Tony Biagi 67 MINUTES

A new podcast series from Doug Shafer about the people behind the food and wine you love.

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Doug Shafer with Tony Biagi for The Taste wine podcast

At UC Davis Tony Biagi discovered the enology program and wine became his overriding passion. He first worked for Duckhorn and went on to launch the winemaking programs at wineries including Paraduxx, Cade, Odette, and Hourglass. Today he consults with clients, including Amici and Lasseter, and has started his own brand, Patria. Enjoy!

For more visit: PatriaWines.com


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FULL TRANSCRIPT

 

Doug:
Hey everybody Doug Shafer. Welcome back to The Taste. Uh, we've got a special guests today, almost a surprise guests, guest. He won't, I-

Tony:
(laughs)

Doug:
You can laugh but you can't say it and yet. Because this guy, um, and I have crossed paths many times over the last 10 or 15 years. We have a ton of common friends in this valley and, you know we've never spent any time together. We haven't had lunch, we haven't had dinner. We've been in tasting groups together but that's always kind of strange. So I've been wanting to get together with this guy for a long time. So today's the day, Tony Biagi.

Tony:
Hey Doug, how are you doing?

Doug:
Welcome Tony.

Tony:
Thanks for having me.

Doug:
I'm glad you're here. You know, help me do-do... Is there, because I was racking my brain yesterday. Was there a moment when we first met that you remember?

Tony:
I, you know it's funny, I think you came in... I was working at the St. Helena Wine Center in the early 90s mid 90s, about 93', 94', or 95'.

Doug:
That's where it was.

Tony:
And you came in to buy some wine and I know Dick Grand and Fred Beringer owned the store.

Doug:
Yeah.

Tony:
That was sort of the hot spot in the day.

Doug:
Right.

Tony:
My uncle had told me “Get a job in a wine store if you really want to try wines.”, you know. My, my family is from the Peninsula-

Doug:
Right.

Tony:
San Mateo, so I took this job while I was working an internship to work at St. Helena Wine Center and it was sort of the hub.

Tony:
So I met Elias, yourself, Hal Levy.

Doug:
How funny. When was that? Like-

Tony:
That would be 93 to 97 I worked there.

Doug:
Okay, because yes-

Tony:
So I was getting my degree at Davis so I would be there on the weekdays. I'd come over on the weekends and work, so.

Doug:
That's where it was.

Tony:
Yeah.

Doug:
Cool.

Tony:
So.

Doug:
Okay and so fast forward to today because we were talking about this outside coming in. Um, there's kind of different waves of winemaker, winemakers coming through this business, kind of, you know kind of peer groups. You know similar ages.

Tony:
Yeah. Absolutely

Doug:
You know I came in with, uh, with Bruce Cakebread, Heidi Barrett, Cathy Corison, and Tony Soter. Um, Elias was behind me, um, Marco Cappelli and Mia Klein, that was his crowd. Who's, who's your crowd?

Tony:
Strangely enough you know this was, I came out right at the tail end of the 91 recession.

Doug:
Okay.

Tony:
So I graduated from Davis in 95. But Sal Truchard would be, um-

Doug:
Okay.

Tony:
Would be one of my-

Doug:
Sal.

Tony:
Classmates. Um, I'm trying to think Andy Murray down on the Central Coast.

Doug:
Okay.

Tony:
Not a lot of... It wasn't a big class neither.` It was eight to 10 people that graduated with me.

Doug:
That was it?

Tony:
It was small. And people were looking for different things I think just then in 95. I think you can attest to this with your growth of Shafer subsequent 95.

Doug:
Right.

Tony:
That, that whole era, uh, is when people started getting back into the wine industry and, and growing, so. But as I say to some of my peers it was hard when I moved here in 95 with my former wife.

Doug:
Right.

Tony:
We were both 22 and 23 years old and we didn't know anybody, so really we ended up hanging out like Tom Rinaldi.

Doug:
Yeah.

Tony:
Whom I consider one of my, you know mentors, as, he's the godfather of my daughter as well.

Doug:
Right. Right.

Tony:
And I just love him and Beverly to death.

Tony:
But that's who we hung out with. There's wasn't a lot of peers in that group, because it was also Davis, as, as you know when you went there it was a Master's Program, so.

Doug:
Right.

Tony:
A lot of people were coming in to their second career, and I was one of those kids who choose it to have it be my first career. So, it was funny, it just that a lot more people that were in the Master's Program who came, hung out with older people, or they had kids, or they were already married, and I was not even there yet.

Doug:
Got it.

Tony:
So, and, and then as it turned in like 98 and 99 there started becoming like, um, this younger generation coming in the back end of the valley, Thomas Brown-

Doug:
Right.

Tony:
Gauthier and then Ashley Hepworth was, I think moved here about 98, 99.

Doug:
Right. She did Phelps, right?

Tony:
Right, and then Andy Erickson, you know, he, we were friends, and we knew each other quite well, but he went back to Davis to get his degree.

Doug:
Okay.

Tony:
So really, you know, that's the people I can think of off the top of my head. And, uh, oh Nile Zacherle as well, but Nile will make a beer first.

Doug:
Nile, now he's... yeah.

Tony:
He likes the beer first.

Doug:
He's making great beer now.

Tony:
Yeah, he told me-

Doug:
(laughs)

Tony:
He told me, he told me he would never make wine when I saw him at Davis, and then he came back and now he's at David Arthur as well making the wines there, as well.

Doug:
So he's still making wine?

Tony:
He came back.

Doug:
Okay.

Tony:
And made wine, and then he started his brewery as well, so.

Doug:
Right, what's the name of his brewery? It's um...

Tony:
Off the top of my head I can't think of it. It'll come to me during this time we talk.

Doug:
During this thing, so bring so we can, we can give Niles-

Tony:
It's great.

Doug:
A little plug.

Tony:
And the beer is fantastic. But he's always been a wonderful brewer.

Doug:
Yeah.

Tony:
So, I mean I think he worked at Anderson Valley.

Doug:
Okay.

Tony:
You know making Boont Amber, so.

Doug:
And, uh, and some, the way you're talking about this, is things start to overlap with, with generations in the wine business. Because when I came in the crew before me was... Well actually, actually it was Tony Soter and Randy Mason, and Joe Cafaro, Craig Williams.

Tony:
Yes.

Doug:
That was, they were like the older guys and Elias and I were the younger guys. But all of a sudden within a few years, you know you're, you're in tasting groups together. You see each other and all of a sudden it's kind of the whole thing kind of melts into one big, one big happy family.

Tony:
It, it really does, and that's how we really got to know each other was in our tasting group.

Doug:
Right.

Tony:
With Donald Patson, you know James Holland, Ann Moses and Ken Dice, and these same people Craig Williams and I was the young guy in the group, but I begged to beg, to beg to go just so I could taste more wines.

Doug:
Right.

Tony:
And I think that's the most powerful thing in wine making, is to taste as many wines as you can to understand. But in reality was just talking to you or talking to James Hall who crafts Patz and Hall.

Doug:
Right.

Tony:
You know or Craig Williams who I consider also a mentor, you know cabernet and, and just to hear their stories, and your story is not only about how you craft wine but how they got here.

Doug:
Yeah.

Tony:
You know what is, what's the path.

Doug:
Yeah.

Tony:
Because I think everybody got here in a different way, but I often think that with this business there always seem an underlying connection of, you know maybe not conforming. Trying to do something completely different and just trying to find, be free, because it does allow that.

Doug:
Right.

Tony:
In this business, so.

Doug:
So speaking of paths and how we all got here.

Tony:
Yeah.

Doug:
We're going to talk about you today. So born and raised?

Tony:
San Mateo/Belmont, California.

Doug:
Got it.

Tony:
So Peninsula. Fifth generation.

Doug:
Fifth generation?

Tony:
Yeah, my, I have a great-great-grandmother moved to Petaluma post potato famine.

Doug:
Oh.

Tony:
So and then my Italian side of my family moved here right after the earthquake, so.

Doug:
Got it.

Tony:
And I guess there was just something they liked about it. Northern Italian, Irish, you know the, the Petaluma is very well known for poultry and, and, and dairy. And the North, Northern California I guess a lot like Northern Italy.

Doug:
So you're Irish/Italian?

Tony:
Uh, Italian/Irish.

Doug:
Italian. (laughs) I love it.

Tony:
So I like to say that. And my mom like you is from Chicago.

Doug:
Okay.

Tony:
So she moved out here right in the early 50s, so.

Doug:
And I gotta ask because there's this big great wonderful trucking company called Biagi. Are you guys, are you related to those guys?

Tony:
I all- I always jokingly say I wish I, I was then I wouldn't work for a living.

Doug:
(laughs)

Tony:
So, you know hauling a lot of Budweiser pays the bills, so.

Doug:
With Budweiser plus they, they haul, they haul bulk wines.

Tony:
They do.

Doug:
So if we're ever, any of us ever selling bulk wine by the vine

Tony:
I remember in the 90s.

Doug:
You know you got takers.

Tony:
They would haul, they would haul for Beringer.

Doug:
Yeah.

Tony:
And they worked on Main Street. Every 10 minutes a truck would leave.

Doug:
Oh yeah.

Tony:
It was crazy, so.

Tony:
B- but the Peninsula born and raised, you know back when the Peninsula, and the Bay Area was a very different place.

Doug:
Right.

Tony:
Uh, you know it's funny I always, I was telling a story last night to a friend that my baseball field where I played little league.

Doug:
Right.

Tony:
Is now Oracle. That's where the Oracle World headquarters are.

Doug:
You've got to be kidding me.

Tony:
No.

Doug:
(laughs)

Tony:
S- so if you ever, when you go down to the Peninsula 101 that was where Marine World was.

Doug:
Right.

Tony:
And Marine World of course moved up here to Vallejo, but then Oracle had bought all that property. And like what's this Oracle company, I have no, you know I'm a kid I have no idea what this is.

Doug:
Yeah.

Tony:
And that was sort of our first understanding of what the internet could be or what it would be. But they bought our baseball field. They, they tore this beautiful baseball field and then they gave us fields back but it was never had the same feel.

Doug:
Not the same.

Tony:
So now there's a Mercedes dealership there, and-

Doug:
The whole deal.

Tony:
But it was a very different time. My dad went to the same high school I did, so-

Doug:
What high school?

Tony:
Uh, Serra high school in San Mateo.

Doug:
Okay.

Tony:
So I mean you know about Barry Bonds and Tom Brady, you know. Tom was an eighth grader when I was a senior, I didn't know him. I knew of him.

Doug:
That's right Brady went there.

Tony:
Yeah, he was an eighth grader and he was a very good baseball player. That's what people don't, some people don't know that. And, so we, I played baseball at Serra as well.

Doug:
Right.

Tony:
So we kind of knew that he was gonna, um, be the next great catcher sort of speak.

Doug:
Got it.

Tony:
That's right, yeah he's a left hand hitting catcher, so.

Doug:
Wow.

Tony:
Very, uh, very special. I think he was drafted in the eighth or twelfth round by the Expos or something like that.

Doug:
Interesting.

Tony:
So, yeah, so my dad played football there as well, so.

Doug:
So San Mateo.

Tony:
Yeah.

Doug:
Brother's, sisters.

Tony:
No, only child.

Doug:
Only child.

Tony:
My parents weren't going to have children, and they decided to have me. I often joke, I said "Either, either I scared you out of having anymore, or, or I was perfect.”, so mom you have to tell me, and she often says “You scared us.”, so it was one of those things.

