Home Wine Business Editorial A Toast to Father & Daughter Winemaking Teams

A Toast to Father & Daughter Winemaking Teams


by Laura Ness

There’s a new generation in wine. Fathers and Sons working together is nothing new and certainly not exclusive to the wine industry, but women are increasingly breaking into wine, and some of them come from within established wine families.

Just in time for the holidays, we’d like to share some heartwarming stories about fathers and daughters that are making a difference in the wine business. Let’s meet Marc Mondavi and his daughters, Alycia and Angelina from Aloft Wines, along with Chuck Wagner and his daughter Jenny (Caymus and Emmolo), Kurt Schoeneman and his daughter, Sara, her husband Guy Pacurar and their daughter, Ella (Fathers & Daughters).

The Mondavi’s: A Lofty New Chapter in a Long Storied History

Mondavi photo - Marc Peter and Alycia

The Mondavi family has been making wine for over 70 years in the Napa Valley. With the purchase of 25 acres on Howell Mountain, Marc Mondavi created a new boutique brand called “Aloft,” focusing on premium single vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon. Jim Barbour manages the property and Thomas Rivers Brown makes the wine. Since 2008, they’ve made 300 – 450 cases. Marc asked his daughter, Alycia to join the team and manage the brand in 2008.

We wondered about the unique family dynamics of both the father-daughter relationship and the sister-sister relationship. We asked her what make this project fun and what makes it challenging. 

Alycia Mondavi: Working together as a family has its advantages and its challenges.  Each of us brings to the table different strengths to produce the best wines we possibly can.  Although we have our occasional debates, we work well together knowing how to brainstorm off each other’s ideas, play with new concepts, or simply push each other’s buttons.  In the end we are always thrilled with outcome.

How do you divide up roles and responsibilities?

AM: The roles for Aloft have been divided based on strengths we each can offer.  My father Marc, had the vision of the brand and offers his years of managerial skills as well as his industry connections.  Marc knew Aloft needed a winemaker that understood Howell Mountain fruit and could make a wine that best showcased our Cold Springs property.  My sister Angelina, currently Assistant Winemaker for Hundred Acre, is brought in regularly to taste the wine as well as partner with my father and Thomas to create our Aloft Premiere Napa Valley 5 case Lot each year.  After Thomas bottles Aloft, I step in to manage packaging, marketing, and sales.

Has the experience brought you closer together as a family?

AM: We have always been a close family, however, Aloft has definitely taught us how to work together effectively.  With similar business goals, we constantly strive to better each other and work on the bigger picture.

Is there something unique that you feel your wine brings to the world?

AM: Although a small project, Aloft is the vision of family collaboration.  My father, sister and I have learned under the tutelage of Father and Grandfather Peter Mondavi Sr. Soon to be 101, Peter Sr. has taught each of us the foundation of the family business and even further, the foundation of the wine industry.  Aloft is the result of nurturing our life lessons and a nod to tradition.

Is there an observation or discovery that you would like to share from working with your father/sister that other people might learn from?

AM: Listen!  Have healthy debates, but listening will help to strengthen any team.

The Wagners: A Family Brimming with Talent and Brands

Wagner Family WineMost have heard of Caymus, Meoimi and Belle Glos, names that make frequent appearances on wine lists and in wine shops everywhere, thanks to the efforts of Patriarch, Chuck Wagner, who started the brand in 1972 along with his father Charlie. Later, Chuck’s sons, Joe (Belle Glos) and Charlie (Mer Soleil and SILVER), became significant forces in the wine world with their own brands. It was inevitable that his daughter, Jenny, too, would have her own stage.

We asked Jenny Wagner to tell us the back story behind Emmolo. 

Jenny Wagner: Emmolo started with my Mom’s side of the family – it’s my Mom’s maiden name. The Emmolos came from Sicily to the Napa Valley in 1923, purchasing property in Rutherford and starting a rootstock nursery called Emmolo Nursery. My grandfather, Frank Emmolo, managed the business from the 1950s to the early 2000’s, being the main purveyor of quality rootstocks in Napa Valley during that time. My Mom, Cheryl Emmolo, started the Emmolo wine brand in 1994, producing Merlot and Sauvignon Blanc from our Emmolo family vineyards in Rutherford and Oak Knoll.

By 2011, I had been working under the winemaking team at Caymus, and my Mom was ready to hand over the reigns at Emmolo. The timing was right. I re-launched Emmolo as part of Wagner Family of Wine and have continued making Merlot and Sauvignon Blanc from my grandparent’s vineyards. I learned how to make wine from hands-on experience working alongside my dad and brothers, just as they had done, and I’m still learning and trying out new ways of doing things both in the vineyards and the winery to make the best wine I possibly can.

