Ellicock Family Winery
Napa Valley AVA
When Andy Ellicock separated from the Navy in 1981 in San Diego, he had enjoyed California enough to try and find work that would allow him to stay in the Golden State. A Chicago native, Ellicock headed north and finally found an entry-level job at the Veterans Home of California in Yountville, in the lower Napa Valley.
Today at 47, Andy Ellicott runs the picturesque facility that every serviceman who has ever seen the sprawling grounds of the Veterans Home secretly dreams of spending his retirement.
Was it an interest in wine that drew him to Northern California?
“Not at all,” Ellicott answered recently. “Both my mother and grandmother usually had wine with our holiday meals, but my own interest didn’t develop until I started living in the Napa Valley.”
One of Andy Ellicott’s first acquaintances in Napa was Larry Kirkland, a dominant landowner in the area that was also growing around 160 acres of grapes at his Kirkland Ranch in southern Napa. The two struck up a marvelous friendship that has prospered to this day.
“After we met, we started drinking wine almost every time we got together and I began to believe that we would never have enough wine to drink,” Ellicott admitted. “I think it’s something like doing what the Romans do if you are in Rome.”
When Larry Kirkland decided to build a new wine facility on his Jamieson Canyon property, he approached his close friend Andy about helping. Andy’s engineering degree from Long Beach State made him the ideal person to design Kirkland’s state-of-the-art tank and barrel operation.
“Larry had been making some really good wines for a number of years,” Ellicott explained further. He was custom crushing his grapes at a number of other wineries in the valley and finally decided that he wanted to build his own winery. When we started, I don’t think anyone thought we would end up with the type of incredible facility that we have, one that is on par with the very best wineries in any location. We went from being able to crush 100 tons to our present capacity of just over 2500 tons.”
During all of this, Andy Ellicott’s own preference for red wines also reached a pinnacle of sorts. He fined tuned his own likes and dislikes and took a number of classes from neighboring Napa Valley College and also from nearby UC Davis. Within a few years, his peers considered Andy a talented winemaker. His chief supporter was Larry Kirkland who wanted Andy to become even more involved with his new Kirkland Ranch Winery enterprise in helping make the wines the two had tasted over the years.
“It came down to the fact that I didn’t want to become an employee,” Ellicott clarified. “I was happy with overseeing the engineering and maintenance, and I still had my work at the Veterans Home that I truly enjoyed.”
By the early 1990’s, Andy also made the decision to produce his own wines. The name Anterra was chosen for the new venture, a combination of Andy and his wife Teri’s first names. Anterra’s first release was 980 cases of the incredible 1997 vintage, arguably the finest vintage ever produced in Napa Valley. It sold out quickly but his first release’s success has not changed Andy’s initial attitude toward a small production winery.
“Right now we are still at around 1,000 cases each year. Teri and I are our only employees and that will probably not change. In this way I am able to completely control my quality and buy from whom I choose and make the kind of wines I am most comfortable with.”
“Besides,” he added jokingly, “I have always felt that there is a fine line between wine as a hobby and mental illness.”
Andy and Teri Ellicott continue to use Kirkland Ranch’s custom facilities to produce their handcrafted wines that have garnered numerous critical awards since their first releases. Such limited production has caused Anterra to take a cautious path regarding distribution. Anterra’s wines can now be found in several Mid-Atlantic States as well as California, but there are no plans on the horizon for further distribution in the near future.
Andy Ellicott is the picture of a happy, contented man. He holds a position he enjoys and is perfectly pleased with his role as the proprietor of a successful micro winery.
Some larger winery principals might take note. Andy Ellicott and Anterra Wines seem to have it all together. Enjoy!