The Fantesca Story: A Boutique Spring Mountain Winery
Fantesca Estate & Winery is rich with history, having originally been in the dowry of Caroline Bale when she married Charles Krug in 1860. Even then, the property was recognized as prime mountain vineyard land and the perfect place for a Spring Mountain winery. In 1889, a Cabernet made by Hannah Weinberger, one of the earliest female winemakers, won one of the first awards for a wine from the Napa Valley.
Susan and Duane Hoff were college sweethearts at the University of Minnesota and have been happily married since 1988. Cupid was not finished with Susan and Duane, however: in many subsequent vacations to the Napa Valley over the years, the Hoffs fell in love with the possibilities that Napa Valley presented to them.
As top executives holding frenetically fast-paced jobs at Best Buy, Susan and Duane began to seek their next careers, knowing that they wanted to turn to a slightly slower pace of life and enjoy the gratification of a job well done. They also dreamed of having a family business in which their two children, Taylor and Chelsea, could get involved in everything from designing a wine label to harvesting the grapes. It thrilled them to envision their children having a hand in making the wine that could someday be served at their weddings.
Susan and Duane started looking for properties with which to found a winery. They were soon introduced to Cary Gott, a wine industry veteran of over 35 years who was to become their trusted business advisor and a close friend. They had looked at more than a dozen properties by the time Gott learned that a property in the highly-regarded Spring Mountain District was for sale. The Hoffs were immediately taken with the house, vistas and gardens – so much so that when recounting their first visit, Duane laughed, and said, "I don’t want to see anymore of the house; I want to taste the wine, because if the quality of the wine isn’t there, we can’t purchase the house." Luckily for the Hoffs, the wine quality was in the barrel, and they closed on the property in February 2004, thus founding their Spring Mountain winery.
Indeed, the Hoff’s goal for any property they purchased was to produce nothing less than world-class wines. To accomplish this objective, the Minneapolis natives teamed up with noted Napa father-son winemaking duo Nils and Kirk Venge to craft their wines. As a result, their 1000-case Spring Mountain District winery released its first wines in the fall of 2005 – the 2002 Fantesca Spring Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon and the 2004 Chardonnay from the Los Carneros District.
From those early days, Susan and Duane have continually honored their commitment to producing wines that Mrs. Weinberger would be proud of in their estate vineyard, wine cave, and winery. Indeed, both care very deeply about the caliber of the wines they produce, and each is actively involved in the grape-growing and winemaking process. Both know, however, that making world-class wine must involve world-class people, and thus it is the people of Fantesca Estate & Winery (together with their faithful companions) who apply the same lively spirit and passion for winemaking that defined Mrs. Weinberger’s remarkable achievement.
In early 2008, this spirit came full circle as Fantesca proudly welcomed an exciting new addition to their winemaking team, veteran winemaker Heidi Peterson Barrett, whose stellar Napa Valley resume includes winemaking stints at Screaming Eagle, Dalla Valle, and her own La Sirena.
The same passion for producing great wines is also evident in Fantesca’s commitment to the arts: Susan and Duane are regular contributors to a number of community art and theater programs. Indeed, Susan and Duane have followed their muse. While both enjoy the hard work that comes with owning a Spring Mountain winery, they allow plenty of room for fun, as anyone who has pulled a cork from a Fantesca wine will know.
From the Fall grape harvest to theatrical performances to hands-on wine and food tasting courses, there is much to savor in the Fantesca experience, as you can see for yourself in this photo gallery.