Doug:
Oh man, oh man. You guys, you're bad Tony.

Tony:
Yeah.

Doug:
How about wine in the family. Was it around?

Tony:
It was.

Doug:
Because I grew up with the beer, beer, and bourbon.

Tony:
My parents, my parents divorced when I was very young and I had a very wonderful relationship with my father and my stepdad.

Doug:
Great.

Tony:
I mean playing as many sports as I did they were always at all the games. I played right, I wrestled, played football, and baseball in high school, so it was never a dull moment or a baseball field was never around.

Doug:
Wow.

Tony:
So they had to get along, you know.

Doug:
Yeah.

Tony:
And, and so they would actually, my dad and my stepdad, and my mom would all caravan to games together. They were, they were that close.

Doug:
Nice.

Tony:
So I always never knew the, the acrimony of divorce, but because of that my stepdad came into my life and he was always sort of this, um, uh, sort of bon vivant, just lived, lived a good life.

Doug:
Right.

Tony:
You know he's from Arcada, California and he, uh, had polio, one of the last cases of polio in Northern California.

Doug:
Oh wow.

Tony:
So, because of that I think it sort of gave him this life of just sort of lives, lives as won- wonderful life and nothing ever gets him too down or too up. But he loved the greater things in life. I mean he was the first, he moved to Hawaii and worked at the Safeway. The first Safeway that opened. Mike Fisher a good friend, a common friend of ours.

Doug:
Fisher worked at the Safeway at Hawaii.

Tony:
Yeah, that's how they met each other.

Doug:
This is Mike Fisher, he's a, he's a local guy.

Tony:
Yeah.

Doug:
Friend of ours. Great wine lover, always in our tasting groups.

Tony:
Yep. So he, uh, yeah he, uh, they, they came very close friends, so wine is always in the family. So I look back on pictures now, and I didn't know anything really about it.

Doug:
Right.

Tony:
And there's Ridge always like, so, because my dad moved, my stepfather moved back to San Jose and lived down in that area. But he'd be going up in the late 60s, early 70s to Ridge and buying the wines. So Ridge was always on the table. I never knew it at the time but I look back at pictures I see Ridge Monte Bello, or, or Ridge Zinfandels, and so he collected, so.

Doug:
Yeah, but so you grew up with wine around the house.

Tony:
I never drank, you know.

Doug:
You didn't drink, you didn't drink-

Tony:
My mom never drank.

Doug:
But it's, but it's there.

Tony:
Yeah, and then my real father, um,-

Doug:
Yeah.

Tony:
My biological father, uh, we would go hunting every year at Woodbridge, Lodi, and my dad was police officer in San Mateo.

Doug:
Okay.

Tony:
And, you know he became friends with a lot of younger police officers, whom I call my uncles now.

Doug:
Right.

Tony:
But they really weren't, but you know, you, you-

Doug:
Yeah.

Tony:
Your parents always have friends that around more then probably your true aunts and uncles.

Doug:
Right.

Tony:
So-

Doug:
I, I had the same thing.

Tony:
We would go hunt over in Woodbridge for dove, you know it was, it was just a thing that we did. And, but grapes, they had 300 acres and, and, and they would, uh, sell their, their crop to Woodbridge, or, or Gallo.

Doug:
Right.

Tony:
And I would just be around it, and it was just always kind of around. And I just knew when I wanted to graduate high school I wanted to be a marine biologist, that was my real goal.

Doug:
Now where did it... Okay but where did that interest come from?

Tony:
Um just took classes as a kid.

Doug:
Because you're playing ball, you're living in San Mateo. I mean you're-

Tony:
I had great teachers.

Doug:
Okay.

Tony:
You know I really think that.

Doug:
Okay

Tony:
I went to private, uh, high school, but I went to public, you know didn't go to parochial, I went to pri-, you know I went to public high school.

Doug:
Right.

Tony:
Or junior high school. And there was this professor named Peter Kimbal, a science professor, really got us into science. And then there's another great chemistry professor there. I mean just as a kid just really sort of stoked my interest in this. I really wanted to do this.

Doug:
Okay.

Tony:
And I just had really good teachers and that's really where it started. That, that sort of knew how to teach, and could, could mentor you, but also be stern with you. You know they understood when to do all of that.

Doug:
I got it.

Tony:
You know we had great, great science class, and I would take some summer school classes because both my parents worked, so I, you know they were, they were like "You're going to do this.", and-

Doug:
Irght.

Tony:
I did a marine biology class where we would take field trips to the coast. I, I mean Belmont is only maybe a half an hour, 35, 40 minute drive from Half Moon Bay over the hill.

Doug:
Right.

Tony:
And, so we would be at the, you know the ocean by 10 and in Montara just looking at stuff.

Doug:
Tide, tide pools.

Tony:
Exactly.

Doug:
All that stuff.

Tony:
Tide pools and, and you know, it was just a really exciting place. I mean the Bay area growing I mean it, it really is like a modern day, I think it's like Tom Sawyer in the sense that, you know it's just wild enough that you could get out and get your hands dirty. You know go, go look for frogs or tadpoles, or go fishing. You know and I had family that loved to fish, and you know we'd fish on the Bay. I mean I told some story the other day that, um, I caught a 25 pound Stripe bass right off the pillars at SFO because you could fish the pillars back then. Now because of September 11th everything, you know if you get anywhere near that, they're, they're going to arrest you.

Doug:
How cool.

Tony:
But there was things you could do, you know, so.

Doug:
So, you guys probably, you kids used to go out and watch the airplanes take off.

Tony:
Oh yeah absolutely.

Doug:
I mean that was so damn cool.

Tony:
Sat right there with jet watching.

Doug:
Jet watching.

Tony:
It was amazing. You know kerosene, kerosene taste really good at 5PM, I tell you.

Doug:
(laughing)

Tony:
But no we could my grandparents would take me there. We'd watch planes just take off for hours.

Doug:
Sure.

Tony:
And, now as you, I mean you go there.

Doug:
You can't go near it.

Tony:
It's, it's unbelievable the pillars and cement.

Tony:
So, it was a different time, and you know we could just go around the pillars and fish for Stripe Bass or we'd go fish the northern, uh, Richmond Bridge.

Doug:
Right.

Tony:
For, for Sturgeon, and you know we would always be fishing or always doing something out in the, out in the wild, you know. And then got into, my dad got into bike riding, so I biked, I liked to ride bikes with him.

Doug:
Right.

Tony:
So I was always outside.

Doug:
I was too.

Tony:
So that all tied into one to be outside.

Doug:
Got it. So marine biology. So you went to Davis?

Tony:
I did.

Doug:
To be a marine biologist.

Tony:
I got recruited, I got recruited to wrestle at Davis.

Doug:
Oh, cool.

Tony:
From, from high school.

Doug:
Really.

Tony:
Yeah, you know I was-

Doug:
Congratulations.

Tony:
I was give a teacher there... Hey, hey I always go back to teachers because I've been very lucky to have a ton of them. Whether it be in this business-

Doug:
Right.

Tony:
Or there, there was a professor or teacher by the name of Paul Bristo and I think he teaches, I think he still teaches over at Atwater high school. He would drive from Modesto to San Mateo every day to teach.

Doug:
That's how, that's like a three hour drive.

Tony:
Yeah, and he would sometimes stay in locker room at night.

Doug:
(laughs)

Tony:
And just because he didn't want to go back into traffic.

Doug:
Right.

Tony:
But I think he ended up getting the head football job at, at Atwater, and then be a teacher. But he was my computer science teacher, and-

Doug:
Got it.

Tony:
I had no want to wrestle. I didn't, I just wanted to play baseball and football, and-

Doug:
Well you wrestled in high school but you didn't want to go on with it.

Tony:
No, I didn't want it, I didn't even do it in high school.

Doug:
Oh, okay.

Tony:
It was just a matter of I want to play football and baseball. And Serra is a very, a school that's very known for baseball. I mean Greg Jeffries, Barry Bonds.

Doug:
Got it.

Tony:
All these perfect players, and so if you want to go there you have to focus on it. But I'm, like when we were joking earlier I'm loquacious, I love to talk, probably way too much.

Doug:
No, it's great.

Tony:
Uh, and so the prof-, so Paul Bristo said to me "You can go to, you can go to detention or you can come to wrestling practice, up to you."

Doug:
What did you do to get in trouble?

Tony:
Talked.

Doug:
(laughs)

Tony:
(laughs)

Doug:
I'm sorry I didn't connect that.

Tony:
I never, never stopped talking. Um-

Doug:
Um-

Tony:
But, so the rest is history and I, I wrestled in a tournament for freshman that weekend and took second place with three days of practice, and it is just something I took to very quickly, and it just got me to Davis, so.

Doug:
That's cool. So did you wrestle at Davis?

Tony:
I did not. I mean I-

Doug:
Okay.

Tony:
I was burnt out.

Doug:
Yeah.

Tony:
You know I, I ended up playing baseball for a year, I red shirted, and then I just realized the game had gotten better than me. I mean I think that's the hardest thing with baseball when you just realize you hit a plateau, and people, and some people just keep going, you know.

Doug:
Right.

Tony:
Playing around, well I had a player that I played with named Danny Serafini was a first round draft pick of the Twins one year.

Doug:
Wow.

Tony:
And the kid just kept getting better and better, and throwing harder and harder, and harder. And, I'm like I keep growing outward.

Doug:
What, what, what position?

Tony:
I played outfield.

Doug:
Okay.

Tony:
So I played center field and first, but really I could hit. I could always swing a baseball bat, so.

Doug:
I, I got to tell you a story because then, uh, because I remember freshman at Davis, the guy in the room next door to me, next door, you know in the dorm. Became a lifelong, is a lifelong friend but he was on the team.

Tony:
Yeah.

Doug:
Baseball.

Tony:
They had a great program.

Doug:
He's a pitcher. So there was something, it was like, um, I don't know the middle of winter, and you know he wanted, he said “Hey come on throw the ball with me, I need to, I need to start throwing the ball practice starts in four weeks.”

Doug:
So we're going out to just you know, I never played a lot of baseball but, you know I know how to catch a throw. And, uh, he's throwing me the ball and it's like you know it's getting a little harder, a little harder. He goes “Okay now be ready for this one.” I said “Why?”, he goes “It's going to be a curve ball.” I said “What do you mean?”, he goes “Well it's going to start out like way over here, and it's going to end up, you know by your other shoulder.”

Tony:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Doug:
And it's like, I was like “Yeah, right.”, he was like “Oh, yeah.” It happened it just, you know it just about knocked me out.

Tony:
Yeah.

Doug:
So it was, it was pretty incredible.

Tony:
No. You know Davis is a division, was a division two school, so you know it doesn't play against Alabama or schools like that.

Doug:
Right.

Tony:
But they were the, the series award winner a couple of years when I was there for the best programs. You know they, they would win the most national championships.

Doug:
Wow.

Tony:
But baseball was incredibly competitive there, and, um, I just knew I wasn't good enough. Anyway but a pitch like that, yes absolutely it would have been fantastic.

Doug:
It's crazy, crazy.

Tony:
So, yeah.

Doug:
So, you're at Davis, marine biology doing the gig.

Tony:
And then Ann Noble got me.

Doug:
Ann Noble.

Tony:
Yeah.

Doug:
So Ann Noble, long time professor-

Tony:
Yeah.

Doug:
In the enology department.

Tony:
Absolutely.

