do well in New England. After struggling with the decision, he took the leap and headed west to California.
It wasn’t easy. At first he was denied entry to UC Davis (no SATs, high school grades an issue), so he immersed himself in community college, knocked off the required classes, kept himself above water by working in restaurants and as a buyer in a Berkeley retail wine shop, and finally was admitted to Davis — as a Regents Scholar, no less. Fast-forward through a few more years of unrelenting commitment and he got an internship at Stagecoach Vineyard, working closely among the vines, observing and learning everything he could. He followed with a stint working for free (illegally, most likely) at M. Chapoutier in the Rhône, soaking up all he could. Returning home, he got a position as assistant winemaker at Nickel & Nickel, and then met Heidi Barrett (Who would’ve guessed that she had close family who served on nuclear subs?). They struck up a conversation, and she eventually hired him as her assistant winemaker at newly launched Fantesca winery on Spring Mountain, a position he still holds today.
But Tony’s plan was always to make his own wine. Patience was required, as the best blocks and lots don’t just fall from trees in the competitive Napa wine world, especially for a newcomer. But when the owners of Black Sears Vineyard made it known they had a parcel coming available, Tony threw his hat in the ring, made his pitch about his goals, and was selected from among many top names angling for the fruit. The 2012 is the first vintage, and a great start! But with only 250 cases made, it will be a while before he can quit his current day job. Fear not — he has the grapes again in 2013 and 2014, and will add a Stagecoach Single Vineyard in the 2016 vintage. Something tells me the next chapter is just beginning.
Wines Made: 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon Black Sears Vineyard
Terroir: Highest vineyard on Howell Mountain, among the highest in Napa. Above the inversion layer, so warm inthe morning and shaded in the afternoon.