“Wine and hospitality go hand in hand, especially up here,” said Marco Castellucci of the new, family lifestyle brand, Castellucci Napa Valley.
Adding a modern twist to their family’s Italian heritage, he and his sister, Maria Castellucci, have launched the brand together. Starting with a wine label, they will soon be growing it into the hospitality world as well.
“The way we’re trying to differentiate ourselves from other wineries and other brands in the valley, is that this is an Italian family traditional brand, but we are kind of the new, refreshing faces of that history,” said Maria Castellucci. “It’s kind of old world, new world.”
The winemaking tradition in the Castellucci family goes back to Italy, where their grandfather Luigi Castellucci made wine at home in a tiny village in Calabria called San Sosti. It has a population of a little more than 2,000.
Back then, as it was with many Italian families, the wine was made simply for consumption at gatherings with family and friends.
“Our grandfather on our father’s side, just like a lot of people in the village of the town, made wine in the basement,” Maria Castellucci said. “Our father recalls as a young child going down into the basement, helping with the process, or filling the jug and bringing it back up to the house.”
Both of their parents, Antonio and Rita Castellucci, were from San Sosti, but didn’t officially meet until they separately moved overseas to San Francisco in 1971.
“It was basically an arranged marriage, like, you have to meet this girl from your hometown,” said Maria Castellucci. “They didn’t know each other in their town, but they did go to first and second grade together, so it’s a really sweet story.”
Living the American dream, their father built a successful San Francisco property management and apartment rental business, Home Realty Investments, which his children, including daughter Angela, are still involved with it today. Eventually, he was looking for a second home for the family to spend the weekends, and his fond memories of making wine in the basement drew him to the Napa Valley, where they bought property in Carneros in 1989.
Like his father, Antonio Castellucci began making wine from the property’s vineyards, about 50 cases a year. There was no label; it was purely a hobby and for the family. But he did bring in a professional to make the wine, after sparking a friendship with his neighbor and notable pinot noir master Kent Rasmussen.
Later on, the Castellucci’s partnered with Jac Cole, their current winemaker.
Over the last couple of decades, the family has acquired more and more property throughout the Napa Valley. Now with four vineyards— in Carneros, St. Helena, Rutherford and on Spring Mountain — two historic B&Bs and a couple of villas under their name, Marco, 35, and Maria Castellucci, 37, are building a full-fledged brand out of their lifestyle.
“It just kind of naturally evolved into something,” said Maria Castellucci. “We had a beautiful product, our father and family is well respected and we thought, ‘how can we honor our history and our heritage?’ This is definitely the best fit.”
Two years ago, they both permanently relocated with their own families to the Napa Valley, and at the end of 2016, Castellucci Napa Valley launched its first three wines. In April, they will open their first luxury inn, the Ink House. After that, comes a second inn, a collection of villas, and a winery.
The current trio of Castellucci reds includes a St. Helena merlot and single-vineyard cabernet sauvignons from Rutherford and Spring Mountain. They were made exclusively from the family’s vineyards, but there are plans to branch out into some whites, blends and even some Italian varietals, which would give the brand a stronger connection to the Castellucci heritage.
“We started with the reds because that’s what we had made from our properties, and we’ve made amazing wines from them. But now the plan is to do a couple other varietals, a white wine, a rosé is in the works, and a cab-based red blend,” said Marco Castellucci. “Trying to tailor the wines to our brand, we’ve yet to kind of do that. I feel like the wines will evolve, and we would love to do some Italian varietals.”
Marco Castellucci and a team of three manage the vineyards, allowing the family to maintain complete control over the growing process.
They’ve released 2012 vintages of the merlot and Spring Mountain cabernet, but the Rutherford cabernet is actually a 2013 vintage. The Rutherford vineyard was in such bad shape when they bought it, that they made the decision to skip their first vintage from it all together. In just a year’s time, his team was able to turn it around.
“The 2012 wine, we didn’t even want to put our name on it because it wasn’t up to par with what we wanted,” said Marco Castellucci. “But by 2013, it had completely changed. One year to the next you wouldn’t recognize it at all. I’m really proud of what we were able to do with that vineyard to get that quality.”
Previously winemaker of Spring Mountain Winery and Charles Krug Winery, Jac Cole — part Italian himself —joined the Castellucci family as winemaker in 2010 after forming a friendship with Antonio Castellucci. The two hit it off immediately.
“They met at a festival Napa Valley function. We have a beautiful vineyard on Spring Mountain, and Jack had worked at Spring Mountain Winery for 10-plus years, so it was such a natural fit. He knew the land very, very well,” said Maria Castellucci. “It was not intended to become a business at that time.”
Currently, they custom crush at Joseph Cellars in Calistoga, but they recently secured the necessary permit to build a winery on their Rutherford property at 3 Zinfandel Lane.
In the meantime, Castellucci wines can be tasted at select local events and starting in April, at The Ink House.
Built in 1885, The Ink House was first a single-family home for Napa Valley pioneer Theron Ink and his family, before later becoming a bed and breakfast. The Castellucci’s purchased the property that’s just south of Whitehall Lane in St. Helena in 2013. Through the lengthy restoration process, they’re looking to pay homage to the building’s history, while giving it an elegant, modern makeover.
“It’s an amazing, historical property, so we wanted to preserve that, have a place to feature our wines and a national audience, since tourists come up here from all over,” said Maria Castellucci. “It was a great fit for the brand.”
Set to open this April, the boutique inn will have four rooms, each named after the wife and children of Theron Ink. One special room however, will be the Elvis room.
The King himself is known to have stayed at the bed-and-breakfast for about three months while filming “Wild in the Country” in 1960.
But sticking to the theme of luxury, the room won’t be the type of flashy, Elvis tribute room you might imagine, or find in a place like Las Vegas. Maria Castellucci promises more subtle, chic touches like blue suede slippers.
In addition to providing concierge service for their guests, the family plans to make use of the inn’s full kitchen by bringing in chefs and creating culinary experiences to pair with their wines.
For tastings, there’s also an observatory at the top of The Ink House called The Inkwell, featuring 360-degree views. According to Maria Castellucci, it’s a “natural fit for a tasting space,” and the highest point on the valley floor from which you can admire Napa Valley.
They also envision making use of an old barn on the property for more exclusive, member-only tastings. Untouched and dating to 1884, it will need some extensive TLC before it can be used, they said.
Six months ago, the Castellucci’s found a property for their second inn, another former B&B on Zinfandel Lane, which just so happens to be around the corner from their St. Helena family home and vineyard.
“It definitely has a different feel than the Ink House. We’ve got to find its identity,” said Marco Castellucci.
The siblings have even begun collecting large estates for future luxury villas, an extension of their hotels, which will require a one-month minimum stay.
“I would almost call it a luxury collection—villas, wine and hospitality, and then you never know,” said Maria Castellucci. “It’s not like a brand. Brand sounds very corporate, and we’re so the opposite of corporate.”
“We’re just trying to portray our Italian lifestyle to the outside world,” echoed Marco Castellucci.