When I was in college my girlfriend at the time had a roommate who was an enology student. During our first year in the dorms we extended our drinking budget by making wine together from fermented honey. Seeing the transformation that took place during fermentation process fascinated me and in no time at all I was hooked.
I took the next fall quarter off from school and went to work for the respected Louis Martini Winery in St. Helena. What an experience it was! Tons of grapes were rolling in, being crushed, fermented and pressed! The sights, the smells, the flavors…it was the most exciting thing I had ever experienced!
I returned to U.C. Davis, but this time as a science major and acquired my B.S. in Enology in 1984. I immediately took off for Europe for more practical training and hands-on experience. I spent one year in Italy, my ancestral home, and six months in France, the "Mecca" of all wine-makers. While Davis had given me a solid theoretical foundation in wine-making, Europe helped refine my palate and gave me a deeper understanding of what wine is and how to enjoy it. I learned in Italy that wine is food, as important a part of the daily diet as bread and pasta. France taught me to recognize how soil, climate and human factors influence the character and personality of wine.
I came back to the States in January of 1986, ready to embark on a wine-making career in Napa Valley. I landed my first job at Saintsbury Winery in Carneros as a cellar worker and soon had the good fortune to meet and become friends with the famous Andre Tchelistcheff. It was Andre who, one year later, introduced me to Clarke Swanson. In March of 1987, Clarke took a chance and hired me, an inexperienced twenty-six year old, to make wine for Swanson Winery. Andre mentored me, providing me with the wine-making expertise and Clarke exercised the patience to get me through the first few years.
My 40th birthday came in 2001, and brought with it a desire to start something of my own. In April of 2002 I purchased a 42 acre property in the Fair Play region of El Dorado County. The property, known as the Herbert Vineyard, had been planted in the late 1970's by Beverly and Frank Herbert, and had 12 acres of producing vineyard.
In June of 2004, after 17 great years, I left full-time employment at Swanson Vineyards and moved to Fair Play occupying the house built by Frank and Beverly. Once fully installed on my own property, I realized that grape-growing is tough work, and not very financially rewarding. To provide me with some financial stability, I began consulting for a few local wineries, and now work with half a dozen 'boutique' wineries in the foothills, from Grass Valley to Murphy's.
For the last three years I have been selling the Zinfandel and Syrah fruit from my vineyard to local wineries with the hope of learning more about the 'terroir' of the site and of understanding the personality of the grapes grown on Cappelli Ranch.
It has been my pleasure to make wine for Rancho Olivo, under both the Nello Olivo label and the Rancho Olivo label for the past 5 years. Both Nello and I were greatly encouraged by the 27 awards won in 2010, the first year any of the wines were presented for competition. Nello truly aspires to be a master of the wine growing process. It is always a pleasure to receive his high quality grapes. As all wine connoisseurs appreciate it is hard to make good wine with inferior grapes. Good wine starts in the vineyard!
643 Bee Street, Placerville
Tuesday: by appointment
Wednesday: by appointment
We're the closest winery to Hwy 50, at the "corner of" Hwys 50 and 49. Start your wine tour here. We have winery maps!
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