Doug:
At UC Davis.

Tony:
Wine aroma wheel.

Doug:
What class... That's right she did the aroma whil. So what class was it?

Tony:
Uh, vin three.

Doug:
It was vin, okay we called it Vit three when I was there.

Tony:
Yeah, now it's

Doug:
Vit three, vit three.

Tony:
Viticulture/enology because they just took it off of Vit.

Doug:
It was the intro class.

Tony:
Yeah, it was and I just sort of fell in love with it. I mean I get it. It, it started, as you know it checked all the buttons. Um, you could be outside.

Doug:
Right.

Tony:
You know you didn't have to sit behind a desk, and so I said let's do this. So I started in viticulture first, though.

Doug:
Got it.

Tony:
And then I went to work for Larry, Larry Levine in 92 at Dry Creek Vineyards, and I just fell in love with wine.

Doug:
Dry Creek in, in Sonoma.

Tony:
In Sonoma. Yeah, and so I went there and just sort of fell madly in love with it. And you know I think, I was thinking about knowing what I was going to talk with you about what it is and I think you're going to agree with me.

Tony:
There's a certain pirate aspect of harvest. There's this sort of pirate aspect of it's almost a free for all. Of course, you're working incredibly hard and there's a focus, but it is. I mean you see some of the darnedest things during harvest, and I did that year. I'm like this is, this my jam. I like this. (laughs) You know.

Doug:
Oh, because you were at Dry Creek doing harvest.

Tony:
Harvest. Yeah, I worked harvest.

Doug:
Were you, were you, you were at Davis?

Tony:
I took, no I took a quarter off to work harvest to see if I really liked it.

Doug:
Got it. So like fresh-, sophomore, junior year.

Tony:
Sophomore year, 92. I was into my sophomore year.

Doug:
Oh, yeah so you're working in a cell, you're a grunt.

Tony:
I was 19 years old.

Doug:
Yeah.

Tony:
And, you know and just this is, this is for me. I mean there's, I mean you know you seen all types in cellar during harvest.

Doug:
Yeah.

Tony:
They get internships. I mean some guys are rocket scientist, some guys probably shouldn't be anywhere near flammable materials. I mean it just... (laughs)

Doug:
Exactly. They should not be driving a fork lift.

Tony:
Exactly.

Doug:
Right.

Tony:
So you get that and I just fell in love with it, so I worked another harvest next year at Hess Collection under Randal Johnson.

Doug:
Oh, Randal is great.

Tony:
Yeah.

Doug:
So he was one of the one, he was one of my guys. He was just a step, step ahead of me, but yeah.

Tony:
Great guy. He took good care of me.

Doug:
Good guy.

Tony:
Again teachers, I mean he, he was very generous with his time with me. And, and then I went to work for the wine store over at Fred Beringer, and again more teachers, Fred Beringer, Fred and Cathy Beringer. Um and a gentleman named Dick Grant.

Tony:
They took me under their wings, and you know they would open wines for me. And, you know Screaming Eagle, they launched Screaming Eagle, they launched other brands.

Doug:
That's right. So this is, so you're still at Davis.

Tony:
Still at Davis working on weekends. I'd drive over, I make my classes on Friday, um, end at 12.

Doug:
End of 12.

Tony:
So I could get there about one or two, over by two.

Doug:
Right.

Tony:
It took me an hour and a half to get here.

Doug:
Yeah.

Tony:
Depending how fast I drove. And then I would stock the floor for them for the weekend, because the weekend is of course you know is a mad rush.

Doug:
Right.

Tony:
And then I would work the store Saturday, and then Sunday I would work the store myself, and I would close it at five and drive back to Davis.

Tony:
If I had any homework I'd do it in the afternoons at store. As you know now it's different here. I mean now it's year around people.

Doug:
Right.

Tony:
But Sundays it's usually slowed down about two o'clock, I could get some work done and just behind the counter. And I would go home and just finish up and go to bed.

Doug:
Man you really, you, you really had it big time. Passionate.

Tony:
I, I, I.

Doug:
You're working and working-

Tony:
I loved it. I loved every bit of it. I mean I always tell people it's just, I think you could agree. I mean it's a fun business. I mean it could be, it could be a tough business too, sales and that. That, that's hard side of it, you know. It's-

Doug:
It's, it's tough.

Tony:
It's very easy to make, it's very hard to sell, and you know you have to understand but people don't get that sometimes I think, but overall I love it. I love everything about it.

Doug:
I think we kind of sometimes, part we, uh, portray the, uh, oh it's wonderful, it's idyllic. It's you know we watch the grapes grow. We, gee we spend a little time making them wine, and then we sit back and relax. Where reality is it's like any other business. You got a lot of things going on. You got to get out and sell it, you got to travel, you got to do this, you got, you know labor, you know everything.

Tony:
And I always think for someone like yourself and the Shafer on your, your day is never over. Someone hears your name in a restaurant, all you want to do in that was maybe not, you know not just completely-

Doug:
Yeah.

Tony:
Alone, and with your wife or kids. And oh hey Doug how, how was that trip. Are you looking-

Doug:
Uh, you know it's okay. You know that actually it doesn't bother me that much. It doesn't happen that much, people are pretty respectful.

Tony:
Okay.

Doug:
Alright so you're getting out of Davis in when?

Tony:
I got out in 95.

Doug:
95, this is funny. So you're getting out of Davis in 95. In 95 God I'd been here for, I just kind of, I love to do this thing with you guys, you know different, different eras. Because I was in the thick of here, had been for years at Shafer.

Doug:
Okay, so, so out at 90-

Tony:
What year did you come back winery?

Doug:
I, I came back to the winery, so I graduate Davis 78, 9, got a teaching credential, went to Tucson taught school for two years. Came back to Napa in 81, worked with Randy Mason at Lake Spring Winery.

Tony:
Okay.

Doug:
Over in Yountville for two years and then joined Shafer in 83.

Tony:
Okay.

Doug:
Hired Elias in 84.

Tony:
So your dad made the 78.

Doug:
Well.

Tony:
That's, that's a legendary bottle of wine.

Doug:
Yeah, it is a legendary bottle of wine. It's still really good, and yeah you know I'll give him credit for it. He kind of didn't but boy he grew the grapes. He was a hell of a grape grower.

Tony:
So.

Doug:
And, uh, but it was custom crushed at Markham, fermented at the old, uh, the Old Round Hill which was on Lodi Lane. You probably don't know that.

Tony:
No.

Doug:
Round Hill's original place was on Lodi Lane.

Tony:
Interesting. Oh, where was it at? The White Barn?

Doug:
Uh, halfway across, um, on the south side. I think they've turned it into a house or something like that.

Tony:
Okay.

Doug:
There was like a barn, yeah.

Tony:
Huh, interesting. That's funny I, I did not know that at all. That's so cool.

Doug:
A guy named Charlie Abella, the place was owned by Ernie Van Asprin who ran Ernie's Wine shop.

Tony:
Yeah, Ernie's Liquors.

Doug:
Ernie's Liquors, San, San Mateo.

Tony:
Tom Rinaldi worked there.

Doug:
Rinaldi worked there at Ernie's Liquors?

Tony:
Oh yeah, yeah he totally did. Absolutely he did.

Doug:
Alright speaking of Tom Rinaldi, so you're out of Davis and what happens?

Tony:
Yeah, so again it was right coming out of the recession.

Doug:
Right.

Tony:
And, you know I put my resume out everywhere. I had two years experience in harvest and there was nobody hiring. Nobody.

Doug:
Oh man.

Tony:
And luckily because of my wine store connection Fred and Kathy Beringer, Mark Beringer said "Hey I had a guy leave.", and I said "Who would leave Duckhorn?", "Well they're going to Silver Oak." And remember back in the day if you got a job at Silver Oak... I mean people don't realize it. You know wineries like Bryant Family or Harlan didn't exist.

Doug:
Didn't exist.

Tony:
Shafer, Duckhorn, Silver -, those the, the wine. If you got a job there it was like hallelujah. I mean these are real companies that are in, sometimes that have retirement plans, I mean crazy stuff.

Doug:
(laughs)

Tony:
Healthcare. You know stuff that you know-

Doug:
What a concept.

Tony:
What a concept, you know crazy. But I mean that's-

Doug:
Right.

Tony:
What you look for a little bit. And, um, Mark Beringer said "Hey we just lost our cellar worker, he's going to be the cellar master at Silver Oak."

Doug:
So Beringer was at Duckhorn.

Tony:
He was assistant winemaker to Tom Rinaldi.

Doug:
Got it. Okay.

Tony:
So, and then, um, they said we have cellar job, you're going to start in the cellar, is that okay. I know you have a degree. I said "Sure".

Doug:
Sure.

Tony:
Funny, funny enough I got offered another job by Greg Upton who was at Franciscan at that time.

Doug:
Oh, Franciscan.

Tony:
And I had interviewed him a couple of times because he had remember the Cuvee Sauvage Chardonnay that they made at Franciscan.

Doug:
That was big.

Tony:
The first time I ever heard about wild yeast.

Doug:
Wild yeast.

Tony:
You know, yeah, and so I'd interviewed him and, and we had hit it off, and I, and Duckhorn offered me a job first and I took it, so.

Doug:
Wow.

Tony:
Yeah.

Doug:
Quick sidebar on Greg Upton. He was a pretty, yeah he was at, uh, was he at Schramsberg?

Tony:
I think he did come from Schramsberg to Franciscan.

Doug:
Yeah, okay. So I think Elias had an internship there years ago too. Okay everybody still is connected.

Tony:
No, it's funny, and he was great, um, and, and he again one of those winemakers that came into the wine center that I was pepper with questions left and right. And just, again somebody like Elias who, who I looked up to as, as someone I go "Whoa that's Elias Fernandez he makes wine at Shafer, oh my gosh.", you know.

Doug:
That just cracks me up so much.

Tony:
I know, I know, I know.

Doug:
(laughs)

Tony:
I can see why you say that.

Doug:
It's just, it's just Elias, man.

Tony:
Yeah, it's Elias but I was young kid and I just, these guys were some of the giants.

Doug:
Well no it makes sense because, it makes sense because Elias had started here in ‘84 right out of Davis.

Tony:
Yeah.

Doug:
Um, and right at, and he and I you know worked side by side. I was the winemaker, he was the assistant, big deal. But, but right in ‘95 when you were getting on the scene, he, you know we, he became the winemaker and I became president, so he was the guy, you know.

Tony:
Yeah, I know and it was great because I would pepper him with questions. I always said I was like the little kid who asked too many questions. They all wanted to beat up their little brother.

Doug:
Right.

Tony:
All I wanted to know was more, you know. And I see these guys like Bob Levy, you know Marco Cappelli who-

Doug:
You did ask a lot of questions. I remember you in the, in our tasting group.

Tony:
I did.

Doug:
Yeah, you were, yeah.

Tony:
I do, I do. I'm just always trying to figure stuff out. And I just realized there are no answers in the wine business.

Doug:
(laughs)

Tony:
There's just more questions. But, um, yeah I went to work at Duckhorn.

Doug:
So who, did you interview with Rinaldi or Mark?

Tony:
I didn't, well Rinaldi... I interviewed with Mark, I interviewed with Tom, and I interviewed with Dan at the end. And, um, Tom, it's funny, called Ann Noble and, and Ann Noble said like you know he would be a handful for anybody but you Tom. And if you know, if the listeners out there know Tom, um, Tom, Tom is Tom. I mean he is very much himself.

