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Ask a Winemaker: 5 Questions for Trinchero Napa Valley's Mario Monticelli

An insider's perspective on Northern California Wine Country.

Trinchero Napa Valley’s head winemaker Mario Monticelli grew up in Northern California. A fourth-generation winemaker, Monticelli studied viticulture and enology at the University of California Davis. He worked in Italy and then moved to Northern California to work at several celebrated wineries before joining Trinchero Napa Valley in 2007.

How did you get in the wine industry?

My father, who came over from Italy at a young age, always wanted to be a farmer. I grew up driving tractors and picking grapes. My grandfather was a winemaker; my great-grandfather was a winemaker. I just always loved wine and it was a part of the family. I had an epiphany at 14 when I was enjoying a delicious, oaky, buttery Chardonnay at Easter with my family. I knew then that I wanted to go to UC Davis and become a winemaker.

The Napa Valley is home to over 450 wineries.
The Napa Valley is home to over 450 wineries. (©Jennifer Whalen)

What do you like about working in Northern California Wine Country?

The climate. The weather is awesome when it comes to food and wine. We have the best farm-to-table food. I travel a lot, and whether it’s to Dallas, New York or Chicago, I enjoy coming home to the best restaurants in the world!

What wines do you think Northern California does best?

There are so many microclimates that we can do all of them!

California produces over 90 percent of U.S. wine.
California produces over 90 percent of U.S. wine. (©Jennifer Whalen)

What are some trends you’ve noticed in local winemaking?

I think today it’s not as popular to try to mimic a specific style or capture a certain audience. People are going out and doing their own thing, trying different varietals. Fifteen years ago it was a trend to use oak upright fermentation tanks, and now people are trying concrete fermentation tanks. Back in the day there were more trends, but if you look at the Charles Smiths of today, they’re following their own personalities.

Can you name a few of the region’s best vintages from the past decade or so?

The year 2007 was really special. I started at Trinchero Napa Valley that year and it really stands out to me. More recently, it’s 2013. I’ve been drinking a lot of 2013 wines, and they’re really good.