Viader hopes to begin planting the 12 acres next year. While a final decision has yet to be made, the vineyard is expected to contain mostly Merlot, along with some Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon. "The idea is to make a super Tuscan without any connection to Sangiovese," said Gagliardo, whose family owns Gianni Gagliardo winery in Italy's Piedmont region.
Gagliardo met Viader last year while visiting Napa Valley, and the two discovered a mutual admiration for recent Tuscan wines, particularly Masseto, a small-production, high-end Merlot also made by Antinori's Tenuta dell'Ornellaia.
Most of the property is currently planted with olive trees, many of which will be removed following the olive harvest this fall. Viader said they expect to limit the vineyard to 12 acres, from which about 3,500 cases per year should be produced. Construction of a winery needs to be completed before their first harvest in 2005, and the as-yet-unnamed wines should reach the market sometime in 2008.
Viader founded her Napa Valley winery in 1987 and currently makes about 4,000 cases per year of a Cabernet Sauvignon¿Cabernet Franc blend. She has 23 acres of those varieties under vine, along with 3 acres of Syrah that first produced wine in 2000.
Born in Argentina and educated in France, Viader welcomed the chance to oversee production of a wine in Europe. "I thought it would be a challenge," she said. "And Italy has not been known to recognize women, and we're in a new age now."