Doug:
Tom was the original winemaker at Duckhorn.

Tony:
Yep.

Doug:
In 1978. Their, their... Duckhorn's first vintage was ‘78 Merlot and it was the, there's always a couple of hot ones every year. It was so, this is ‘81, or ‘80, ‘81. Their ‘78 Duckhorn Merlot was the hot wine.

Tony:
Yep.

Doug:
Um, I, I, you know I'll put in a plug for Shafer. The Shafer ‘78 Cab was well regarded wine at this time.

Tony:
Yeah, well guys are both class of ‘78, right?

Doug:
Yeah we were class of ‘78.

Tony:
It was Duckhorn, you guys, who else was there in ‘78. There's somebody else.

Doug:
Uh, I can't remember.

Tony:
Is Jordan, or was Jordan earlier? Jordan might have been earlier.

Doug:
I think Jordan was earlier.

Tony:
Okay.

Doug:
But boy that Duckhorn Merlot that was, that was the first one, you know.

Tony:
Yeah, he's cracked it for me a couple of times.

Doug:
Yeah.

Tony:
It's phenomenal.

Doug:
Yeah, but nobody was making varietal Merlot.

Tony:
No.

Doug:
So it was really-

Tony:
No, and that's an interesting story. I mean personally I would love to see here on is Ric Forman to tell his story about how. Because I mean Dan was really influenced by Dick, oh I'm sorry Rich-

Doug:
Ric, Ric.

Tony:
Ric Forman, uh, we'll go to Dick Steltzner later.

Doug:
Right.

Tony:
But Ric Forman and, um, he really pushed to have them grow Merlot, and Ric was really who turned Dan onto Merlot.

Doug:
Ric was a winemaker at Sterling.

Tony:
Sterling, yeah. And he made some wonderful wines in the ‘70s for, for Sterling.

Doug:
Oh, I didn't know that.

Tony:
So, yeah and I think he actually helped Tom get hired, and he said "You should hire this guy, you know he's really talented.", and then so Tom got the job.

Tony:
But, uh, yeah so when I interviewed with all three of them and, and I, I got the job and-

Doug:
So Duckhorn in ‘95. How many cases?

Tony:
Well that's funny because that's really why I think a lot of us. I mean that's sort of the expediential growth of, of-

Doug:
Right.

Tony:
Of California wine. I think we were doing 350 tons at the, at the time.

Doug:
Okay.

Tony:
It was very small.

Doug:
Yeah, yeah.

Tony:
I mean a very, very doable-

Doug:
That's, uh,-

Tony:
25, 30,000 cases at the most.

Doug:
Yeah, 25,000 thousand cases.

Tony:
Most of it was Merlot. Napa Valley Merlot and Sauvignon Blanc.

Doug:
Sauvignon Blanc.

Tony:
A small amount of Cabernet, and then, um, uh, Three Palms Merlot, and those were the main things. And then a second label called Decoy.

Doug:
Right. So cellar was Rinaldi, Mark Beringer, you-

Tony:
Bob Mclearny.

Doug:
Okay.

Tony:
And then the Hurtado Family.

Doug:
Oh, I remember Bob. I haven't seen him-

Tony:
Yeah, Bob and Kelly Duckhorn were married.

Doug:
Yeah.

Tony:
And, the Hurtado family and most of the Hurtados are still there, which is great. They're just a great Hispanic family from Pesimero in Mexico which is in Michoacan.

Doug:
Got it.

Tony:
And just loved work, and they were amazing. Working with them is just, it was-

Doug:
Yeah.

Tony:
It was the... I look back on it now, and you know you're young and it's probably like you do. I'm ever going to work for the family winery, you know. When I left Duckhorn, oh, you know I'm going to go make my fortune. But now look back on it so fondly, and how much information I got to take in. It was the best job. Dan Duckhorn was incredibly generous with his staff.

Doug:
Yeah.

Tony:
I mean retirement plans, with the, the best healthcare, best vision, but he was also just very good. There's so many things that I learned but the reality was it was sort of the turn of time when you finally started really... Now if you go to Europe and say, you know the influence of, of wine making in viticulture is going to be the same person almost.

Doug:
Right.

Tony:
Um, that didn't really, I think you could speak to this more than I could Doug because you saw it. You had viticulture or you had the guys working the grapes, and you had the guys making the wine.

Doug:
Right.

Tony:
Back in the ‘70s and ‘80s in Napa.

Doug:
Right.

Tony:
Where that's when the turn started happening where we started going out more with, you know and I would beg Dan and Alex, Alex Rhine.

Doug:
Alex Rhine.

Tony:
Alex Rhine was the president.

Doug:
That's right.

Tony:
And you know he was in charge of viticulture at the time. Could I just ride with you guys on Sundays.

Doug:
Right.

Tony:
You know my day off of harvest could I go with you guys, go see what you're looking at. And they looked at me like sideways. Like why, why? I said "Well because I want to see."

Tony:
And so they would give me an almond croissant from Model Bakery and an Odwala and just say don't say anything in the back.

Doug:
(laughs)

Tony:
I just sat there for like four hours. I'd just drive around the vineyards and I mean I think Dan Duckhorn doesn't get enough credit for so many things, in, in this valley. And one of them was how wine is sold, I mean he's a genius.

Doug:
Oh he was great.

Tony:
California winery direct.

Doug:
Great on the, great on the road.

Tony:
For the wine at the very beginning.

Doug:
Yeah.

Tony:
And then vineyards. He knew great dirt.

Doug:
Yeah.

Tony:
And I would just listen to what he would be looking for, and just the staple of vineyards whether there would be spots where they were making wine from Vine Hill Ranch.

Doug:
Right.

Tony:
Or, um, Jean Phillip's piece. I mean just these great ranches that, that at the time they were growers, they weren't wine makers.

Doug:
Well they were just growers, and you speak to something that happened, because I've kind of been here-

Tony:
Yeah.

Doug:
A little bit few years before you. That's kind of what was going on. So, at least here at Shafer, I mean the ‘80s were... You know I can't speak for the rest of the Valley but for us, and I think a lot of us, like in the ‘80s we were just trying to figure out how to make wine.

Tony:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Doug:
We were trying to figure out how to make wine that was good, solid, hopefully great, but at least good and dependable, and stable, and not going to blow up in the bottle. And so the, the attention in the vineyard was kind of minimal because we were just, we had our hands full.

Tony:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Doug:
And by the early ‘90s we kind of, not that you ever have it down, but it's like okay we felt pretty confident with what we're doing wine making wise. And then we started looking to the vineyard along with, that's when the whole, you know the Phylloxera thing had happened, and replanting, you know it happened in the mid to late ‘80s. And, so all of a sudden wine makers are going out in the vineyard and had a lot more input. You know, I know I'm sure with you-

Tony:
Yeah.

Doug:
Well you're, you're the same way. Elias it, it's summertime now and he's in the vineyard.

Tony:
I just looked through the vineyard that we, that one of my clients, uh, Michi buys.

Doug:
Yeah.

Tony:
In Stags Leap, I just went there real quick to look at the crop load and see how it looks, how the set was.

Doug:
Hey, you walked in here, you got, you got a tan. You got, you got dirty boots, and dirty hands, you've been out in the vineyard.

Tony:
We always joke, We always joke-

Doug:
You're a winemaker.

Tony:
That when we go on, you know when, when you go on, a, a, a wine sales trip you, you stain your hands red, and say, say I do work in the winery.

Doug:
(laughs)

Tony:
So, uh, but yeah, so we still do it. I mean that's the best part of it, really walking vineyards and being outside.

Doug:
Yeah.

Tony:
And seeing things. I do believe sometimes there's a watched pot aspect, they go watched pot never boils.

Doug:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Tony:
So sometimes you just let nature do its thing, but it is nice to get out there and look at the crop loads and understanding what's happening.

Doug:
Well we've learned that you can see things happening, and you know early to mid, to late June they're going to affect harvest.

Tony:
Yep.

Doug:
That's a chance you got some abilities to affect some things to help you out at harvest.

Tony:
Especially crop load.

Doug:
Crop load.

Tony:
I mean you know you can see if everything is on top of each other now. But you know we're looking at, because you know we had a rain, late rains this year.

Doug:
It's big this-

Tony:
And just see what the set looks-

Doug:
Is it, we're looking like it's big again.

Tony:
It's up and down.

Doug:
Okay.

Tony:
I see some vineyards that are loaded and some vineyards that are really loose clustered.

Doug:
Okay.

Tony:
And I think it's just matter, and you know that's the funny thing about the business it's when they were, when it was flowering when the rain.

Doug:
Right.

Tony:
It was not flowering, and then it flowered a week later, well that's a big margin.

Doug:
That's a big -.

Tony:
But if this was out then you know they'll clutch together.

Doug:
Then you got-

Tony:
You know one of my clients again Sonoma, Chardonnay, and Pinot Noir. One of my assistants was out there today-

Doug:
They down.

Tony:
He just said they're down at least by 10, 20 because they were in the middle of flowering their grapes.

Doug:
Yeah, our, our Carneros Chards, you know it, it's not, it's not a crisis, but yeah it's not, it's kind of normal, below normal which is fine.

Tony:
But the red, some reds look heavy.

Doug:
Yeah.

Tony:
So.

Doug:
Which is kind of crazy to you people out there because last year 17 was really heavy year. No, ‘18-

Tony:
Yeah.

Doug:
Last year was ‘18.

Tony:
‘18, yeah.

Doug:
Pardon me. ‘18 was a really heavy year for everything, and normally you don't have two heavy ones in a row, but.

Tony:
You don't but again that rain-

Doug:
But we might.

Tony:
That weird rain which I haven't seen.

Doug:
Yeah.

Tony:
You know that was a lot of rain for late-

Doug:
Late in the Spring.

Tony:
And there was rain during, uh, the auction before.

Doug:
That's right.

Tony:
And ‘98 was one year. I think ‘11 it might have been another one, but that was a lot of rain.

Doug:
Yeah.

Tony:
I mean it's still wet. The profile of the ground is still wet. I was talking to, uh... You know it's always fun to go to farmers markets, because just to see what they're seeing.

Doug:
Right.

Tony:
You know I had bought some Padron peppers from the gentleman. He goes "Yeah, those are grown in the greenhouse. I can't get my pepper plants in the ground yet, the grounds is still wet."

Doug:
It's still too wet.

Tony:
They just planted their tomato plants, so it's just, you know.

Doug:
That's a good tip, go to the farmers, talk to the farmers.

Tony:
See what they're doing, what they're seeing.

Doug:
Yeah.

Tony:
And, so well I, you know Alex Ryan taught me a lot about the simple things. Look, look at the buckeyes, you know look at, look at the blackberry bushes. How heavy are the blackberry bushes. And there's kind of these little indicators are, are the leaves falling yet in the trees.

Doug:
Yeah.

Tony:
What is the harvest, you know is it going to be an early fall or not. Does it always work, no, but there are some interesting things that you can see.

Doug:
Yeah.

Tony:
I can see a correlation.

Doug:
Yeah.

Tony:
So.

Doug:
Well yeah they're plants.

Tony:
Yeah.

Doug:
So back to Duckhorn. You're in the cellar.

Tony:
Yeah.

Doug:
Your, you're at the team. You're there, you're at Duckhorn for how many years?

Tony:
Six years.

Doug:
Six years.

