Hawaii Meets Napa Valley at Tedeschi Winery

I first met Emilio Tedeschi as a wine MBA student in a class I was teaching at Sonoma State University. When he introduced himself, he said he was born in Hawaii, but was planning on taking over the family wine business in Napa Valley called Tedeschi Family Winery. At the time I thought this was rather unusual, until I recently visited Emilio at his boutique 2000-case winery near the town of Calistoga – and learned the rest of the story.

Entrance to Tedeschi Winery in Napa Valley

Arriving at Tedeschi Winery

Since this visit occurred during COVID-19, my friend Charlie and I made an advance appointment, and arrived in separate cars. The entrance to the winery looks like a Hollywood movie set with stone gate pillars and lush palm trees lining a gravel driveway. Once through the gate and around a curve, I saw a verdant green vineyards spreading out in front of me and a small parking lot. Off to the left was a welcoming outdoor patio with tables, chairs, sun umbrellas, and tall bamboo trees growing from wine barrels. Behind this was a small tasteful winery with stainless steel tanks and a wine tasting bar.

Relaxing Wine-Tasting Patio at Tedeschi Winery

Wine Picnic on the Patio

Donning my mask, I entered the patio and was greeted by Emilio with a virtual hug. He invited me to a long picnic table in a back patio where I met his father, Emil, his brother Mario and his aunt, Frances. Charlie had arrived before me, bearing a picnic basket and was laying out a beautiful spread of smoked salmon, green salad, turkey rolls, fresh fruit and appetizers on the long table. Ah, I thought, another wonderful day in California Wine Country – this is why I live here!

Lunch with Charlie (in mask), Emil (center) and Emilio (right)

Tasting of Six Tedeschi Wines

Over the course of our lunch we tried six different delicious Tedeschi Wines available online HERE:

  • 2019 Tedeschi Rosé of Valdiguie – explosive ripe berries, watermelon and crisp refreshing finish.  Made from the rare Valdiguie grape from the south of France.
  • 2018 Tedeschi Sauvignon Blanc – ripe melon and grapefruit with soft rounded palate.
  • 2018 Tedeschi Viognier – classic honey and peach notes with tantalizing fresh acid finish. Aged 8 months on neutral oak. Very well made.
  • 2019 Tedeschi Napa Gamay (Valdiguie) – like sipping on a bowl of fresh mixed berries. Delicious light red summer wine. Can also be served chilled. Also called “Napa Gamay.”
  • 2015 Tedeschi Merlot – classic merlot with red plum, spice and cedar. Well-balanced. It’s hard to find such well-made moderate alcohol merlots like this anymore.
  • 2014 Tedeschi Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc –orange blossom nose with rich honey and peach on palate. Long sweet finish. Perfect dessert wine.

Tasting with Winemaker Emilio Tedeschi at Tedeschi Winery

The Hawaiian Connection – the Rest of the Story

Over lunch I learned the “rest of the story” about the Hawaiian connection. Apparently Emilio’s father, Emil was born in Calistoga and raised in Napa Valley. He was the third generation of an Italian family that had immigrated to the US from Italy in 1919. In the 1950’s Emil’s father purchased the land on which the winery is currently located. Over the years they planted vineyards, fruit trees, vegetables, and built several family homes.

But Emil got itchy feet after high school and decided to travel the world. He became enchanted with Asia, where he met Emilio’s mother, and eventually settled on the Island of Maui in Hawaii. Here, in 1974, he co-founded a new vineyard and winery, Tedeschi Vineyards on the lower hillside of the Haleakalā Volcano. Over the years, it drew thousands of tourists to taste wine made with grapes and pineapples on Maui. However, the lure of Napa Valley and family called Emil back to California. So, he sold his share in the winery (now renamed Maui Wines), and returned to help run the family wine business.

Tedeschi Winery with Bamboo Growing in Wine Barrels

A Hint of Hawaii Lingers

After so many years in Hawaii, it is only natural that a hint of the tropic may still linger in this quiet corner of Napa Valley. I found it in the brightly colored flowers on the property, green palm trees and whispering bamboos planted in wine barrels so their roots do not run wild. It is also in the peaceful setting of the winery surrounded by vineyards where you can relax in a chair, listen to bird song, and sip delicious Napa wine. Since Hawaii and Napa Valley are two of my favorite places on earth, I was quite pleased to see this connection, and enjoy the wines of Tedeschi.

The Tedeschi Family. Photo Credit: Tedeschi Winery