Far Niente Winemaker Nicole Marchese’s captivating winemaking journey was recently featured on the podcast Wine Women. Her path to becoming a distinguished vintner began at the University of California, Davis, where she initially pursued a degree in biology. However, a fateful assignment for the school newspaper, The Aggie, changed her course as she delved into the world of viticulture and enology. Enthralled by the experience, Nicole switched majors and earned her bachelor’s degree in Viticulture & Enology from UC Davis in 2003 [EP58].
Nicole’s post-graduate journey took her to Sonoma and New Zealand, honing her winemaking skills before joining Far Niente in 2005 as an enologist. Swiftly rising through the ranks, she became the assistant winemaker and, in 2009, assumed the prestigious role of winemaker, only the fourth in the winery’s illustrious 30-year history.
During her tenure, Nicole has cultivated an intimate understanding of Far Niente’s estate vineyards, meticulously working with individual blocks to showcase their unique characteristics. Her winemaking philosophy centers on creating wines that embody elegance, depth, and the essence of place and vintage, while remaining true to the timeless Far Niente house style.
The podcast not only delved into Nicole’s winemaking journey but also unveiled the fascinating history of Far Niente. Founded in 1885 by John Benson, a California gold rush forty-niner and uncle to renowned American impressionist painter Winslow Homer, the winery thrived until Prohibition’s onset in 1919. Six decades later, Gil Nickel’s three-year restoration labor of love not only revived the winery but also earned it a place on the National Register of Historic Places.
The Far Niente name, translating to “without a care” in Italian, pays homage to a bygone era when life was simpler. The winery’s historic wine caves, dating back to the late 1800s, add to its allure. Although initially intended for extensive wine caves, they remained undeveloped during Prohibition. In 1980, Gil Nickel’s visionary pursuit led to the creation of the first cave at Far Niente, ultimately giving birth to a new industry in California wine country.
Today, the Far Niente Napa Valley wine caves, expanded over two decades to 40,000 square feet, cradle a treasure trove of Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay vintages aging gracefully in 100% French oak. The caves stand as a testament to Far Niente’s unwavering commitment to excellence and meticulous attention to detail. Nicole Marchesi’s journey in Napa Valley began in 2005 when she joined Far Niente as an Enologist, facing a bountiful harvest that marked the beginning of her steep learning curve in the world of wine. Her dedication to cultivating excellence continues to shine through in every bottle she crafts.