Our Story

Jeff Fontanella’s winemaking story begins years ago in the halls of UC Davis. Jeff originally had aspirations of going to medical school while in college but discovered a love for the science and art of winemaking in the enology and viticulture department at Davis. It was a course in winemaking taken early on that ignited in him a new passion. This singular event led him to abandon thoughts of medical school to pursue a different calling, a career in winemaking. Jeff went on to cut his winemaking teeth in the cellars of Opus One and ZD.

In the Spring of 2000, Jeff met his future wife at a Jimmy Buffett concert. Armed with a magnum of ZD Chardonnay, Jeff charmed his way into the heart of an aspiring young attorney who eventually would be his partner in life and business. In 2003, Jeff and Karen married and started their journey toward what would become Fontanella Family Winery.

In the Fall of 2005, a beautiful property on Mt. Veeder caught their eyes and captured their hearts. On November 2, 2005, they purchased the 26-acre property on Partrick Road and began to build their winery, brand, and the Fontanella Family. This journey was not without some major setbacks, including a 6.0 earthquake and the Partrick/Nuns fire. However, despite the setbacks, The Fontanella Family Winery emerged “Unbreakable.”

Meet the Family

Owner Jeff Fontanella

Jeff Fontanella

Owner/ Winemaker

“Great wines are grown. It takes creativity to envision the wine in the field, and to capture the potential of that vintage in the bottle. It’s about confidence and the intimate knowledge of unique vineyards. Sometimes a bit of luck helps… when wouldn’t it?”

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After majoring in Viticulture and Enology at the University of California at Davis, Jeff completed his first harvest at Opus One in 1998 – and he’s been making wine in the Napa Valley ever since. When the Fontanellas opened their own winery in 2008, Jeff brought the experience he’d accumulated over his years spent at Opus One, ZD, and Saddleback to bring his own dream to fruition. Today, he shepherds the grapes from bud-break to bottle, crafting wines in his own signature style: wines that are approachable, balanced, and premium – without pretense.

Karen Fontanella

Owner

“Running our winery is not work for me, it’s just who we are and what we do. We are so fortunate to do what we love everyday and work with an amazing team of passionate, hard-working, dedicated people.”

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When Karen graduated with a law degree from the University of San Diego in 2000, never in her wildest dreams did she imagine she’d be running a winery in Napa one day. However, her professional experience in business development, land use, and commercial real estate – coupled with her family spirit of entrepreneurship – armed Karen with the exact tools she uses today to run the daily business of Fontanella Family Winery. When she’s not seeing to the day-to-day operations of the winery, Karen spends her time sitting on non-profit boards and running her two sons, John and Andrew, around.

Owner Karen Fontanella
Owner Karen Fontanella

Karen Fontanella

Owner

“Running our winery is not work for me, it’s just who we are and what we do. We are so fortunate to do what we love everyday and work with an amazing team of passionate, hard-working, dedicated people.”

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When Karen graduated with a law degree from the University of San Diego in 2000, never in her wildest dreams did she imagine she’d be running a winery in Napa one day. However, her professional experience in business development, land use, and commercial real estate – coupled with her family spirit of entrepreneurship – armed Karen with the exact tools she uses today to run the daily business of Fontanella Family Winery. When she’s not seeing to the day-to-day operations of the winery, you can find Karen running her two sons, John and Andrew around. Or enjoying a glass of Chardonnay on the patio with Jeff.

The Director of Sales & Wine Club Ryan Silva

Ryan Silva

Director of Sales & Wine Club
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Ryan joins Fontanella with more than 18 years’ experience in a variety of roles in the wine industry. From managing Hospitality and Direct to Consumer sales, assisting with harvest and winemaking activities, and even driving tractors and forklifts, his experience is well-rounded. Ryan is a Napa native, having grown up just down the road from Fontanella and began his appreciation of wine at a young age (responsibly, of course). Ryan holds a Certified Specialist of Wine credential and is fascinated by the history of the Napa Valley and winemaking. Ryan is a proud girl-dad with daughters Hannah and Lillian.

The Queen of all Trades Rachel Bowers

Rachel Bowers

Queen of all Trades
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While studying art in Santa Cruz, Rachel took a part-time tasting room job at a local winery just to make a few extra bucks and never looked back! Fast forward a couple years, she picked up and moved to Napa to pursue a career in wine. Starting as hospitality at Fontanella, Rachel now runs the back of show and bosses everyone around (just kidding). She’s our Queen of all Trades in the office – you got the questions, she’s got the answers. When she’s not taking care of our work family, she is taking care of new baby Elliott (born in October 2020) and kitties McCovey and Daphne.

Tasting Room Manager Laura McLean

Laura McLean

Tasting Room Manager
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While studying music in her hometown of San Diego, Laura made the leap to the wine industry at the tender age of 22. Quickly proving herself as a natural leader, Laura grew to oversee the wine and hospitality programs at some of San Diego’s most beloved wine destinations. After spending a year abroad in Australia, New Zealand, and Indonesia, Laura returned home, conquering the WSET Advanced and CSW exams. Laura made the pilgrimage to Napa in 2012, where she honed her hospitality and management skills at Chappellet, Staglin, and Opus One before joining the fabulous team at Fontanella Family Winery. Laura lives in Napa with her husband Scott and their two cats, Smokey and Bee.

Enologist/Production Assistant Andrew Thomas

Andrew Thomas

Enologist/ Production Assistant
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Self-proclaimed “Cork Dork” Andrew has done it all. Falling into a harvest position in 2014, he knew he wanted to do anything and everything in the wine industry. After his first harvest, he went on to run a wine program at a prestigious steakhouse at the age of 22. Still having the winemaking itch, he returned to Napa to learn and work under some of the most renowned winemakers before landing at Fontanella. Using his brains (as well as his brawn), he keeps things moving in the cellar and lab.

The cellar crew Octavio and Rigoberto

Octavio Rodriguez & Rigoberto Olivera

Cellar Crew
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Octavio (“Tabio” to us) has been with us the longest – since 2010. When he’s not taking apart and rebuilding the bottling line, hunting gophers, or filling barrels, he’s playing soccer with his friends and chasing his 3 beautiful children around.

Rigoberto brings a broad range of skills to our team: Rigo can drive a tractor, unclog a storm drain, maintain our estate vineyard – and his big smile and infectious laugh endeared him to us immediately. He is the proud dad to two darling children.

Fontanella Four Leggers

Fontanella Four Leggers

Hobie - Director of First Impressions

It was a twist of fate that we were lucky enough to bring Hobie into our family in the Summer of 2019.  A pedigreed Golden Retriever, her genuine grin and endearing nudges are irresistible. She is truly the heart of our wine family.

Trigger - GM (General Mischief)

Trigger is Hobie’s half-sister, and where Hobie is sweet and mellow, Trigger is a spitfire! Named both for her front white paw (her trigger finger!) and her spunk, you’ll find her getting into everything she shouldn’t!

Piper - Tiny Dictator

Meet Piper – or, as we call her, the Tiny Dictator. Don’t let her size or her demure personality fool you…she quickly became the alpha in our house when she joined us in the summer of 2016 (she even bosses Jeff around!).

Winery Timeline