Ca' Momi Winery
Napa Valley AVA
Three Italian immigrants live la dolce vita making award-winning wine in Napa Valley.
Northern California is full of wineries owned and operated by descendants of the original Italian families that immigrated to the area over the course of the last 150 years.
Their wineries are the foundation of the modern California wine industry and their wines, in many cases, are the basis for grand stories and legends. But, a startup winery in Napa Valley is already causing heads to turn and the history books to be rewritten. The reason for this is quite simple. The owners of the new winery, Ca’ Momi Winery, are themselves Italian immigrants, and are definitely here to stay.
Ca’ Momi (House of Momi) Winery’s story begins in 1997, when Stefano and Valentina-Guolo Migotto took the step of changing their lives and moved from Italy to Napa Valley. They had owned a small winery in Italy that they sold prior to the move. Napa Valley was chosen because the Migottos felt that the area produced the finest wines in California.
Six years later, Stefan’s boyhood friend, Dario De Conti, joined the couple with the idea of forming a partnership that would eventually lead to a winemaking facility. Three years hence, Ca’ Momi Winery became a reality when the trio found warehouse space in the city of Napa that fit their needs. Ca’ Momi Winery’s first release of 4,000 cases came in 2006, just prior to the country’s first true recession that officially began in December of 2007. In the case of the fledgling winery, the timing just couldn’t have been worse.
“We were just starting and all of a sudden the ground fell out from beneath us,” explained Dario De Conti. “It was a really hard going for us all. We were all forced to work that much harder just to keep things going.” Somehow, the owners kept toiling and managed to pull through the tough times. Their idea of well made, realistically priced wines took hold and Ca’ Momi Winery survived. It now produces around 20,000 cases per year and is expected to rise to the 50,000 case level in another two years.
Some Italian ingenuity has followed Ca’ Momi Winery to Napa Valley. The winery has introduced the Nova Twist closure for some of its wines. This makes the product 100% recyclable as opposed to metal screw caps and supports the winery’s all green stratagem.
Also, the Ca’ Momi label features the original Ca’ Momi house in Veneto, Italy. It is named in honor of Momi dea Bionda, a local character who was famous for his obsession with the house, its grapes and wines. In his later years, dea Bionda rode around his property on an old motorcycle with a sidecar. He carried a rife across his lap to scare away intruders and was joined by his faithful dog, Lidia, who continued to ride in the sidecar even after she went blind. This is all true – who could make it up?
Ca’ Momi Winery sources all of its grapes from North Coast growers. About 80% of its fruit comes from selected vineyards with Napa Valley and Napa County. The remaining fruit is purchased from Sonoma, Mendocino and Lake Counties to exacting standards set by the winery.
Both Stefano Migotto and Dario DeVito serve as co-winemakers as well as co-owners and make all the important decisions regarding final blending of wines. Stefano handles the production end of the winery and Valentina serves as the marketing head as well as chief winery decision maker. Dario occupies himself with the sales aspect of Ca’ Momi Winery and the institution of the winery’s sales distribution network.
About the Vineyard
The winery owns no vineyards and prefers to source its grapes from a number of different growers, mostly in Napa Valley. “This provides us with a great deal of flexibility when sourcing grapes,” explained Stefano Migotto. “We can literally go anywhere we want to secure grapes. We are looking for the very best we can find and we don’t always need a great amount (of fruit) to make our plan for the winery work.”
While Napa Valley is the primary source for grapes, surrounding counties Sonoma, Mendocino and Lake County also provide about 20% of the Ca’ Momi Winery’s needs. Most contracts are written on short two to three year contracts that have become popular during the recent recession-plagued years. Such a supple business environment provides elasticity for both growers and wineries according to Migotto.
The Art of Fine Wine
Painted by acrylic artist Jennifer Allio who enjoys painting vineyard landscapes throughout Napa and Italian wine countries.
Stefano Migotto & Dario De Conti - Winemakers
Ca’ Momi employs a unique double winemaker team in the form of Stefano Migotto and Dario De Conti. Both are formal winemakers, and graduates of the University of Padua in Italy. The team brings a number of skills together and enjoys the luxury of multiple pallets in selecting Ca’ Momi Winery’s final blends.
Both agree that their individual tastes vary somewhat, but the pair has always been able to concur on what should be in the bottle at decision time. Stefano Migotto oversees the production of the entity’s wines, but calls on his boyhood friend at critical stages of winemaking for his input and expertise. It is a unique working relationship that really seems to jell for the partners.
More about Dario De Conti
Dario De Conti, now 41, feels as if he has been in the winery business all of his life. Since it is the Italian tradition to begin enology studies in high school, the effusive Italian immigrant literally has been in the wine business since his early teens.
‘My good friend Stefano Migotto and I both attended the same high school and then went to the University of Padua where we graduated some years later,” he reminisced. ‘We both worked for some wineries and Stefano would up owning his own prosecco winery in the Euganean Hills just north of Venice. I worked for companies that sold equipment and supplies to Italian wineries so I was able to learn a great deal about winemaking throughout most of Italy.” When Migotto and his wife Valentina summoned him to Napa Valley in 2003, Dario literally jumped at the chance. ‘Napa Valley’s reputation is worldwide,” De Conti exclaimed. ‘Who wouldn’t want to come here and start a new winery’” An obvious question: Why not make Italian varietals in Napa as a number of other wineries have done’ Wouldn’t the pair’s expertise in Italian winemaking give them a foot up on their competition’
‘Absolutely not,” De Conti remarked fiercely. ‘We didn’t come all the away from Italy to make Italian varietals. Consumers expect great Cabernet Sauvignons, Merlots and Chardonnays from Napa Valley. We knew we could make really fine wines and we wanted to be compared to the very best Napa Valley had to offer.” Such forceful feelings might be termed disadvantageous to some, but not to De Conti and his partners, Stefano and Valentina Guolo-Migotto. The very fact they have survived what was arguably the California’ wine industry’s darkest period speaks volumes to the trio’s rugged determination.
‘I have never worked so hard in my life,” De Conti admitted. ‘It was like taking small, small steps. I tried to find distributors for our wines, but few were interested. Luck was with me and I managed to find a couple and several became successful with our wines. That initial success has led to more distributors and today we are in twenty states. I am out now trying to sign up a few more, because we need representation to grow our winery. We have set a goal of 50,000 cases in the next two years, and that will take some real doing to reach.”
Throughout it all, De Conti has maintained a remarkable sense of humor. On the subject of buying land in Napa Valley: ‘We just can’t. It’s too expensive. I would die before it would all get paid off and I don’t intend on dying anytime soon.” On making wines that would complement his particular taste (big and full bodied): ‘No way. I want to make wines that fit the American palate. I can go out and buy great big Cabernets and big, buttery Chardonnays. It cost much less to it that way.”
And on the role of Valentina in the makeup of Ca’ Momi Winery: ‘It’s quite simple. Valentina calls a meeting of the partners and we discuss the topics that affect the wines. Everyone gets their say and then she decides. She knows that important decisions, like good wines, can’t be made overnight. They must be decided right now!” All kidding aside, Dario De Conti relishes his role in the emerging winery. As the accolades have evolved, he knows his role as sales director is made a bit easier. ‘It is great to get high makes on our wines,” he agreed. ‘And when great things are written about us, it is also good. But, I still need to get our message out and develop our distribution network and that’s still an incredible challenge.”
Gold Medal Wine Club feels Ca’ Momi Winery’s exceptional rise during hard times is also remarkable. We know you will agree.