Winemaker/Farm Manager, Farella Vineyard
Farming is in Tom’s blood - his family farmed raisin grapes in the late 1800s.
How many years have you been in the Napa Valley wine industry?
30 years plus six years in Sonoma and stints in Burgundy and Oregon.
How did you get started in the wine business?
I grew up with a traditional Italian attitude about wine with lots of exposure as a kid growing up. I started working in the Napa Valley while attending UC Davis for a Viticulture and Enology degree that I attained in 1983.
What are the most rewarding aspects of your work?
The amazing journey of the grapes to the bottle, then out into the world with a living, evolving beverage that compliments food and brings people together.
What are the greatest challenges?
With a growing season of 200+ days, a lot of challenges come every year. As well as the stiff competition in the marketplace that makes a winemaker’s life more challenging than most people realize.
What are you doing at your winery to help preserve and enhance Napa Valley for the future? (e.g., sustainable practices, family succession plan, community service, etc.)
We have been farming sustainably and now organically for decades and the interface between vineyard and oak forest make our location incredibly vibrant with plant and animal life. Our focus has always been based on preserving our surroundings and minimizing inputs for long-term health of the land.
If you weren't a Napa Valley vintner, what would you be doing?
Writer, cartographer, photographer, environmental scientist, meteorologist, backcountry guide – most of which I still get to do.
If you could open a bottle of your wine and share it with any three people (living or not), who would they be?
Wallace Stegner, Barry Lopez, Kate Wolf.
What advice would you offer someone trying to get into the Napa Valley wine industry?
Come with passion and never stop learning.
What's one thing people would be surprised to know about you?
I’m a fifth generation Californian with family that farmed raisin grapes south of Fresno in the late 1800s. I was able to work a season there after my time at UC Davis but, unfortunately for the family, my calling was elsewhere – the Napa Valley.