Tony:
Six years. Yeah, and started, started as a cellar worker, ended as a winemaker of Parraduxx, and assistant winemaker at Duckhorn. But, you know and that, that entitled, their growth was you know, was

Doug:
It was cranking.

Tony:
And it, it was crazy and it was, I always look back so fondly because they gave me enough rope to hang myself, you know.

Doug:
Well.

Tony:
And my toes hit the ground but I mean I, I-

Doug:
(laughs) That's a great, that's a great visual.

Tony:
Yeah.

Doug:
Well I've got to ask one thing about Duckhorn, Dan before we go. And Dan Duckhorn was great, great guy. We all love him in this Valley. And, uh, did he ever take you fishing?

Tony:
He never took me fishing, but he did, I did drink a lot of Pinot Noir with him, you know.

Doug:
Okay.

Tony:
He fell, he fell madly in love with Pinot towards my last couple of years there. They went and made you know the Golden Eye purchase up in Mendocino County.

Doug:
Got it.

Tony:
And, um, and he just saw this vision, of, of Pinot Noir, he really did.

Doug:
Well you, you know the story about going fishing. He had a place where? In Montana, or Idaho or somewhere?

Tony:
Idaho I think.

Doug:
But Pete Provensinsky -

Tony:
Oh yeah.

Doug:
A sales guy who's a good buddy of mine tells a story. He'd take a couple of you guys up there to go fishing, quote go fishing, and basically had this place and he'd, he'd make you, he'd make them all work for like four or five hours every day.

Tony:
That's-

Doug:
Cutting weeds, painting-

Tony:
He tells it like that.

Doug:
Yes.

Tony:
Yeah, exactly. You get the fish in the morning and the afternoon but what are you going to do in the mid-day.

Doug:
Right.

Tony:
Cut weeds.

Doug:
You guys are going to cut weeds.

Tony:
So, he's hilarious, I mean your father, Dan Duckhorn, that generation is, is, is so interesting to me, just the entrepreneurial spirit.

Doug:
Yeah.

Tony:
I mean it, now you move here and there's, there're templates of like Harlan, and templates of Colgin or Bryant, or one of these wineries that just say "You know I want to be next this cult wine." Which you know cult wine drives me bananas because-

Doug:
Yeah.

Tony:
I mean what's a cult? I mean you can say Sine Qua Non is a cult, and you could say Hillside Select is a cult wine. I mean it's just, I think it’s been overused.

Tony:
But, um, Dan was just amazing. I mean those, I mean he's just, I don't think you can really ever create a character and fix him like him.

Doug:
Yeah.

Tony:
You know he's just, just a genius in so many ways, and just saw the world in such a different way, and, uh, especially in the wines. And I learned so much from him about ground, and I wish there was more people... Anyway I think a lot of people, Tony Soter. It's funny how the, the time sort of passes on and these people aren't championed more. I think people are always looking to the future, who's next.

Doug:
Uh.

Tony:
Whereas, but Tony Soter is another person.

Doug:
I know.

Tony:
You know, you know him well.

Doug:
And he's, yeah, and he was, he was my-

Tony:
Yeah.

Doug:
And he was my guy.

Tony:
And so-

Doug:
He, uh, not my guy, but boy he helped us tremendously.

Tony:
And he's just a genius, and I look to him like, you know I wish people, more people would still talk about him now.

Doug:
Yeah.

Tony:
And, but Dan Duckhorn I think just overall showed me how to build a brand, and he was so good to his employees. I mean I, I look back on that time and it just almost brings, you know tears to your eyes, because how fun it was.

Doug:
Yeah.

Tony:
It was so much fun, and it was just growing exponentially, actually almost doubling every three years. You know but finding the great grapes, finding the great fruit. You know equipment, budget, by whatever you need.

Doug:
Whatever you need.

Tony:
Yeah, and it was just great.

Doug:
So I got a story. One more story-

Tony:
Yeah.

Doug:
About Dan.

Tony:
Do it.

Doug:
No, one more story about Dan.

Doug:
I'm at some dinner at Napa Valley Wine Auction, it's Thursday night. It was co-hosted by Shafer, Duckhorn and some other wineries, so it was a big group 70-80 people. So I'm having a glass of wine and talking to Danny, and he goes "Shafer, Shafer." I go "What?" He goes "I got this new thing, we're doing this new thing. We're releasing it in six weeks." I go "What?", and then he whips out a label and it's this thing called Paraduxx. I go "What's that?", he goes "Oh, it's awesome, man. Wait it's a blend of Zinfandel and this and that and the other thing." I was like, I remember driving home and he was all excited about it. I'm driving home that night going "What a dumb idea, that ain't going to work at all."

Tony:
Yeah.

Doug:
And boy was I wrong. So Paraduxx.

Tony:
Well it's funny.

Doug:
So you became-

Tony:
It's funny you should say that.

Doug:
So you became the winemaker of Paraduxx?

Tony:
Yeah. It's funny you should say that because I always give Dave Finney, he always laughs at it, because you know the Prisioners basically didn't sell.

Doug:
Anything, right.

Tony:
Right. He goes, yeah he's all "Dan did it first but I just did it better."

Doug:
(laughs)

Tony:
No he's joking. Anybody who knows Dave Finney, he's one of the nicest guys in the world, but-

Doug:
Right.

Tony:
Um, yeah you know he had this idea of, of Zinfandel and Cabernet and based off of Sassicaia, and the, the super-

Doug:
Yeah super Tuscans.

Tony:
Tuscan wines. And, so I was, you know they said you should do... You know you're going to be the winemaker here and I was 25 years old.

Doug:
Wow.

Tony:
And, okay.

Doug:
That's pretty, that's pretty cool, man.

Tony:
I mean yeah it was just fun, and it was a really fun blend. You know the blend I think we ended with was like 60/40.

Doug:
Okay.

Tony:
About Zin and Cab, or Zin and Merlot, Cab, and that really worked and then they built the winery down in, um, down in Yountville. What I consider one of the best pieces of property that Rector Creek pieces. Pure rock and, and cobble.

Doug:
How much vineyard do they have there?

Tony:
Oh, I've got to think it's 40 acres.

Doug:
Oh wow.

Tony:
45 acres. It's a huge piece of ground.

Doug:
Okay.

Tony:
In reality it's just on the backside of Screaming Eagle. I mean it's just you know the big-

Doug:
It's right there.

Tony:
The little mountain right there separates the left to the right, but it's the same flow.

Doug:
Same, same microclimate.

Tony:
Up Pitchard Hill.

Doug:
Right.

Tony:
You know, so great dirt, great dirt. And, again that's what Dan did is he put together, he cobbled together all these great vineyards that they bought. Because remember he was a buyer. I mean he was, he was a negotiator.

Doug:
Big time buyer. He didn't by vineyards for a long time.

Tony:
No.

Doug:
In fact I do remember seeing him and he said boy, he actually said, he didn't say I, I blew it, but he said I, I should have been buying vineyards. I'm going to start doing it now.

Tony:
And he bought some great pieces of dirt.

Doug:
And he really went after it.

Tony:
You know the piece next Spot, across the streets from Spottswoode, or next to David Abreu’s Madrona Ranch, stunning. Um, Monitor Ledge, Rector Creek, Stout up on Howell Mountain, and all those vineyards are just, they are top notch.

Doug:
Yeah.

Tony:
I mean, I learned so much from him, and Alex too. I mean and Tom and Mark, all four of those guys I mean a lot to me I learned so much.

Doug:
Yeah.

Tony:
And, and you know I asked a ton of questions, um, you know never got in trouble too bad, you know. (laughs)

Doug:
(laughs) You didn't have to stay up, but you didn't have to wrestle.

Tony:
But, yeah exactly. Oh, no Tom tried to wrestle me once, it didn't go well.

Doug:
Not for Tom, no. (laughs) So, so your Paraduxx you're winemaker, so how long were you at Paraduxx.

Tony:
Uh, while we were making Paraduxx, the wine was at-

Doug:
You're right.

Tony:
We were making it at, at, uh... Sorry I get all these names confused.

Doug:
It happens.

Tony:
Duckhorn and then I finished the ‘97, made the ‘98, and ‘99. 2000 is the first time that you know really they said you're, you're the winemaker, but I was making those wines.

Doug:
Got it.

Tony:
I had moved up to the winemaking role with Tom.

Doug:
Okay.

Tony:
So, it was sort it, everybody sort of named those roles. And, but Tom had moved on in 2000 so Mark was the winemaker until then. But I basically, Mark was really focusing on the Bordeaux Reds with Tom. I was focusing on that with, that.

Tony:
So, 2000 is when I got the big title.

Doug:
Right.

Tony:
Sort of speak.

Doug:
Right.

Tony:
But, um, I worked on it the whole time, from the very first vintage. ‘94 was the first vintage.

Tony:
So, it was really fun. It was a great opportunity. I mean and again just working with -, we were taking Vine Hill Ranch Cabernet and blending it with Zinfandel.

Doug:
Oh, man.

Tony:
So I mean it was great that's why the wine was so good.

Doug:
It was a really good vineyard.

Tony:
Yeah absolutely. So, then in ‘01, um I had an opportunity to leave, and I just, I didn't want to be there my whole career. I wanted to see other things and I got to.

Doug:
But you were there for what?

Tony:
Six years.

Doug:
Six years. Six years.

Tony:
Yeah, then I went to work for Mark Neil for two vintages, and helped him get his winery off the ground. Uh, a really fun time. I still do a lot of business with Mark, big grower here, and Jack Neil and Son.

Doug:
Big Jack, now, but Mark's place is over in Pope Valley.

Tony:
No, on Howell Mountain.

Doug:
It's Howell Mountain.

Tony:
Howell Mountain, yeah. Right off of Liparita Road.

Doug:
Got it.

Tony:
So, but he was buying fruit from all over the Valley. And we got the brand going and, and then I had the opportunity to go to PlumpJack in ‘03. I turned 30 and I got offered the job and I took it.

Doug:
That's wild. So PlumpJack was the first one of a now-

Tony:
Three.

Doug:
Three.

Tony:
Or four now. Yeah, four now that, uh, they, they have.

Doug:
It's the, uh, PlumpJack, Cade-

Tony:
Odette.

Doug:
Odette.

Tony:
And then they bought Ladera and then they called it. I think they called it the Thirteenth.

Doug:
That's right they did by Ladera up on Howell Mountain.

Tony:
Which is a stunning piece of dirt on Howell Mountain.

Doug:
Yeah, it's gorgeous.

Tony:
Yeah, and that was, again it was... I think you can go back to anything and Doug I think you would agree with me. It goes, it all starts and ends with land.

Tony:
And that PlumpJack piece, the McWilliams vineyard was, the home of Mt. Villa Mt. Eden.

Doug:
Villa Mt. Eden back in the old days.

Tony:
Is an unbelievable piece of dirt.

Doug:
It's a great-

Tony:
It really is and it's the backbone of that wine.

Doug:
Well that's right down Oakville Crossroad close to the Trail, which is again-

Tony:
Yeah.

Doug:
Near that, is that whole-

Tony:
We call it the, the, sort of you know the tenderloin, which is you know would be Rudd behind him, St. Eden for Bond right to the right of him. Then Tierra Roja on the hillside. To the north of them I think it's Fortuna vineyard for, um, oh, oh I'm drawing a blank.

Doug:
Yeah, yeah, yeah. Fortuna.

Tony:
Turnbull.

Doug:
Turnbull.

Tony:
And then you have Screaming Eagle, you have Tench.

