Far Niente Winemaker Nicole Marchese was recently featured on the podcast Wine Women. Read about her winemaking story below, and click here to listen to the episode.
Nicole Marchesi began studying towards a major in biology as an undergraduate at the University of California, Davis. But after being assigned to write an article about the Department of Viticulture and Enology for the school newspaper, The Aggie, her interest was sparked to pursue a career in wine. She quickly changed majors and went on to complete her bachelor’s degree in Viticulture & Enology at UC Davis in 2003. [EP58]
After graduation, she honed her winemaking skills in Sonoma and New Zealand before joining Far Niente in 2005 as its enologist. She was promoted soon thereafter to assistant winemaker, and in 2009, she became only the fourth winemaker in the over 30-year history of the winery. During her tenure, Nicole has gained a deep understanding of Far Niente’s estate vineyards, working with the sites and individual blocks to bring forth the discrete character of each. Ultimately, she strives to create wines of elegance and depth that capture both place and vintage, while staying true to the Far Niente house style.
We loved hearing Nicole’s stories during the show about how she got into wine and about Far Niente’s fascinating history. While sipping the stunning Far Niente 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, we learned Far Niente was founded in Oakville, California, in 1885 by John Benson, a forty-niner of the California gold rush and uncle of the famous American impressionist painter, Winslow Homer. It prospered until the onset of Prohibition in 1919. The gates closed, but the magic never truly disappeared from the property.
Sixty years later, Gil Nickel bought and restored the winery and neighboring vineyard. This three-year-long labor of love put the label back on the map — and on the National Register of Historic Places. He preserved the Far Niente name — an Italian phrase which romantically translated means ‘without a care.’ Nickel hoped to recapture a bygone era when life was indeed without a care.
The historic wine caves also go back to the late 1800s. A stone archway was constructed in the winery cellar in 1885, with plans to create extensive wine caves. With the onset of Prohibition, these wine caves never came to fruition. The cold rock sat neglected for 60 years until 1980, after the completion of the winery building restoration. Many believed that wine caves existed beyond the rock wall since European winemakers aged their wines in those types of naturally cool environments. So, Gil Nickel hired an engineer to find out. After a daring dynamite blast, they learned that no caves existed. But undaunted and true to his vision that “the best bottle of wine has yet to be made,” Gil pursued the first cave for Far Niente.
The Far Niente Napa Valley wine caves would become the first to be constructed in North America since the turn of the century, spawning a new industry in California wine country.
Over the next 20 years, the winery conducted four more expansions of the caves, bringing the total area to 40,000 square feet. The stunning beauty of the caves, which hold the winery’s treasure trove of Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay vintages gently aging in 100% French oak, is a testament to the excellence and never-ending attention to detail that Far Niente brings to its magnificent wines and winery.
Tune in to learn more about Nicole Marchesi, Far Niente and her favorite food and wine pairing dish.