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Fantesca Estate and Winery Winemaker Tony Arcudi

Tony Arcudi

Winemaker at Fantesca Estate & Winery

St. Helena, California

(Napa Valley)

Number of Years in the Wine Business: 11

Favorite Quote: “Nec Spe Nec Metu” which translates to "without hope, without fear" meaning pursue your dreams, without being afraid of what might go wrong

Fantesca Estate and Winery Winermaker Tony Arcudi

The path that Tony Arcudi forged to become the Associate Winemaker at Fantesca Estate & Winery was anything but traditional. Before making the life-altering decision to attend UC Davis and become a winemaker, Arcudi worked as a missile navigation engineer aboard Navy submarines and worked his way up the corporate ladder at IBM. After 20 years in computer-related fields, Arcudi made the decision to follow his personal passion for wine and move to California.

Born and raised in Boston in an Italian family, Arcudi was raised in a food-first culture. Cooking and family meals were at the heart of his home. He began cooking at such a young age, he could barely see over the edge of the pot on the stove. His passion for cooking later evolved quite naturally into an interest in wine, and beginning in his 20’s, Arcudi began to educate himself, trying wines from all over the world and reading as much as he could about them.

Arcudi experienced his seminal wine moment at a dinner party where the host poured a Chateauneuf de Pape. He smelled the wine and immediately moved to a quiet corner where he could figure out what was in the glass. Even after the party, he couldn’t stop thinking about it. Wine had moved from an interest to an obsession.

Following this pivotal glass of wine, Arcudi began making wine in his basement with California grapes and even planted a small vineyard in New England. He recognized that the only way he could improve was by working with better grapes and that meant he had to move to California. He left the security of a well-established career, friends and family, packed up his car and left for California in October of 2001.

Without SAT scores or remarkable grades from high school, Arcudi soon realized that the only way to get into UC Davis was to start with community college. He enrolled at Napa Valley College and worked in the restaurant industry and as a wine buyer while knocking off all of the prerequisite classes he needed to apply to Davis. Two and a half years later, he was accepted into the UC Davis enology program.

After graduating in 2006, Arcudi received a Fellowship from the International Wine and Food Society, which he used to travel to France and train at Maison M. Chapoutier. Upon his return to Napa Valley, he landed his first job as the assistant winemaker at Nickel & Nickel.

In 2009, Arcudi met renowned winemaker Heidi Peterson Barrett at a conference. Heidi needed an assistant for a new project and suggested he apply. After interviews that included a blind tasting with Heidi and Fantesca’s proprietors, Susan & Duane Hoff, Arcudi was appointed associate winemaker. In 2012 Arcudi’s portfolio grew to include his personal wine brand and in 2016 he accepted a position as the consulting winemaker for Kapcsandy Winery. Though his portfolio has grown, Arcudi continues to craft Fantesca’s  King Richard’s Reserve Pinot Noir and works closely with both Heidi, the family, and Fantesca’s small winemaking team.

I love my job because:

It’s an extremely fulfilling experiencing being involved in the process from the vineyard right on through to the bottle.  I love the combination of agriculture, art and science. I’m very fortunate to be doing something I love.

I got the passion to become a winemaker from:

I think it’s rooted in growing up in a food obsessed atmosphere. My earliest memories are cooking and growing the vegetables in the garden, I was making the connection at a very young age. At some point, like all of us, wine became more than just a beverage and my interest grew over time to the point where I packed up my car and drove across the country.

My favorite wine is:

Anything from Giacosa, if he made cigarettes I’d start smoking.

Favorite wine to wind down with:

Coors light, followed by White Burgundy and then some obscure Italian red I haven’t had before.

If I could drink it with anyone I would drink it with, where and why:

Paul Bocuse, in my house, I’m cooking.

You'd be surprised to know that:

I served in the Navy Submarine Service out of high school, working on missiles so I can actually say it’s not rocket science.

My favorite vintage is and why:

I like them all, each has it’s on story and character, there’s no such thing as a bad vintage; that’s one of the beauties of this business

What I'm excited about this year’s vintage is:

We finally received some rain during last year's winter months, giving the vines much needed water and nutrients, followed by another early spring allowing for a long season.

One thing I hope to accomplish in my life is / my biggest accomplishment is:

I certainly hope I accomplish paying off my mortgage! My biggest accomplishment so far is graduating from UC Davis. I’m the only one in my family to get a college degree.

During harvest, a day in my life is like:

Morning hours consist of walking and sampling in the vineyards followed by time in the winery, tasting the fermenting wines.

Favorite/Least cooperative grape to work with is:

My favorite grapes are any grape grown in a great location. For me it’s about the site. The least cooperative grape? Raisins.

Biggest obstacle I’ve ever experienced in wine-making:

Being an outsider and breaking through every step of the way.  From UC Davis to internships and employment it’s been hard earned.

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