Doug:
And then you go up the hill and right up to Dalle Valle.

Tony:
You can see the house from there, and so-

Doug:
Bacchus.

Tony:
That red dirt is very, very, it's very-

Doug:
Red dirt is cool.

Tony:
Special.

Doug:
I know.

Tony:
You know and so I just, and they gave me free rein. Nils was there as a consultant, but he really gave me free rein to do what I wanted.

Doug:
That was Nils Venge who was a winemaker at Villa Mt. Eden forever.

Tony:
Yeah, that's why they hired him back in ‘95.

Doug:
Okay.

Tony:
Because they wanted to bring him back to the property. And, and I, they never had a full-time winemaker there until I came on board in, uh, ‘03. So they had, they had an associate winemaker but never a full winemaker.

Doug:
That's really cool man. So they start PlumpJack and you were the winemaker. You were the first at it.

Tony:
Well it started in ‘95.

Doug:
Okay.

Tony:
So it did, it did roll, but then they finally, John Connover who was the general manager and still is a partner in the business, uh, felt that they needed a full time person there.

Doug:
Got it.

Tony:
You know Nils was consulting in other places. They needed to have someone to really watch out after the -

Doug:
Yeah.

Tony:
That facility, and, and it was blast. I mean, uh, Gordon Getty of course and Gavin Newsome. This was right when Gavin was elected Mayor of San Francisco. To watch all the politics work, and just to be around Gordon Getty and his history, and his story. Um, he was incredibly generous to all of us.

Doug:
Right.

Tony:
Um, just a very caring, loving man, and allowed us to do whatever, you know really to make the best wine possible. And they really did give me all the tools there. But it really starts and ends with the dirt. I mean you can sort, hand sort, you can do one ton an hour. And it's funny, I think you'll understand this when I'm talking about winemaking. I was talking to Bob Levy, the winemaker at Harlan yesterday and I, I said, I was telling him that, you know when I, when I first got near the PlumpJack all I wanted to do was make Harlan. That's all I wanted, I wanted to be Harlan, you know.

Doug:
Oh, how funny.

Tony:
You know, but it, it, to be honest with you I mean that's I think young and maybe inexperienced and not, not secure enough with yourself. And I really realized after the ‘08 vintage, and I made some wonderful wines at PlumpJack before, the ‘07 was probably my favorite at the time. That you know what I'm just going to make the best wine. I'm just going to start making PlumpJack. I'm not going to worry about anybody else.

Doug:
There you go.

Tony:
I know this property could do things. And it's funny because Bob Levy says you know it's funny you should say that because I often hear people wanted to do everything I do, like we do at Harlan. And I don't he realize, people realize that maybe it doesn't work for you.

Doug:
Well it doesn't. We had a similar experience.

Tony:
Yeah, so.

Doug:
Because in the mid-80s and Mt. Helena was THE Cab.

Tony:
Oh wow, okay.

Doug:
Oh yeah. And so it was like I've got to make, I've got to make wine like Bo.

Tony:
Yeah.

Doug:
I've just got to do it. Come on Elias we can do this. So we would, you know and those were big, brawny, good, you know tannic Calistoga Cabs.

Tony:
Yeah, absolutely.

Doug:
Gorgeous wines, but you know built. You know what I mean.

Tony:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Doug:
Really had some structure to it and tannin. So we tried everything. We'd pump it over until the cows came home. I mean we'd do everything.

Tony:
That's so funny.

Doug:
We'd press it, we'd do this, we, you know, you know try to get that tannin. Trying to get that tannin. And after a couple of years it's like you know maybe this fruit on this ranch just doesn't do that.

Tony:
Yeah.

Doug:
And once we kind of just backed off and said let's just let this baby blossom on its own the way it's supposed to be. That's when we started to really make some great wines.

Tony:
And that when I really think I came into my own as winemaker. Saying you know let's look at the property, what we could do. Maybe these techniques will work here but they don't work there. And then really just to get out of my mindset of you know... Now don't get me wrong you talk to winemakers and you, you know what are you doing at Hillside Select, you know.

Doug:
Right.

Tony:
And maybe I'll look at that, you know or look at this maybe this will work. And I think it's that's what I always love about Napa Valley as much as everybody says it's so competitive, it's so crazy here. When you get behind the scenes and you go out to dinner and so forth, there's a lot of sharing of information. Because I don't have, I don't have Sunspot, you, you know, and you don't have McWilliams vineyard.

Doug:
Right.

Tony:
So, no matter what you try to do you're never going to make a Sunspot wine, not a McWillaims, and you're never going to make Oakville Cabernet, you know.

Doug:
Right.

Tony:
So, we can share that information as long as you understand that you have something special and I have something special.

Doug:
Right.

Tony:
Because you'll never, you know... Now To Kalon is a little different because you know there are a ton of people in To Kalon. But I still think people there share information too.

Doug:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Tony:
I never heard, hey what are you, what are you seeing, you know.

Doug:
Yeah.

Tony:
I'm seeing this, or I'm seeing that, so. But it was great and then we started Cade in ‘05, um-

Doug:
Okay so that-

Tony:
We bought the Howell Mountain.

Doug:
So now, you did the Howell Mountain so Cade was the next property.

Tony:
Yeah.

Doug:
So you had been there for a couple of years. So you brought Cade now, are you making the wine up there too?

Tony:
I was overseeing both properties.

Doug:
Okay, great.

Tony:
And, um, when I interviewed they said hey, uh, what do you want to do next. You know what do you want, what, what would you do. I said "We have a valley full of vineyards, you should buy a mountain vineyard."

Doug:
Okay.

Tony:
And, so we found this great piece of property undeveloped, and it was... Actually that's not true, it was developed but there was no winery beside it or like that.

Doug:
Right.

Tony:
It was, the vine, the Vineclift family owned it.

Doug:
Okay.

Tony:
And, so they wanted to divest that piece and keep focusing on Oakville, and we were able to get that property. And, uh, we built the winery, uh, Juan Carlos Fernandez was the head architect at the time. He was in Lao's office and now he's on his own called Signum.

Doug:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Tony:
Um, and never really designed a winery before, designed some smaller building. But really got this really cool aesthetic and it was the first time that wine is lead certified, uh, Gold.

Doug:
I think that was the first one.

Tony:
It was the first one.

Doug:
That's great.

Tony:
And just to be a part of that and seeing it, and then the vineyards were organically farmed. It was a really cool synergistic of all the aspects being sort of focused towards that.

Doug:
Right.

Tony:
And we had really good success early. Howell Mountain, though I think out of all the appellations I, I would say Mt. Veeder too, and maybe Spring mountain. I think because there's so many different aspects on the mountains. You know you have flat vineyards, you have hillside vineyards. You have shaded vineyards-

Doug:
Different exposures, right.

Tony:
Yeah, I just think that it's just so much more variable. Uh, and I think that mountain vineyards can pull your hair out a little bit at a time.

Doug:
(laughs)

Tony:
So you have 40 acres of continuous flat piece of ground, granted the soil is subseries or soil profiles are different underneath it. But its not like, uh, hillside that's, that's in the shade at 3PM, and a vineyard that's in the sun until till seven, you know.

Doug:
That's tough.

Tony:
That's been, that was probably the hardest aspect at Cade and I really started getting more into phenolics, looking at that stuff. Because mountain fruit, I remember the first vintage I made at Cade, oh we'll just make it just like Plump, the same thing.

Doug:
Right.

Tony:
And it was like I, I'm just like eating pencil.

Doug:
(laughs)

Tony:
It was so tense, like you're chewing pencil for an hour. Like, really this how we want to go about doing this. I don't think we're going to do this anymore.

Doug:
(laughs)

Tony:
So, we did that and then, um, towards my end when I started my, when I was going to start and leave to start my consulting career, we found, you know in your neighborhood we found Steltzner. Um-

Doug:
Okay so, when, when was that? What year was that?

Tony:
We started looking at it in 2011.

Doug:
Okay.

Tony:
Spring of ‘11. So we actually made wine from the property, some experimental wine off the property. And we just saw some things, and it's funny it was on the market for quite a while. And no one would bite on it. And we just you know saw, Dick Steltzner is a character. I mean a legend. Another one of those legendary people.

Doug:
He's a legend. Right.

Tony:
Um, and I kept going to people, mentors that I really trust like Craig Williams and Tom Rinaldi. And they're like "If you can buy fruit from that ranch, you can buy that ranch. You buy that ranch."

Doug:
Right.

Tony:
Don't be crazy. Its world class, it Stags Leap. And you know we had some people say "No, you know there's a reason why it hasn't sold. It must not be any good." And we did some testing and we tasted the wines, and we're like "There's something here.", you know.

Tony:
And, and that's where Odette is now. And, and my assistant Jeff Owens went over there to make the wines I consulted for the first two and half vintages.

Doug:
Right.

Tony:
And Jeff just took it to the next level. I mean they really, they really unlocked that property, and, and Dave Pirio who's the vineyard, vineyard manager there as well. They, they found it, so.

Doug:
Pirio’s vineyard manager where?

Tony:
At PlumpJack, Odette, and Cade.

Doug:
No, since when?

Tony:
Uh, as long as I was there Dave Pirio was there.

Doug:
Okay sorry. Time out.

Tony:
Yeah.

Doug:
I thought Pirio was at Chapellet.

Tony:
He is but he doesn't, he farms for other people too.

Doug:
I didn't know he was in there.

Tony:
So yeah, and so he's a phenomenal farmer. A very quiet, very soft spoken. Never beats his own drum, or his own horn.

Doug:
Oh, no he's, he's

Tony:
And, and-

Doug:
The sweetest guy ever.

Tony:
So unbelievable farmer.

Doug:
And by the way he's got the best outside shot.

Tony:
Oh does he?

Doug:
In basketball in the world because I played high school basketball with him.

Tony:
I love that. See, there you go, so.

Doug:
He was, he was the stud shooter. I was sixth man. So here's the deal. So, and everybody in the league knew how good this guy was. He was like the, he was like the Steph Curry of-

Tony:
Okay.

Doug:
St. Helena basketball league. We're going way off track here but I don't care.

Tony:
Oh, it's fine. Do it.

Doug:
So, so all the other teams knew how good this guy was, and I was a senior, he was a junior. He was a sweet kid, and he was soft, you know, you know, soft spoken, and, and kind of skinny and slight. Not, not, not a big stud but manly guy who could shoot.

Tony:
Silent assassin.

Doug:
Yeah, and everybody knew it. So all the teams were looking for him. So, our coach during practice since I was the sixth man I'd be, I'd be on the defensive play when we scrimmage. He'd say "Okay, Shafer you're on Pirio.", and he pulled me aside and said "I want you to do everything to this guy. You know paw him, foul him, grab him, pull his shirt when he's jumping up.", you know.

Tony:
Right.

Doug:
Step on his foot, you know just harass him. His nas-, it’s kind of nasty.

Tony:
Poor Dave.

Doug:
And I said, you know I really, we were good friends, I said "Sorry, Dave I've got to do this.", he goes "I know." In other words and it was, it was just a really great time.

Tony:
That's hilarious. You know he never even told me that he played basketball. So, but he's great.

Doug:
Talk to him.

Tony:
I love working with him. I'll ask him when I see him because I haven't talked to him in a while.

Doug:
He, he averaged, you know 20 points a game.

Tony:
Wow, that's big in high school, too.

Doug:
That's big in high school.

Tony:
So, no it's funny. So yeah he's great to work with.

