Just before California’s governor ordered a shelter-in-place regulation statewide, we visited Fortunati Vineyards’ new tasting room in the Oak Knoll district of Napa Valley, with owners Ellen Reich Luchtel and Gary Luchtel.
Derived from the Italian pronunciation of “Lucky” and the owner’s last name “Luchtel”, [say “For-too-not-ee”], we were fortunate enough (pun intended) to taste through a few of Fortunati’s ten, award-winning wines with Ellen and Gary during the show, as well as learn the history of their micro-winery.
You’ll have to tune in to hear the whole story, but neither Ellen nor Gary grew up in wine industry families. In fact, they never expected to become winery and vineyard owners. But we’re getting ahead of the story, which begins when they met in college. Gary used to bring Ellen wines wrapped in brown paper bags for blind tastings. Talk about pressure! But it looks like it all worked out some 30-plus years later…
When Ellen and Gary first moved to their Oak Knoll property to plant a vineyard more than fifteen years ago, they had no plans to build a winery. Like many, they’d grown grapes for other producers for many years while Gary made wine for their own personal consumption. But with Ellen’s marketing expertise, it wasn’t too long before their brand launched with minimal case production and has since grown exponentially with word-of-mouth about these stunning, elegant wines and personable hospitality.
Fortunati focuses on natural farming and winemaking techniques to deliver the best expression of their wines. Dry farming, natural-yeast fermentations, and other natural and sustainable practices produce wine that showcases the unique land and climate of the Napa Valley. They produce traditional Cabernet Sauvignon and Bordeaux-style blends that made Napa Valley famous, but they also believe that variety is the spice of life: They’ve enriched their portfolio with a wide diversity of varieties, including Syrah, Pinot Noir, Viognier, Malbec and more in their lineup of hand-crafted, small batch wines.
Listen in to hear about their new, stunning on-site tasting room, with views of Mount St. Helena and vineyards in all directions (including their estate vineyard). Gary also discloses a wealth of insider information on the nitty-gritty of winemaking techniques, including his “recipe” for barrel selection.
In this peek behind the curtain, two of WINE WOMEN’s co-founders (Ellen Reich Luchtel and Marcia Macomber) get to hone in on their love of great wine and share stories of the evolution of Fortunati (and the organization) while enjoying the unusually warm (and beautiful) weather mid-March in Napa Valley.
It’s clear that husband-and-wife team of Gary and Ellen Luchtel pour their hearts and souls into producing award-winning, premium wines so that their guests, club members and fans can enjoy the fruits of their labors.
Their tasting room is open by appointment (and will reopen after the COVID-19 health crisis) | Fortunati Vineyards
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Show date: March 20, 2020