630 YEARS OF WINEMAKING—ALL STILL IN THE FAMILY
The name Antica originates from the words Antinori and California, and represents the Antinori family’s longstanding desire to craft exceptional estate wines that are a true expression of Napa Valley terroir.
The Antinori’s family’s 26 generations of winemaking history has long been synonymous with the famed winegrowing regions of Tuscany and Umbria. Today, their wines are among the most recognized and highly rated of Italy.
But the Marchese Piero Antinori and his daughters, Albiera, Allegra and Alessia, are also known for seeking out the undiscovered potential of specific wine regions while staying true to the tradition, culture and taste of Antinori wines.
The Antinori’s family’s winemaking history has been synonymous with the famed wine growing regions of Tuscany and Umbria since its inception more than six centuries ago, when Giovanni di Piero Antinori entered the “Arte Fiorentina,” the Winemakers’ Guild of Florence, in 1385.
Today the firm is run by Piero Antinori and his three daughters: Albiera, Allegra, and Alessia. Throughout its storied past, the family has managed this work with a fundamental respect for tradition and the territory in which they have operated. Today, their wines are among the most recognized and highly rated of Italy.
The cornerstone of the family’s philosophy has been that quality is a long-term and ongoing commitment, and the Antinori family’s centuries of successful wine production is due in no small part to this commitment.
It’s what gives the family a perspective that is unique in the wine world, and allows them to think beyond a single vintage or a single place, and to make bold choices while remaining true to the tradition, culture and taste of Antinori wines.
Which is why they have also sought to tap the potential of wine regions beyond Italy. “Ancient roots play an important role in our work, but have never been a limit to our innovative spirit,” says Marchese Piero Antinori.
So the estates in Tuscany and Umbria have been joined, over time, by investments in other territories with potential for high-quality wine—which is what attracted Piero Antinori to the Napa Valley as early as the 1960s, and led to the establishment of Antica Napa Valley.
Beyond new sites, the Antinori firm constantly seeks ways, big and small, to further quality, both in the vineyards and in the cellars. These efforts include experimenting with: new clones of grape varieties; cultivation techniques; vineyard altitudes; fermentation practices and temperatures; types of oak for aging; the sizes and age of the casks and barrels; and aging times both in the barrel and the bottle.
“Piero Antinori is without doubt one of the most brilliant activators in the art of making wine at once progressively innovative and respectful of tradition, Antinori is intelligent, shrewd and eloquent, with the energy to make things happen in a way that would quickly exhaust more common men.”
Over the years, as vineyards were planted and caves dug, some of the partners changed, but Marchese Antinori remained steadfast in his desire to develop this site. In 1993, the family purchased the estate outright.
But used to thinking in terms of decades when making strategic business decisions, Antinori leased the property back to one partner for 15 years. “All three of my daughters have the two ingredients most necessary to produce fine wine: brains and passion,” explains Antinori, “but this gave Albiera, Alessia and Allegra time to hone their business experience, and allowed us to lay the groundwork for properly launching our new wine estate in Napa Valley.”
In 1994, they built the winery; in 1998, the family purchased the adjoining Townsend property, which included 24 acres of prime Cabernet vineyard; and two years later, they planted Chardonnay on the original estate, which would allow the family to begin production before the lease was up.
Upon the completion of the lease, the estate was named Antica Napa Valley—Antica being a combination of Antinori and California, as well as the word for “ancient” in Italian. The first releases were a 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon and a 2006 Chardonnay, both released in 2007.
BLENDING OLD WORLD AND NEW WORLD
Like the winery name, the winery production is also an Old World/New World blend, with Antinori Chief Enologist Renzo Cotarella and the Antica winemaking team working together to craft the finest expression from each vintage and vineyard block, from vine to bottle.
Three wines—the Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Townsend Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon—are available in select markets across the US and abroad.The others are designated limited-production estate wines, available only from the winery. These include Sangiovese, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc and a Fossino, a rosé of Pinot Noir.
“Our goal is to first and foremost make quality wines with a strong local identity,” Albiera Antinori says of her family’s wine business. “Rather than a ‘house style,’ we prefer to the let each site speak for the wine. So while Antica remains true to our tradition and culture, its wines are indelibly imprinted with the terroir of Napa Valley.”
There are 600 acres of vineyards planted in an amphitheatre-like setting, surrounded by steep slopes on all sides and at the headwaters of two watersheds that flow through deep canyons to the Napa Valley below.