Doug:
Super, okay.

Tony:
Yeah, so he farms all the properties for them.

Doug:
Okay.

Tony:
It's a great team when you're working with John Connover and then, then the ownership group. It was wonderful, wonderful time.

Tony:
And then I started my own consulting business in 2012, so.

Doug:
So, 2012, so, so did you actually leave those guys in ‘12.

Tony:
I did.

Doug:
Okay.

Tony:
I left them in June 2012. I just realized that you know I was 40 years old and I needed something different.

Doug:
Right.

Tony:
Well I'm just doing my own small brand, and, and Dave, you know they were very adamant about you focus on PlumpJack only, and there a lot, a lot of wineries are here. Um, and-

Doug:
That must have been kind of, kind of crazy-scary, because here you got, you know you talked about a secure job. You got your health plan, you got that and all of sudden you're going out.

Tony:
Absolutely. No, and, and I think the hardest part for me and, and, and I talk a lot about this to other people is sometimes you get caught up with your identity and your identity is a PlumpJack winemaker.

Doug:
Hmm.

Tony:
And I think it was, you know it was very hard for me for the first year. Even though I got to go to work for Hourglass, and Jeff and Carolyn Smith, or Carolyn Durant, and Jeff Smith.

Tony:
It was hard because PlumpJack, PlumpJack, PlumpJack it's all that people wanted to talk about it.

Doug:
Right.

Tony:
What am I without that. And I had a lot of people going are you sure you made the right decision. Are you, you know this is crazy. Why would you leave that winery, I don't understand it.

Tony:
But in the end, you know I, I left Duckhorn at the same, you know Duckhorn, why would you ever leave Duckhorn. You have it made. You know why would you leave PlumpJack.

Doug:
Right.

Tony:
There was something inside of me I just wanted to see if I can do it, and, uh, you know I went to work, Hourglass was my first client.

Doug:
Hourglass with Jeff Smith.

Tony:
Yeah.

Doug:
Great guy.

Tony:
A wonderful guy.

Doug:
They have great wines.

Tony:
But it's back to, um, back to. You know PlumpJack had gotten very large and were back to estate driven again.

Doug:
Okay.

Tony:
You know too is a estate vineyard. I answer. You know this is, this is... I think you're going to laugh because you're going to agree with me on this. It's hard sometimes as you grow. You, it's almost you're punished for growing and being successful. You start getting layers, and layers, and layers, and layers for businesses, whereas when you start the business it's you and your dad and Elias.

Doug:
Right.

Tony:
Maybe a tasting room worker and a receptionist. Now you have HR, now you have marketing director, and there's nothing wrong with that, but it's like all of a sudden you're starting to answer to more people. You're like well wait a second here, you know that person hired me, you know but why, why am I getting a phone call suddenly from the social media director saying you know you need to mention to us more in your, in your Twitter feed.

Doug:
Yeah.

Tony:
Well what you, huh?

Doug:
No, it's yeah and I used to, I used to, I knew everybody, you know I knew where every bucket was in the cellar. I knew every vineyard worker, now it's there's some guys I don't know that well.

Tony:
That's hard.

Doug:
And it bugs me.

Tony:
It's hard.

Doug:
You know.

Tony:
And, and so for me going small again was, and then having opportunity to make my own wine, and work with a couple of other brands was really exciting for me.

Doug:
So did you start making your own wine right away?

Tony:
Did not. Jeff asked me that to take a year off and focus on Hourglass, and show us you can do that and then the next year you can start. I said that's not a problem.

Doug:
Oh, that's cool.

Tony:
And, so-

Doug:
So he's your first client, was he the first client for a while, did you have others right away?

Tony:
No, 2013 I picked up Senegal.

Doug:
Senegal over on Inglewood.

Tony:
Yeah, the old Jager piece.

Doug:
Yeah.

Tony:
Actually you know those guys.

Doug:
Yeah I do.

Tony:
And David was the owner and great to work for. They gave me a great opportunity there to really get that brand up and running. Then I worked for another brand that was sort of, a concept of make the win buy a barrel, and that was kind of fun. But really 2013 was about me focusing on my own brand Petria in Senegal.

Tony:
And then ‘14, um no new clients, in ‘15 I worked with Amici, now Amici winery, so I went to work there.

Doug:
Yeah.

Tony:
And Amici, Olema. and No Curfew. I mean wonderful people to work for.

Doug:
Amici they're up in Calistoga.

Tony:
Yeah, off of Old Toll Road.

Doug:
Got it.

Tony:
So great people to work for. They make a lot of single vineyard wines, so To Kolan, um, Morisolely.

Doug:
Okay.

Tony:
To name two, and then, but Bob Shepard and John Harriston are the owners. They're great people to work for. And then in ‘17 I took, took two clients on in Paso just to play, play around, to see something different.

Doug:
And how far a drive is that, man? (laughs)

Tony:
It's a f-, well that's how I found out about our podcast. (laughs)

Doug:
(laughs)

Tony:
It's about a four, four hour, four hour and 15 minute drive. But I'll get up early and drive, or I'll leave, you know I can't go down and drive back at night. Um, but it's even opened my eyes to what else is out there. And it's different wine making techniques and understanding that what works here doesn't work there. And just having a whole different attitude. It's very different down there. Um, especially there's huge of students in West Paso, and East Paso.

Doug:
That's what I've heard.

Tony:
It's completely night and day. I mean you know I was standing at a winery called Torrin, uh, it's Scott Holly's winery. And, um, we're just sitting on the patio just chatting, you know. And you know I, he goes... I go where, how high are we? He goes "Oh we're 1500 feet."

Doug:
Oh my God.

Tony:
You don't even know it, you know.

Doug:
Yeah.

Tony:
And of course if you drive from West Paso through the Templeton Gap you're going to go drop straight down to the ocean. So it's a crazy topography down there. And then I also have a client now in, um, in 2017, uh, Lasseter. John Lasseter from-

Doug:
Oh John Lasseter for Pixar.

Tony:
Yeah, and then my last client that I took on this year, um, as, as a recording is I took them on last year was The Vineyardist up in Calistoga, so.

Doug:
Okay.

Tony:
We're working with, uh, Dirk Fulton and his beautiful 40 acre piece of property. Mark Herold was there before and, and so they have their own little winery.

Doug:
Got it. And Clos du Val too?

Tony:
Clos du Val. Yeah, I'm sorry started in ‘15 at Cloe Duvall. I left last year and that was sort of, you know working with Steve Tamberelli.

Doug:
Right.

Tony:
Did sort of help, you know Christie, Christie Fulton was, was the winemaker there up until ‘15. And I didn't replace her, I was going to work with her and she left very suddenly, uh, to do some consulting and some other things.

Doug:
Got it.

Tony:
And it was sort of like, uh, okay.

Doug:
Yeah. They were working on turning it around.

Tony:
So, Steve, Steve would ask me if I would help make the wines, um, for that year to get them through. So I made the single vineyard wines there. But again Stags Leap is unbelievable, so.

Doug:
So, you've got what six, seven, eight, nine, ten clients, something like that.

Tony:
Seven.

Doug:
Seven.

Tony:
Seven including my own Petria. Um, and that's about where I like to be at. I don't want to be more.

Doug:
Is that about.

Tony:
Um, I sort of got in this, this stable of people I really like working for. Um, and, and I think, you know it's almost find your, I hate saying this saying. But it's find your tribe, these people that know me and I know them well. And they trust me, and I trust them.

Doug:
Right.

Tony:
So it's really, really good.

Doug:
So, how much do you get involved at each place? Does each place have someone kind of on staff as a quote winemaker or assistant winemaker?

Tony:
I like-

Doug:
How's that?

Tony:
I like to set that up. My goal as a consultant is to come in, and now, now The Vineyardist is very small so I make those wines at Amici. I'm a co-winemaker with a gentleman by the name of Jesse Fox.

Doug:
Right.

Tony:
He, He's makes the wines with me now. I, I like to set that up that way because in the end it’s about the brand, it's not about me.

Doug:
Right.

Tony:
And I think the strength, and I think the future, you know whereas I think in the last 15 years it was all about consulting, consulting, consulting.

Doug:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Tony:
You know, and I think now the strongest thing for anybody to do is to put someone very strong in place, and you just come in and taste. Taste the wines and work with them. Just sort of measure them and maybe, you know maybe you... At Clos du Val for example it was Ted Henry.

Doug:
Right.

Tony:
Came on board in the early ‘16 and at the end of ‘18 I just, they didn't, they don't need my help. He's a talented, talented guy. Now coming in and having, having a, you know different person look at the wines when it comes to that is very important. I mean I have Craig taste my wine, Craig Williams. I, I, I begged him to taste my wine.

Doug:
Right.

Tony:
Cause you see he can say, see something I miss.

Doug:
Craig Williams.

Tony:
Yeah.

Doug:
But, uh, when you're dealing with these guys do they like call you up. I mean do you guys go over work orders, or when to rack, or when to filter.

Tony:
Kind of. Um, I write protocols for them.

Doug:
Okay.

Tony:
Um, it's all sort of different, um, like for example Jesse Fox is a talented winemaker at Amici.

Doug:
Right.

Tony:
So, we're talking probably higher level stuff, whereas with Lasseter we brought in a wonderful woman named Danielle. Um, I can never say Danielle, sorry if you're listening. Langlois how she says. I can never say her last name. I probably butchered it.

Tony:
But she is young up and coming talented winemaker, um, who just started last year at ‘18, we brought her own full time. So I help her more with work orders and some of that stuff.

Doug:
Just logistics. Logistics.

Tony:
Okay, but like I told her I said "Look, you know you need to make some of these decisions because-

Doug:
Yeah.

Tony:
Um, I can do all that, I can make all the decisions and I'll do the job, or you make all the decisions and I'll help you if you stumble we'll fix it."

Doug:
Right.

Tony:
And you can do this and do that. And, and, I said "Trust me there won't be a time when something very drastic that I'm going to leave you hanging." But for little things make the decision we can talk about it afterwards. I can say well I maybe would have approached it this way or that way.

Doug:
Right.

Tony:
I think that the hardest thing is, is managing of people in the cellar. I think you would agree to that too. It's so easy to make wine but it's management of people is the hardest thing I think anybody would agree, in any business.

Doug:
Well you’re, you’re, you're a mentor.

Tony:
Yeah.

Doug:
You're basically mentoring.

Tony:
And, and I think to letting go of, of your notion, preconceived notion as long as the job is getting done incredibly well, how they get to the end, end, endpoint, if the endpoint is still as good as you would have done it. But they look at the problem completely differently, you let it go. You don't, you don't become a micro manager, you know. You empower your people to do these jobs, and these people will run... My guys I love every one of them, they'll run through walls. I mean they're so amazing.

Doug:
(laughs)

Tony:
You know they'll do anything to make great wine because you're empowering them because they are part of the process. I think it's one of the hardest things in winemaking is when you're not part, your, you're just, just a, I call it a pog. I mean fill a barrel, why am I filling a barrel, well it's none of your business. You know, you know get that fork lift.

Doug:
Right.

Tony:
If they're part of the process and they can come to you I just see that people are happier. That's what happened at, at, for me at Duckhorn. That's how I was treated.

Doug:
That's how you were treated.

Tony:
And I think it's maybe happened, to me that what it comes back to. Is if you were treated that way you kind of want to do that to, to them. And you know Tom Rinaldi would always open great wines. Would always barbecue for us. So I find myself doing that now to the guys.

