From Naval missile navigation engineer to product manager for IBM to award-winning winemaker, Tony Arcudi’s path to Napa Valley was not of the straight and narrow variety. Arcudi, winemaker and owner of the eponymously named ARCUDI Wines, was closing in on his fourth decade when he finally decided to indulge his viticultural passion. At age 38, the Boston native hopped in his car and drove west to the land of vinous opportunity, not knowing what might await but feeling that it was a now-or-never proposition.
'I’d had a great career in the tech sector where I enjoyed promotion after promotion, but it just wasn’t for me,' said Arcudi, whose early experiences helping his mom in the kitchen inspired a love of good food and wine. 'I was doing a lot of cooking, and I bought and studied wine, but it was merely a hobby. I felt I was doing the right thing, the practical thing, by sticking with my tech job.'
A particular glass of Châteauneuf du Pape, enjoyed in his late 20s, sealed his fate. 'That glass shook me to the bone,' said Arcudi, who also serves as winemaker at Kapcsándy Family Wines in addition to assistant winemaker at Fantesca under head winemaker Heidi Barrett. 'At that moment, wine for me went from simply being a beverage to being something one can experience fully. That was my a-ha wine moment. I was living a life of acedia, longing for something purposeful and fulfilling, and then and there, I knew I was missing my calling.'
His desire to study enology and viticulture at the University of California, Davis, was met with derision. A high school grad with mediocre grades, he was told by the UCD admissions director to get his associate’s degree and try again. So he did, ultimately receiving the coveted UCD Regents Scholarship. Following his graduation from the program, Arcudi went on to earn a viticulture internship at prized Stagecoach Vineyards and a fellowship from the International Wine and Food Society. While working as an associate winemaker at Nickle & Nickle, Arcudi met Barrett at a winemaker’s conference; she was intrigued with his Naval experience, as her father-in-law had also served on Navy submarines. After a successful blind tasting where Barrett and her team asked Arcudi to describe three wines, Barrett hired him in 2009 to assist her as associate winemaker at Fantesca. He has been at her side ever since, while simultaneously launching his own labels – ARCUDI in 2012 and TERRAMAGRA by ARCUDI in 2021 – as well as serving as head winemaker at Kapcsándy, where he earned two 100-point ratings on his first vintage, followed by a third 100-point score with a 2018 vintage wine.
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