What are some of the unique family dynamics of the father-daughter relationship? 

JW: I start out most days having a home cooked breakfast at my dad’s house. During that time we chat about my work for the day, and I can take some time to ask my dad any questions I might have, whether it be about production or marketing. It’s not all work talk – we always take a few minutes to play a game of cards before I head out the door! I love working with family. I feel fortunate to have my family as resources and role models when it comes to wine making. I take every opportunity I can to learn from my dad. We have a great relationship! My brothers and I each are responsible for our own wines and varieties, keeping some lighthearted competition, but we are all on our own page and not competing directly.

How do you divide up roles and responsibilities?

JW: We are all responsible for our own wines and varieties. I make Merlot and Sauvignon Blanc under Emmolo, Charlie makes Chardonnays under Mer Soleil, and Joey makes Pinot Noirs under Belle Glos. Before bottling I like to have my dad and brothers taste my final blends to get their feedback. We are not collectively working on one single project together, which makes it easy to keep our roles and responsibilities separate.

How has the experience of being in the same business brought you closer together as a family?

JW: Seeing each other around the winery almost every day keeps us all close. We jokingly give each other a hard time once in a while, but we are all there to support each other. When working the market, we all represent each others’ wines as part of the Wagner Family of Wine. I think we all feel fortunate that our forefathers ended up in the beautiful Napa Valley and made wine for many generations. Our goal is to continue the family business for generations to come.

Is there something unique that you feel your wines and Emmolo label brings to the world?

JW: My goal is to make unique wines, different from other Napa Valley Merlots and Sauvignon Blancs. As far as Merlot, I strive to make a concentrated, rich, ripe style that is not what people typically expect from a California merlot. I love Sancerres from the Loire Valley – those wines inspire me to make Sauvignon Blanc that is minerality-driven, has bright acidity, crisp, light, and non-herbaceous. I hope that people enjoy the Emmolo wines as being unique from other producers.

Is there an observation or discovery that you would like to share from working with your father?

JW: The importance of listening. I have learned so much from my dad just by listening to him and taking in his wealth of knowledge when it comes to farming vines and winemaking. Aside from farming and winemaking, my dad loves genealogy. He loves learning stories about our first ancestors that settled in the Napa Valley in 1857. I have also learned to take pride in our pioneering ancestors who farmed the land that we farm today and are the reason why we are here in the Napa Valley. My dad has always been a hands-on farmer and winemaker without any professional training. He has passed down that innovative thinking to me and my brothers. We take that to heart and aren’t afraid to try new experiments that can’t be found in a book.

Every time I hop in my dad’s truck and we take a ride around the vineyards I listen and learn…

We asked Chuck Wagner to add his perspective.

Chuck Wagner

What are some of the unique family dynamics of the father-daughter relationship? 

CW: I get to see my adult kids more than most people because we work together. That’s a blessing. Jenny comes over almost every day for breakfast and we get to spend time together before work starts and get the chance to talk about work or anything really. The challenge is knowing when to give advice and when to back off and give my kids their space. I worked with my parents for many years when we started Caymus and got to know them as co-workers. When I’m working with my kids, I try to remember how my parents treated me and helped me get started. They were always supportive of me and I try to be supportive of my kids in the same way.

How do you divide up roles and responsibilities?

CW: Everyone has their own wine brand, runs their own company and makes their own decisions. This gives us the benefits of being close, but not too close. We have the chance to support each other and we find we get the most out of working as a family this way.

How has the experience of being in the same business brought you closer together as a family?

CW: Sheer proximity helps us keep close. Jenny probably didn’t mention this, but we share an office and sit about 6 feet from one another. She’s a very new mom, so we’re fixing up the room next door to our office for a nursery for my grandson.  That’s about as close as it gets.

And we all have the same goal – making great wine. We’re competitive with each other in a healthy way, but we all have each others’ back and help each other out. Because we run a business together – we have the same employees, equipment, offices – our future is connected.

Is there something unique that you feel your wines and Emmolo label bring to the world?

CW: I do believe that Caymus has created a signature style of Cabernet Sauvignon. Our climate is second to none for the development and ripening of Cabernet grapes. These unique conditions have led us away from the Bordeaux style, which is generally known for using grapes that are less ripe and for having harsher tannins and sharper acidity. I’m very excited about what Jenny is creating with Emmolo. Both her wines are making their mark – and her Merlot especially is a seriously good wine that I would even call great.

Is there an observation or discovery that you would like to share from working with your daughter that other people might learn from?

