California’s Carneros region, straddling Napa Valley and Sonoma, is home to a “Greek winery.” Fotinos Brothers Winery is owned and operated by fourth generation wine makers Chris and Tom Fotinos.
Their grandfather Christos learned the art of winemaking from his father, in their native Lefkada. Christos began cultivating grapes in Carneros – the top area for Pinot Noir – around 1950. He then taught his son Tom, who taught his sons – they grew up working in the vineyard. “Computers and controlled fermenting tanks, among other things, have changed winemaking over the years. It’s now not only an art, but a science,” said Chris. The hearts of their forefathers still beat in the vineyard. “Many of the traditional things we were taught in the vineyards with our father, we use today. We tweak it a bit because we’ve learned some things over time. My grandfather and father always said ‘a balanced vineyard creates a balanced wine.’ Computers can’t do that. You have to know your property, the vines, etc.”
In 1973, the family began producing wine for friends and family, plus some local restaurants. We’ve actually been drinking wine made from their grapes. For years, they’ve been growing and selling Pinot Noir grapes to well-known Napa wineries, including Robert Mondavi. Years ago, they sold to Christian Brothers and Acacia, among others. They also sell grapes to Domaine Carneros for their sparkling wines.
Their father Tom passed away in 1983. He’d always wanted his sons to carry on the tradition, but they were doing other things – Tom worked in construction, and Chris is a dentist. The Fotinos Brothers Winery was officially established in 2006.
Four generations of wine knowledge, modern oenology, a prime location and knowledge from local experts have been blended to create their superlative wines.
The brothers have another vineyard in Northern Napa Valley, where they produce grapes for Cabernet Sauvignon. Their Pinot Noir is a gold medal-winner – rare for a first year vintage wine. Celebrities love Fotinos Brothers wines. Actors such as James Gandolfini and Ian Ziering have favorably critiqued the wines.
The fifth generation is now learning the business. “Tom’s daughter Charley’s been riding on the tractor, learning about the vineyard since she was two. My sister’s kids too,” Chris stated.