Director of Sales and Marketing
As a child I lived in the Napa/Sonoma area, California's premier wine district. When I was 12, a friend's dad noticed me working in the kitchen of my father's restaurant and offered to train me as a chef. He was an old school Italian chef/restaurateur known locally as "Papa Bertolucci," the proprietor of Bertolucci's, one of the well known Northern California restaurants of the day.
Papa Bertolucci used to make regular trips to the famous Seghesio Family Winery in Healdsberg---known for the best Zinfandel in the world at the time and for being the oldest continuously operating winery in the US because it survived prohibition by making sacrificial wine for churches. I would always go with him and loved learning all I could about wine and wine-making. My visits there were exciting adventures for me and I soaked up everything Papa Bertolucci taught me.
Under Papa Bertolucci's mentorship, I was a trained chef by the time I graduated from high school. But I wanted more experience, so I found work in the hotel business and worked for the well-know Clarion Hotel chain. This was in the early 80s, and at that time the National Hotel and Restaurant Association had a Wine Steward/Sommelier course which I completed, earning a certificate as a Sommelier. I knew the course was not up to the level of the European Sommelier courses, but lacking resources for studying in Europe, I launched myself ahead with the goal to increase my knowledge through practical experience in the hotel, restaurant and wine business. This has been my life now for 35 years.
It's a life full of downs and ups. Twice I was the acting Executive Chef at the world renowned Denver Brown Palace in Denver Colorado. Later I became a partner of a fine-dine restaurant in Old Sacramento named Café La Salle. We had an extensive wine list there and became popular with members of the California legislature. When Café La Salle closed, I became a restaurant consultant and helped open 36 restaurants and 5 hotels.
In December 1986, my partners and I opened our own chain of Italian restaurants called Strings. The chain continues successful to this day, but when my partners wanted to change its direction I sold out and re-opened Café la Salle as my own venture. Later I opened the Horseshoe Bar Grill in Loomis, Beerman's in Rocklin, and then managed Enotria, a famous wine restaurant in Sacramento where we earned the sought-after Wine Spectator designation of Best of Award of Excellence.
I wanted to broaden my horizons and I accepted an offer to open my own restaurant in Las Cruces, New Mexico, which turned out quite well because I introduced wines to that area that the local people had never dreamed of. Even the Southern Wine and Spirits representatives contacted me for my perspectives on wines, which I'm always happy to give!
As things go sometimes, my family wasn't happy in New Mexico, and we returned to Sacramento in 2004. Nello and Danica Olivo immediately hired me to manage their Placerville restaurant, Sequoia, where I am now a partner and where I remain to this day as general manager and chef. (You shouldn't have to wonder at the quality and extent of Sequoia's wine list!)
When Nello Olivo opened his own winery in 2009, it was like a child's dream coming true for me. To be involved on the ground floor in establishing a brand new winery brought back feelings of excitement I've had all my life and which began at the side of my mentor, Papa Bertolucci, who I revere more and more as I get older. He saw potential in me and passed to me his know-how and wisdom for so many things. I will always be thankful and will also never tire of continuing to discover all there is to find in this age-old art and deeply exciting business of winemaking.
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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