The original estate is planted to primarily Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay, but also the classic Bordeaux blending varietals and Pinot Noir, Syrah, Sangiovese and Sauvignon Blanc, each planted to take advantage of the range of microclimates and soils found on the estate. The adjoining Townsend Vineyard, is set high on the ridge overlooking Rector Canyon and Napa Valley, on a west-facing slope of well-drained, volcanic soils. The fruit from this site is featured in its own vineyard-designated bottling named in honor of the neighbor from whom we purchased the property.
Our 1200-acre estates has 600 acres of vines on it, planted primarily to Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay, as well as smaller amount of Bordeaux blending varietals, Pinot Noir, Syrah, Sangiovese and Sauvignon Blanc.
Situated above the fog line, the estates offers a mix of steep, rocky, well-drained soils in its higher elevations and loamy, well-drained soils in the lower ones. There are more than 50 blocks within the estate, a true patchwork quilt that takes advantage of the variations in soil, elevation and exposure to best match varietal, rootstock and clone to attain the ideal expression of this site.
The highest elevations of the property, built on the mountainsides, are planted primarily to Cabernet Sauvignon and its blending varietals: Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot.
The high altitude (1,800 feet) means cooler daytime temperatures and a sunny haven above the fog line during the growing season. Heat inversion also means warmer nighttime temperatures.
The steep, rocky and well-drained soils result into low yields (three pounds) per vine, but the fully ripened grapes show great structure with concentrated fruit, and focused and persistent flavors. Tannins are ripe, balanced, and integrated.
The lowest elevations, still at 1400 feet above the valley floor, are in the Foss Valley that is perfectly suited for growing Chardonnay. Typically it’s still above the fog line, so that full day of sunlight gets to work its magic on our Chardonnay grapes, too, which we’ve planted here in rows of loamy, well-drained soils. Nighttime temperatures are even cooler here than the estate’s higher elevations, which brings out Chardonnay’s aromas and flavors while maintaining acidity. The resulting wine is rich and creamy with refreshing fruit flavors and hint of minerality.
The Sangiovese grapes grow in the far northeastern corner of the estate, the Syrah in the heart of the estate, Sauvignon Blanc in the southeastern corner and the Pinot Noir close to its Burgundian cousin, the Chardonnay.
After purchasing the property that would become Antica Napa Valley, Piero Antinori befriended his neighbor, June Townsend, almost immediately. She lived a simple life on top of her mountain, and was generous with her kindness.
Antinori purchased the 24-acre property from her when she decided to sell it in 1998, and even though she is no longer with us, we felt it only right to keep this very special vineyard named for the very special woman who was its steward before us.
Set high on the ridge overlooking Rector Canyon and Napa Valley some 1600 feet below, this vineyard is planted on a west-facing slope of well-drained, volcanic soils. Townsend Vineyard’s architecture is based on Antinori’s philosophy for new vineyards in Tuscany: high-density vine spacing ensures low production of fruit per vine, the vine rows are aligned from east to west to achieve ideal sun exposure, and the vines are trained low to the ground to take advantage of radiant heat from the volcanic rock and soils. Finally, rootstock and clones of Cabernet Sauvignon were chosen to complement Townsend’s terroir, ensuring the best fruit expression.
We bottle this wine on its own, as our Townsend Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon.
We think Mrs. Townsend would be proud.
MOUNTAIN SELECT WINES
Piero Antinori has defined the guiding principle of the Antinori family’s winemaking philosophy as the necessity to grow its own grapes to maintain ultimate control of wine quality and style from vine to bottle. This holds true with the family’s vineyards from Tuscany and Umbria to Napa Valley.
The 1210-acre Antica Napa Valley estate occupies an elevated plateau tucked in an amphitheater-like setting of steep mountain tops rising to Atlas Peak with an altitude of 2700 feet. There are approximately 550 acres planted to vineyard: 60% of which are Cabernet Sauvignon planted in 34 blocks, and 30% of which are Chardonnay in 14 blocks.
Each block is carefully planned to take advantage of the soil composition, high elevation and clonal and rootstock selections to limit vine productivity and provide varietal purity in aromatics and flavors.
As harvest nears each year, the Antica winegrowing team selects those mountain blocks—or rows within blocks—that best highlight the characteristics they seek for our Mountain Select Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay. Approximately 18% -20% of the harvest is selected for the final blend of each, with the remaining fruit sold to other Napa Valley wine producers.