Albeno Munari Winery
Sierra Foothills AVA
A rustic gem within California with a very limited production.
The history of this smallish winery nestled in the appealing Sierra Foothills of California’s Calaveras County is a study in rugged determination. Begun as Stevenot Winery in 1978, the operation quickly took hold and became one of the area’s leading boutique wineries. Located in the quaint gold rush town of Murphys, the Stevenot name and brand soon became one of the most associated brands of the sprawling Sierra Foothills growing area.
In 2000, Jack and Al Munari purchased the winery and vineyards and changed its name to Albeno Munari Winery. The existing Stevenot brand and inventory were sold off and continue today under separate ownership.
Jack Munari was formerly a successful real estate developer who wanted to try his hand at owning an operating winery. After several unsuccessful years, it became apparent that, despite the place’s excellent vineyards and winery, it was necessary to place the project into bankruptcy..
Enter the Scotto Family. With their origins in the area around Naples, Italy, the Scottos have been in various aspects of the wine business for five generations. With father Anthony Scotto serving as consultant, daughter Natalie, 27, bought Albeno Munari Winery from the bankruptcy. Through the original Albeno Munari Winery’s existence, Anthony Scotto and Jack Munari had become close friends. Anthony carefully scrutinized the operating history of the venture and saw the potential that still existed in the buildings and property. What’s more, Natalie was already operating her own successful wine wholesale business in Northern California and employing eighteen sales people in the process. It seemed all too clear to Scotto that the parameters already existed to make Albeno Munari Winery a success.
Another son, Paul Scotto, 33, was available to handle the winemaking responsibilities for the new winery. A UC Davis graduate, Scotto also owned and operated another winery in nearby Plymouth, CA, less than an hour’s drive from the Murphys location.
This year, Albeno Munari Winery will produce around 6,500 cases of wine, the greater portion of which will be sold throughout Northern California. There is a plan underway to increase the winery’s leased vineyards or purchase outright additional vineyard land from nearby growers. The winery has forty acres of planted vineyards that would eventually become estate fruit if successful.
“The way is clear for Albeno Munari Winery to grow,” commented Anthony Scotto in a recent interview. “Just how much depends on a number of factors and the success my children enjoy with the place. They have all carefully considered all the options and have made some really significant decisions. All that remains is to see how all the new wines are received by the general consuming public.”
With all the parts seemingly in place, Albeno Munari Winery seems poised to become a significant player in Calaveras County. Since the area is a marvelous destination spot for visitors and nature seekers alike, the new operation seems to be the right business that is located in a perfect spot.
It is a pleasure for Gold Medal Wine Club to introduce the wines of Albeno Munari winery to our Gold Wine Club members. We trust it will be a memorable experience.
About the Vineyard
The growing area that comprises the Sierra Foothills and Calaveras County is among the most storied in California’s exciting history. Much of the gold recovered in the 1849 rush came from this area and with it a wonderful heritage. Grape growing was around at that time and still is. Numerous small vineyards and wineries dot the bucolic landscape that is a joy to the eye as well as the palate. Since the grapes grow at higher altitudes in the foothills, the quality of fruit produced in the Sierra Foothills AVA rivals much of its better-known western and northern neighbors.
Most grape varietals are grown here and a number of Italian varietals have recently been planted with seemingly good success. There is also an abundance of older vines throughout the area, a fact that lends itself to some incredibly well produced wines.
The Art of Fine Wine
Painted by Guy Buffet. The painting depicts a family gathered to enjoy the fruitful labor of their grape harvest.
Paul Scotto - Winemaker
Paul Scotto, 33, is the winemaker for his sister Natalie at her Albeno Munari Winery. Scotto is a part of the fourth generation of his family to be involved in the wine business. He is a graduate of the much-respected University of California Davis and holds dual degrees in winemaking and business management of wineries and vineyards.
Scotto is very familiar with fruit emanating from the Sierra Foothills, and also owns and operates his own small winery, Sera Fina Cellars, in nearby Plymouth. Scotto brings a classical approach to winemaking at Albeno Munari Winery and is in the process of developing additional varietals for the operation.
Anthony Scotto, Jr.
While he doesn’t actually own the Albeno Munari Winery, it is safe to say the place wouldn’t exist without his presence or foresight.
Anthony Scotto, Jr. is 56, and the father of numerous sons and daughters (4) that are involved in various aspects of the wine industry. His daughter, Natalie Scotto, is the owner of Albeno Munari Winery, this month’s Gold Wine Club selection. How the Scotto Family became involved in the winery is poignant and real, and makes for an excellent narrative. More than a decade ago, Anthony Scotto, who serves as a sales and marketing consultant, became friends with Jack Munari. Munari had purchased the old Stevenot Winery and needed help with his new venture.
‘Jack was from a different profession (real estate) and knew little about the wine business. On the other hand, my family has been in wine for many decades. Jack poured his heart and soul into the place, but just couldn’t make it work. Every case he sold was at a loss and after a while, the situation became hopeless. He was forced into bankruptcy and the place almost ceased to exist.
‘I took a look and saw that it had possibilities. I told my daughter about it and she was interested. I made her talk to her Mom (Gracie) and we finally got the deal done.” Here’s the good part: Scotto never financed the winery deal — he made Natalie do it herself.
‘That way she had to work harder to become successful. I used the same formula with all my kids. I want them to set an example by taking a leadership role. The more sweat and toil they provide, the more successful they will be. I could have bought the winery myself, but early on in my business career, I made it a rule to never hire family. It simply doesn’t work well.” Scotto conceded that his family had always been interested in the wine business. ‘It all started in Italy but, in California, for some reason, our connection to wine continued to feed their curiosity. They all wanted to be involved in my business successes, and I always had the ability to empower people who came across my path.” Scotto also was instrumental in involving his son Paul in winemaking for the new Albeno Munari Winery.
‘Paul was basically down the road in Plymouth. He is a truly gifted winemaker that can make a difference in the quality of wines. The chance for those two working together was really something. Paul and Natalie’s creative juices started flowing and the wines that were produced were simply wonderful.” Speaking of Gracie Scotto, her husband is quick to hand her numerous accolades for her development of the family. In fact, he says that she is actually the cornerstone of the family’s success.
‘Gracie is rock solid, down to earth. We now have nine grandkids and she’s with them at every opportunity. She has laid a marvelous foundation for our children to grow from, one that starts with their feet solidly on the ground.” Anthony Scotto still consults with a variety of clients on a daily basis and is high on a new project that will be located at one of the family’s wineries in Lodi. The new venture involves a major restaurant and a wine bar that should dominate that part of the Central Valley. It is but the latest spoke in an ever-widening circle.
What the future holds for the Scotto Family and their myriad of wine entities is still to be decided, but the basics for their success are already in place. Good planning and excellent carry through give them a distinct advantage in the ever-competitive wine world.
Chances are you will encounter one or more of Anthony Scotto’s family of wines on your journey through the wine world. We doubt if you will ever be disappointed.