Story By: Fran Miller // Photo By: Bob McClenahan
A Vineyard Road Less Travelled: winemaker TONY ARCUDI
From Naval missile navigation engineer to IBM product manager to award-winning winemaker, Tony Arcudi’s path to Napa Valley was not of the straight and narrow variety. At age 38, the winemaker and owner of the eponymously named ARCUDI Wines hopped in his car and drove west from his native Boston, not knowing what might await but feeling that it was a now-or-never proposition.
“I’d had a great career in the tech sector, but it just wasn’t for me,” said Arcudi, whose early experiences helping his mom in the kitchen inspired a love of good food and wine. A particular glass of Châteauneuf du Pape, enjoyed in his late 20s, sealed his fate. “That glass shook me to the bone,” said Arcudi. “At that moment, wine for me went from simply being a beverage to being an experience. I knew I was missing my calling.”
It took a decade before he made the leap. When he left for California, he had no plan, just desire and determination. “I had to give it a try,” said Arcudi. “I knew deep down I’d be happier making wine and living under a bridge than being tied to a paycheck and a corner office. There was no turning back.”
His desire to study enology and viticulture at the University of California Davis was met with derision. A high school grad with mediocre grades, he was rejected by the UCD dean of admissions, who told him to attend junior college instead, which he did. Two years later, he was not only accepted to UCD, but he also received the coveted UCD Regents Scholarship. In addition, he earned a fellowship from the International Wine and Food Society and an internship at Maison Chapoutier after graduation. Later in 2009, while working as an associate winemaker at Nickel & Nickel, Arcudi met Heidi Barrett at a winemaker’s conference; she was intrigued with his Naval experience as her father-in-law had also served on Navy submarines. After a successful blind tasting where Barrett and her team asked Arcudi to describe three wines, she took him on as an assistant, and he has been at her side ever since. In 2016 he became winemaker at Kapcsándy Family wines, where he earned two 100-point ratings on his first vintage, followed by multiple 100-point ratings.
“After ten years, I was an overnight success,” joked Arcudi, whose luscious, small production, single-vineyard Cabernet Sauvignons are made with grapes grown in distinguished vineyards throughout Napa Valley. Said Robert Parker Wine Advocate’s Lisa Perrotti-Brown of the ARCUDI wines, “These are consistently solid wines with a lot of expression and soul.”
“When I first arrived in the Valley, Napa was a walled garden, and I was an outsider,” said Arcudi. “It was one wall after the next, but as Marcus Aurelius tells us, the obstacle is the way. The walls were tests to find out if I really wanted to do this.”
Clearly, he did. The proof is in every bottle of ARCUDI.
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