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The Story of the Far Niente Label

11.12.12

When Beth and Gil Nickel purchased the Far Niente property in 1979, not only did they lovingly restore the neglected stone building and create a footprint for the winery’s famously lush gardens, they also began the important process of designing a label for the soon-to-be revitalized wine estate.

“Gil wanted something that harkened to the old world but was also expressly modern,” says Larry Maguire, Far Niente president and CEO. Gil commissioned two designers to begin working on concepts.

Meanwhile, stained glass artist Tom Rodrigues was working on an installation in the Nickels’ San Francisco home. Tom offered to contribute a label design for consideration, and his concept proved to align with Beth’s and Gil’s vision.

Far Niente cabernet label

Drawing inspiration from Alphonse Mucha and Louis Comfort Tiffany, the iconic Far Niente label depicts a detailed rendering of the Far Niente estate with the rolling foothills of the Maycamas Mountains behind. A frame of gold foil, intertwined with vivid leaves and grape clusters, is both a nod to the Art Nouveau and a window onto this Napa Valley vista.

The label has remained virtually the same since the first Chardonnay vintage in 1979, though Tom hand- lettered the back label for the first bottling. Printing the label proved to be a challenge, involving 4-color process, lacquer, gold foil, embossing and special die. Because of the many fine lines in the artwork and the multiple passes of the presses, keeping all components of the piece in registration (or perfectly in line) was, in itself, an artistic endeavor.

Ultimately, the Far Niente label continues an artful tradition established with the founding of the winery in 1885. A bottle of 1886 Far Niente Sweet Muscat found in a private cellar in 1998 bears a label attributed to famed American Impressionist painter Winslow Homer, nephew of John Benson, the 19th century founder of Far Niente.

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