Doug:
Good.

Tony:
You know it's just treat them well.

Doug:
Well that's, that's key in my hat is off to you, because that's a tough thing to do. I have had a tough time in my career. Keeping my mouth shut and letting someone who I was working with be, under me, you know do their own thing. Knowing they're not going to mess up on purpose, and even if they do something I wouldn't of done it's still not going to the end of the world.

Tony:
Yeah.

Doug:
And you know that, that's a challenge.

Tony:
It is.

Doug:
It's a challenge.

Tony:
You know there are certain things I, I of course I want to be a part of. Picking of course, and maceration techniques, and so forth. But I often tell my guys, you're going to laugh at this, but it's true. The only thing I can't fix is if you put wine down the drain.

Doug:
(laughs)

Tony:
You know so I can't go down there and get it back.

Doug:
What about red wine into a white wine tank.

Tony:
Yeah, that's the other one.

Doug:
That's another one.

Tony:
That's, that's another one. So, you know we've done that before. I've watched like why are you topping those barrels.

Doug:
(laughs)

Tony:
Well because they need wine. I'm like yeah it's white wine though.

Doug:
Oh.

Tony:
Yeah, so we did that. We made the mistake once at Duckhorn of putting a pyramid of white Sauvignon Blanc in a red room.

Doug:
Oh, bad idea.

Tony:
Yeah, seven barrels later.

Doug:
Yeah.

Tony:
Like, whoa, yeah okay. Here we go.

Doug:
(laughs)

Tony:
But for the most part I think you are hoping the person understands that but they don't. I mean sometimes they don't.

Doug:
Yeah.

Tony:
So, I've seen that mistake happen. But yeah I think that's just about empowerment. It's incredibly hard to do because you've, you know your name is on it.

Doug:
Yeah.

Tony:
And, and in the end you're going to get the credit or the, you, you, you... You know I always believe you share all the credit, you take all the blame.

Doug:
Got it.

Tony:
You know because that's your job, you get paid to do that. And you know you empower your guys. We did it all as a team effort, you know. When the screw up hits, uh, I did it, and, and, and the buck stops with me. I missed that.

Doug:
I'm with you. So I've got to ask you something because I've never seen this happen. I remember hearing stories about this when I was working with Randy at Lake Springs. So I was brand new and he put the fear of God in me about you don't want to suck in a tank.

Tony:
Oh yeah.

Doug:
So sucking in tank basically everyone is if you're moving wine from one tank to another tank or to barrels you basically hooked up a hose and you open the valve and you're sucking out the wine. Well you need to make sure you vent the top of the tank because if you don't because the tops are sealed up. If you don't then they'll basically suck it in. And when these steel tanks I've heard, I've never seen it or heard it in person.

Tony:
Yeah.

Doug:
It's really loud it goes voomp because every once in while you walk into a winery and not too much these days but there will be some tank over the corner. It's got like this big indentation in it. It’s like whoa someone sucked that in.

Tony:
I think truthfully it's the first thing everybody tells you. Do not do this... I've acutally seen... I had a tank at Plumpjack suck in, but it wasn't our guys fault. What happened was ... the seam on a jacket on the inside of a tank, we had to sell the wine off in bulk because it got glycol.

Doug:
Glycol in it

Tony:
Glycol blew through it, the glycol flowing so fast it actually sucked the tank in, sucked the jacket in and dented it. So I have seen that, you hear the horror stories.You've seen the tanks. They blow them back out. It looks like a coke can that's been thrown around that its extended. Yeah, it's bad, it's like a water bottle, you suck on the water bottle with no top it sucks in. Its the same thing

Doug:
It sucks in

Tony:
You hear the horror stories, there was one winery they did hot water rinse on all the tanks and they latched up all the tops, the hot water went to cold so it sucked all the tanks dry.

Doug:
Ohh

Tony:
That and taking val- I've seen ... I have seen people take valves off the back of a tank, and, and two inches of wine come out at people, you know-

Doug:
Oh wow.

Tony:
Yeah. There was one like-

Doug:
That's a big wine, that's a (laughs).

Tony:
I wanna make sure, you know, there's statutes of limitations of those things after 20 years. Right?

Doug:
(Laughs).

Tony:
(Laughs). We were working once in a winery. I won't name it, but, uh, I, I bet somebody and, and this will make you laugh.

Doug:
(Laughs).

Tony:
I don't know if, if the fans out there will get this, and that I could outrun a two horsepower centrifugal pump.

Doug:
Oh.

Tony:
And, and close, and close the valve and open the valve.

Doug:
Oh.

Tony:
Yeah. (Laughs).

Doug:
Oh, you mean run, you know the wine, you've-

Tony:
Yeah.

Doug:
The wine's going through the hose-

Tony:
Yeah, I took, I- I can outrun it and he goes "There's no way you can outrun this." I said-

Doug:
No.

Tony:
"I can do this. I can do this." And I get there and that thing is, it's like a fire hose of-

Doug:
(Laughs).

Tony:
Of Chardonnay must hitting the wall. And it's just like going everywhere. I'm like ...

Doug:
That right, that right?

Tony:
And I, and I finally got I was covered in this must.

Doug:
Covered in it.

Tony:
And I, I couldn't outrun it.

Doug:
Bad idea. I love it.

Tony:
(Laughs).

Doug:
Hey-

Tony:
Anyways-

Doug:
Tell me, tell me more about your own brand, Patria.

Tony:
So Patria, um-

Doug:
Patria, I'm sorry.

Tony:
Yeah, well, Patria I mean, I, I say it sometimes too. Uh-

Doug:
Patria.

Tony:
Means uh, native, native land, home land.

Doug:
Right.

Tony:
Um, it was, you know something I've always wanted to do, I think ... I think that any chef always wants to have his own restaurant I think. Even if it's a small brand, it's-

Doug:
Right.

Tony:
It's something that you wanna do, it is yours. And you know, I make the wines for Hourglass or Amici. There's, uh there's ... you know Jess Smith's a part of that or Bob and, and you know everybody's a part of-

Doug:
Yeah.

Tony:
This is mine, it's my expression-

Doug:
It's your baby, yeah.

Tony:
And it's a vineyard I, you know the first vineyard I dealt with is Oakville Ranch which is, uh, be- above Dalla Valle but below Ovid and it's one of the highest vineyards in Oakville, pure red soil. Very unique. I actually dis-, discovered-

Doug:
Mary, Mary Miner's place.

Tony:
Mary Miner place, yeah absolutely.

Doug:
Right.

Tony:
And I discovered the piece when Duckhorn was buying fruit from there. I said "I'll always, I'll always wanna make, to buy fruit from there." And ...

Doug:
It's a good ranch.

Tony:
Um, it's great ground and so that was ‘13 and then I became really close with Phil Coturri.

Doug:
Okay.

Tony:
Who farms it so-

Doug:
He farms it, yeah.

Tony:
Uh, very famous family outta Sonoma who's a big, big organic farmer outta Sonoma and ... He subsequently is why I work with the Lasseters now and, and The Vineyardist and, we have really good, you know, just a really good rapport. So-

Doug:
We were, his name came up uh, with Paula Cornell.

Tony:
Yeah.

Doug:
Yeah.

Tony:
Yeah, because he was-

Doug:
Yeah.

Tony:
I think she hired him, when she was running-

Doug:
She hired him.

Tony:
And I ... she's the one who, e- enabled me to get into Oakville Ranch, Paula Cornell, so.

Doug:
Oh cool!

Tony:
Yeah, so I still dealt with her a bit before she had left, left Oakville Ranch, so. She was very kind to me. I mean I was just this young kid like knocking on their door every year. "Can I have some fruit, can I have some fruit, can I have some fruit." You know, and, and, and so they finally said yes in ‘13 and so I make to, made two wines then. An Oakville Ranch Cabernet and then the Cabernet Franc Cabernet blend.

Doug:
Okay.

Tony:
Um, called Avoyelles. My business partner's family, Kimberly Jones, uh, had ... their family bought a piece of property in the Avoyelle's parish in, in Louisiana.

Doug:
Okay.

Tony:
And so, we, I just called it that for her and so, yeah. And that wine is homage or sort of my, my sort of, um, homage to Maya.

Doug:
Okay.

Tony:
Uh, Dalla Valle. That was ... Out of all the so called cult wines we go back to this. The, the original ones. That was the most unique to me uh, from the label design, from the blend of Cabernet Franc to Cabernet.

Doug:
This Franc and Cab, right.

Tony:
Yeah, it was always the one that was like, so here you have, you know-

Doug:
It's beautiful wine.

Tony:
So here you have you know Araujo, you have Bryant family or Harlan or Shafer Hillside Select, then you have this Cabernet Franc Cabernet blend. It's like, "What is this?" But it's so-

Doug:
What's-

Tony:
Phenomenal.

Doug:
What's, what's your blend? On that one.

Tony:
It's about 50, it, it varies between 45 and 55 Franc-

Doug:
Okay.

Tony:
And then Cabernet the other portion, we have five to seven percent Petit Verdot.

Doug:
Okay.

Tony:
And all of its co-fermented usually so we'll pick it at the same time-

Doug:
Oh, cool.

Tony:
And ferment it together, so. But yeah, uh, it's just a very unique wine and-

Doug:
Sounds good actually.

Tony:
It, it's really fun, you know and it Cabernet Franc up there is special. East, east side of valley Cabernet Franc.

Doug:
I used to buy some Franc from uh, Cal Shokette.

Tony:
Yes, then you understand it. So yeah and so you know the dirt.

Doug:
Yeah.

Tony:
And so it's just been very fun. And, and another wine, vin- wine I just bought. A vineyard I just, bought for from starting at ‘16 or ‘15 was Allen Price. Do you know Allen? You know Allen uh, Miele.

Doug:
Oh yeah, yeah, Miele Price.

Tony:
But uh, he, his family owns Spotswood originally. Sold it to Novaks. He has his little one, and a half acre piece on Hudson. Twenty-seven year old, cloned seven Cabernet he planted that I buy for my brand and make about 125 cases in that ... With for uh, Patria as well and so you know just having fun looking for different vineyards to work with.

Doug:
More good dirt.

Tony:
Yeah, it's great dirt and that's why I got it. And so ... And I known Allen 'cause he worked with me at Hess Collection. So-

Doug:
Small world.

Tony:
It is, it is and I think that's really what I think people forget sometimes is that how small Napa Valley is. It, it is one degree of separation.

Doug:
Mm-hmm (affirmative)

Tony:
And especially if you were here in the early ‘90s or for you even earlier than that. It's probably half a degree of separation. (laughing)

Doug:
It is.

Tony:
And so ... The more things change, more things stay the same and, and I love living here and, and it' fu-

Doug:
It's great.

Tony:
There's strengths and there's weakness I guess. You know, people go, "Oh you must hate the tourist." Actually I've met more interesting people just walking down the street.

Doug:
Oh yeah.

Tony:
You know and-

Doug:
It's fun.

Tony:
They're all happy. They're on vacation.

Doug:
They're on vacation. They're drinking wine.

Tony:
Exactly.

Doug:
So if someone wants to get your wines Patria, how do they get them?

Tony:
Patriawines.com

Doug:
Patriawines.com

Tony:
Yeah.

Doug:
Okay, everyone hear that? Check it out.

Tony:
Absolutely. So yeah.

Doug:
Tony, thanks for coming in.

Tony:
Thank you. It was great. Have a great day.

Doug:
All right man, be good, see you.