A life as an outsider
led to a passion nurtured.
And a dream followed.
Tony Arcudi worked first as a missile navigation engineer aboard Navy
submarines and later as a product manager in the tech sector. His transition to
winemaker– working with wine greats like Heidi Barrett and famed Maison M
Chapoutier– happened later in life.
It’s a story that is still just beginning, evidenced by 100 point scores for his
work at Kapcsandy Family Winery and the launch of his own wine brand.
Tony grew up in the Boston area, where his parents inspired in him a love of
cooking, gardening and good food. “My earliest memories are cooking with my
Mom and working in my father’s big garden.”
“I walked the rows of vines every day for the entire growing season, and with the isolation, you can deeply observe and absorb what’s going on in the vineyard, and understand what the end result comes from.”
Tony’s love of cooking continued through high school, where he worked in local restaurants, watched Julia Child and read Escoffier. But high school inspired little interest in him and his grades reflected that. Rather than follow his heart after graduation, Tony made a more pragmatic career choice and entered the Navy.
But he continued to love cooking, which led to an interest in wine. Through his early 20s, he immersed himself in it, learning everything he could, trying wines from all over the world and reading as much as he could find.
“Back then the wines I bought, and learned from, came from the bargain bin. But then there was that moment—and I suspect this happens with all wine lovers—when it became much more than a beverage.
I was at a dinner party where the host knew I was interested in wine and poured me this glass of wine. I smelled it and I remember everything going quiet in the room and I found myself off in a corner with this glass of wine. I went home and didn’t sleep well that night. It was a Chateauneuf de Pape.”
At age 38, after some life changing events gave him the push he needed to make the leap of faith, he left the security of his career, packed up his car and headed west.
“Had I known, being an outsider, how hard this was going to be I may never had got in the car. My ignorance paid off for once.”
Tony first visited UC Davis, ready to enroll in the Enology program, but was promptly rejected. “I had no SAT scores and my high school grades were abysmal. The Dean of Admissions told me I would need to get Congress involved to get accepted.”
So Tony registered at Napa Valley College, where he still felt like a fish out of water. Nevertheless he knocked off the classes, one by one, starting with math 90. Two and a half years later, he was not only accepted into the UC Davis Viticulture and Enology program, but scored a Regents scholarship from the school.
As part of his degree, Arcudi spent a year in a viticulture internship at Stagecoach Vineyards with the Krupp family. “I walked the rows of vines every day for the entire growing season, and with the isolation, you can deeply observe and absorb what’s going on in the vineyard, and understand what the end result comes from.”
After graduating in 2006, Arcudi received a Fellowship from the InternationalWine and Food Society. With much begging and pleading got a stint at Maison Chapoutier.
Tony couldn’t legally work for the winery, so he worked illegally, with little pay—considering the experience handsome enough payment. And one of the first days there was spent harvesting in none other than Chateauneuf de Pape.
Returning to Napa Valley, Tony became assistant winemaker at Nickel & Nickel in Oakville. Working with 25 single-vineyard wines from Napa and Sonoma appellations was an intensive education on how the nuances of growing sites reveal themselves in the resulting wine.
In 2009, he met renowned winemaker Heidi Barrett at a conference. A casual conversation about submarines led to her mentioning she needed an assistant. Tony quickly scored an interview. That “interview” turned out to be Heidi, the owners, and Tony blind-tasting three glasses of wine. They called that same night and offered him the job.
In 2016 he became the Winemaker for Kapcsandy Family Wines and was awarded two 100 point scores on his first vintage.
From his experience both in France and in Napa Valley, Tony’s longtime personal dream came into sharper focus: he would seek out select sites and make vineyard-designated wines that expressed the personality of these sites for Arcudi Wines.
“Honestly now before winemaking everything else seems like one big detour.”