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james laube's wine flights

Antinori's Long View Slowly Unfolding in California

Photo by: Greg Gorman

Posted: Apr 17, 2007 12:26pm ET

Piero Antinori’s seemingly forgotten Napa Valley wine venture, Antica, is a work-in-progress that's slowly taking shape. This week he's in town to chart the next phase, and yesterday we discussed a wide range of subjects.

It’s been 20-plus years since Antinori became involved as a minority partner (5 percent) in a vineyard on Atlas Peak, an appellation in Napa Valley. His original partners have long since bowed out, and 10 years ago, he described the buyout as “the most complicated deal of the century.” He is now the sole owner of the entire property.

Antinori owns some 570 acres, planted to a variety of grapes ranging from Cabernet and Chardonnay to Sangiovese and Refosco. So far, the quality of wines made from Antinori's vines have been mixed, and certainly nothing that has inspired him. Hence he is still in what he considers an experimental phase—he's replanting half the vineyard over the next five years. While he thinks that the property will prove its worth over time, he is eager to see substantive progress.

On the plus side, the property is paid for and has mature vines and a winery.  Antica is short for Antinori California, and within the next year, 2004 and 2005  wines bearing the Antica label should appear in the market. At this stage, Antinori says he is most pleased with the quality of the Chardonnay.

Yet he is still seeking a winemaker that suits his needs, knows Napa wines and shares his stylistic goals. Given the growth of the California wine industry in the past 10 years, launching a new label may prove more challenging than Antinori expects.

He still takes a long-term view of wine, saying “we’re always at the beginning,” a reference that applies to most winegrowing operations.

“It takes time to learn the nuances of the vineyard,” Antinori explains, adding that he hopes that one day one of his children (or grandchildren) will move to Napa, attend Davis and live on the property.

But that is still years away if it ever happens, he admits, and while the waiting game for Antinori and Antica slowly unfolds, it is clearly a project that would have more than tested the patience of most vintners.

Antinori isn’t pushing any panic buttons. But I sense he is anxious to have Antica pick up the tempo. A lot has changed in the past 20 years, and while he can look back on a family wine heritage that spans centuries, the wine scene in California moves at a much quicker pace.

Jeffrey Haller
April 17, 2007 4:32pm ET
does Antinori still have rights to the name to Antica since a winery in Oregon is using that name.
James Laube
Napa, CA —  April 17, 2007 4:38pm ET
Good question...I'll let you know if I find out.
John B Vlahos
Cupertino Ca. —  April 17, 2007 5:47pm ET
The value of 570 acres of prime vineyard land in Napa can only go up. Antinori has vast holdings in Italy and around the world. He is smart: he is hedging his bets by holding prime lands in Napa. He can afford it. And he is looking ahead to his chilodren or grandchildren benefiting from his foresight.
John B Vlahos
Cupertino Ca. —  April 17, 2007 6:01pm ET
Anotinori is smart: the value of 570 acres of prime vineyard land in Napa can only go up. Antinori has vast holdings in Italy and around the world. He is hedging his bets by holding prime lands in Napa. He can afford it. And he is looking ahead to his children or grandchildren benefiting from his foresight. Good for him!
Troy Peterson
Burbank, CA —  April 17, 2007 6:06pm ET
James, when will there at least be some initial barrel ratings on the Antica varietals being released?

Completely aside, I was happy to see the Kosta scores yesterday. Any idea when we might see final scores on the '05 Sea Smokes?
Jameson Fink
Seattle, WA —  April 17, 2007 9:06pm ET
The Oregon winery is Antica Terra.
A California-g Salva
Napa, CA —  April 18, 2007 2:35pm ET
The correct registered trademark name for our wine is ¿Antica Napa Valley¿. Jim Laube is correct in saying Antica is short for Antinori California. The message we are communicating by naming our California wine ¿Antica Napa Valley¿ is Antinori California in Napa Valley. In addition, we want to create an awareness of the Antinori Family having a winegrowing history spanning 26 generations. In the world of wine there are several uses of Antica as a registered trademark, all having a different element attached to it. This being the situation, no one can own Antica in and by its self. An example would be Antica Terra as mentioned by one of the readers to the blog. Often times Antica is used in its translated form as may be the case in Antica Terra. Here the translation for ¿Antica Terra¿ from Italian to English may mean ¿Old Earth/Soil¿. Another example would be the Italian wine producer ¿Antica Corte¿ or translated to ¿Old Court¿.
Doug Eaton
Phoenix, AZ —  May 5, 2007 10:37pm ET
James, last night we had a spontaneous wine party break out in our neighborhood. We are all new to wine, but pulled out the best we had. 1996 Plumpjack Cab Reserve. 2003 Neal Cab (Napa 2nd Chance Vineyard). 2003 Rudd Cab Estate. 2003 Turnbull Cab. The debate was heated as to which was the best wine. I'm curious, if you were with us, which wine would you have chosen and why?
James Laube
Napa, CA —  May 8, 2007 5:42pm ET
Doug, one could handicap about how the tasting might go, but only you and those who tasted the wines could assess their quality.

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