CW: It’s great for me to see Jenny’s enthusiasm for farming and winemaking and her fresh perspective on the wine world. I’ve learned that daughters seem to listen more than sons. The boys want to do it their own way, but Jenny will ask me for advice and listen to it.

As a father, seeing Jenny’s work ethic, dedication, and sheer will to make a great wine makes me proud. I work with her and see those qualities day in and day out.  Jenny and her brothers are determined to forge their own paths and work hard at it.  Encouraging that independence is paying off in seeing them start to have their own success.

A Multi-Generational Label: Fathers & Daughters Wines, Anderson Valley

EllaG&SinQuad-eThough a relative newcomer in the world of wine, Fathers & Daughters proprietor, Guy Pacurar (who owns Brewery Gulch Inn) and his wife Sarah, daughter of Ferrington Vineyard owner/grower Kurt Schoeneman, have a solid foundation in their vineyard source. Ferrington Vineyard in Anderson Valley has long been providing premium Pinot to producers like Williams Seylem. When Guy and Sarah’s daughter, Ella, was born on July 23, 2012, they decided to create a special label. With Ella in a backpack, they rose at 4AM to pick grapes for their first vintage of Pinot. Says Pacurar, “We’re embarking on a multi-generational adventure, exploring three of the best things in life: Fathers, daughters and wine.”

We asked about the dynamics of this multi-generational father-daughter project.

Guy Pacurar: Sarah helped her dad find the vineyard in 1996. While Kurt developed Ferrington, it was Sarah who helped bring a family wine crafted from the Ferrington grapes to market. Sarah’s skills at marketing blend well with Kurt’s business acumen.

What makes it challenging?

GP: Each of the Fathers & Daughters involved are dynamic individuals with differing perspectives. Blending the different perspectives into a unified approach is probably the biggest challenge, but has also yielded the greatest result.

Is there something unique that you feel your wines bring to the world?

GP: When we came together to decide on a name for the brand, the collaboration of fathers and daughters made the choice apparent. We had no idea at the time how much that name would resonate with people. When we first poured at the Anderson Valley Pinot Festival, and then LA Winefest, fathers and daughters alike were drawn to our table because of the name and the memories of their relationships that it triggered.

Is there an observation or discovery that you would like to share?

GP: The value of incorporating different perspectives creates a greater end result.

The fingerprints of each of us are all over our wine. Much like wine, relationships mature and evolve over time, and the relationship between a father and daughter, like the fruit from the Ferrington vineyard, is both singular and special. This collaboration is a labor of love with the ultimate goal being the production of small quantities of fine wine and the creation of a legacy business that can be passed down through the generations.

While Ella seems more interested in her yellow sandals, yellow Porsche Matchbox car and her embroidered beanbag pillow than the vineyard at present, one figures that with her parents and grandparents vibrant interest in food, wine and hospitality, she will one day proudly pick and then pour, the wine that bears her name, “Ella’s Reserve” Pinot Noir.

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  1. It is wonderful to see more females in positions of leadership in family wineries – what a terrific growing trend! The support from one generation to the next is inspiring. Genders see wine differently, and it is of tremendous value to have different perspectives throughout the winemaking, marketing, and selling processes.

  2. My daughter came to work with me well over a year ago and she’s been an invaluable partner. Her ideas and vision have really changed how our company works, from our website and advertising to the fresh perspective she brings to building partnerships with clients. Besides, it’s a lot more fun and she does most of the driving on business trips.
    Great article-

  3. Oregon also reflects this generational facet of father-daughter winemaking teams, Dick and Luisa Ponzi and us (Harry and Wynne Peterson-Nedry) being two that come to mind. Perfect, for all the right and predictable reasons!

  4. You also need to add the Daddy-Daughter team at Kiepersol Winery in Texas along with Kim McPherson at McPherson Winery in Texas and his daughter in California. I had hoped to go in that direction, but I am only a wine columnist. Daughter went into beer. Each to his own!

  5. In the 70’s, Hank Battjes was making wine in his Palo Alto basement. His daughter, Bryna, was 10.
    In the 80’s Bryna visited the new vineyard pushing caps with her feet. (Craig Boeger had planted vines earlier in the 70’s on the property and about that time Boeger’s wines were served in the White House. Now the second generation there, Justin, is carrying on.)
    Hank died suddenly in 2012 and Bryna – who had just moved in order to eventually take over – had a new job.
    In 2014 Gold Hill’s Viognier won Best in Class, (California State Fair) and in 2015, Gold Hill’s Rose won Best in Class, (Pink) and the Cal Bear Hank had sought for decades.
    Sexism is a secondary aspect to a discussion on quality. Whether female or male, genetics seem to be important.


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