Napa Valley AVA
94 Points - Wine & Spirits magazine
When Duane and Susan Hoff were college sweethearts at the University of Minnesota several decades ago, neither expected their paths would take them near the Napa Valley. During their school careers, Susan worked part time for her father’s small stereo company in Minneapolis and Duane spent his time concentrating on graduating. After graduation the pair was married and Susan worked full time for the company that had now grown to twelve stores. Duane wasn’t ready for a job with his father in law and pursued other business opportunities.
After the birth of the couple’s second child, Duane was once again afforded the chance to work for the family’s company that had now grown to more than fifty stores. The rest is history and the chain is now called Best Buy, one of the largest electronic retailers in the world.
During that time, Duane served as director of development, a job that called for him to frequently visit the far west, and California in particular. The couple began taking long weekends in the California wine country and in particular, the incredible Napa Valley. “We were lucky to be exposed to some really wonderful wines and soon developed a specific liking for mountain-grown cabernets,” Duane Hoff confided. It was simply a matter of taste and we both really liked mountain-grown cabs.”
After numerous visits, the couple decided during the early 1990’s that a second home in Napa might satisfy their expanding appetite for wines. They began searching for property and looked at more than a dozen potential sites for the next decade without success until in 2004, a friend mentioned a project on Spring Mountain that had recently been put on the market.
Their friend soon as he tasted the wine he began shaking his head. We knew it was the place for us.”
The Hoffs named their new winery Fantesca Estate and Winery after a fun-loving, frolicking female character of early Italian traveling comedy troupes of the Renaissance. The unbottled cabernet sauvignon was made into eight hundred cases and became Fantesca’s first release that drew thunderous raves from the press and an extremely high rating from one of the country’s top wine critics. The production at Fantesca remains at the same level today and will remain so for the foreseeable future. Of the 56 acres that comprise Fantesca Estate, only nine are plantable. Being mountain fruit, Fantesca’s estate vineyards produce extremely low yields. Duane Hoff says he will consider buying or leasing additional vineyards as he does with Fantesca’s chardonnay, but that move is in the future.
His latest project is one that will warm the hearts of wine enthusiasts throughout the world.
Scheduled to debut sometime in early may, Fantesca’s new project is an online venture called adoptagrape.com that allows individuals to actually adopt a specific grape on one of Fantesca’s vines for the duration of the plant’s annual cycle. The new foster parent will be able to follow the entire maturation process and will be asked to make decisions that might affect the actual outcome of the grape’s growth process.
This is great fodder for anyone who has ever dreamed of owning their own Napa Valley vineyards, but has been unable to see their dreams reach fruition. “We want to involve as many people as possible,” Hoff explained. “We hope people would enjoy the chance of being part of the growing process. Fantesca’s part in the entire scheme of things will be extremely low key. This isn’t being done for marketing purposes, we truly would like to get interested people involved.”
Even the Hoff’s youngsters, Tyler and Chelsea, have already started to follow in their parent’s footsteps, performing a myriad of jobs during harvest and around the winery. That fact sits well with Duane and Susan Hoff, who now consider Napa Valley their home.