Owner + Grower
Nello Olivo Wines
Nello Olivo will be the first to tell you that while he is not a trained winemaker, winemaking is in his blood.
As a second generation Italian-American, (all his grandparents were born in either Italy, Spain or Chile), Nello has learned that wine-making was important in the daily lives of his ancestors on both sides. His paternal relatives still live in the beautiful wine-growing region of Umbria, in Italy, where his grandfather Enrico was born in Todi in 1879. The old Olivo residence, with foundations that date back to the time of Christ, is now a ruin in the grassy hills amid the local vineyards. But some of the best wine-growing soils in Italy are all around.
Nello was born into a family of 16 children in Santa Clara County, the oldest boy in the brood of 6 boys and 10 girls. His father was a hard-working plumbing contractor, and even though Nello wanted to be an architect, the family budget dictated that he follow his father into the business as did all of his brothers.
As a child in San Jose, California, Nello remembers the large wine press that was a looming presence outside his uncle’s barn and the musty smell that emerged from the old wooden barrels every fall. He did not pay much attention to it however. It was much later when he had already fathered a family of six children and was in the business of developing commercial and residential properties in the western San Fernando Valley, that he came face to face with wine-making once again.
In the fall of 1980, when interest rates were sky high and the real estate market was in a slump, his wife and kids felt he needed a hobby and since his birthday is in late September, they decided upon wine-making. That year Nello received a home winemaking kit as part of his annual celebration. Along with the kit came a voucher to go to the local winemaking shop and collect several pounds of Cabernet Sauvignon grapes…The adventure had begun!
A supportive friend, Vincenzo Cilurzo, who had pioneered Temecula as a wine-growing region in Southern California, where his winery was now flourishing, was at his side immediately with advice and encouragement…Nello enjoyed learning about the historic profession and soon produced the legal amount of wine every year that he was allowed as an amateur in his Hidden Hills home in Southern California. Wine-making was a conversation point in those days. Nello played with an acting career, a singing career and even an inventing career but was not in serious pursuit of any of these side ventures.
A move to the Lake Tahoe area, when Nello thought he might retire, found Nello transporting his homemade wine collection to higher climes, where he tasted his first vintage and decided that he was NOT a winemaker. He tipped the moving men with bottles of his brew.
A later move found Nello and his wife (plus their one youngest son, still at home) moving to Cameron Park, where Nello discovered that he had not disposed of all of his former wine stock. When his wife needed red wine for a recipe she was cooking for guests he brought forth a well-traveled bottle from his Southern California days and offered a sip to his dinner guests as a joke. They were ecstatic! “What is this wine? Is it Chateau La Fitte? Where have you been hiding this?” they exclaimed.
The wine never made it to the cooking pot, instead it was enjoyed by the group and the compliments he received that night reawakened Nello’s interest in winemaking. The rest is history!
Nello and his wife purchased 21 acres in Cameron Estates in the year 2000 and planted seven, mostly Italian varietals, with the advice and consultation of vineyard manager, Lance Johnson, a neighbor.
In the fourth year of wine-growing Nello harvested his grapes and sold most of them to wineries in El Dorado County, keeping the small amount he was allowed to ferment himself as a home winemaker. In a matter of months he began hearing compliments about the wines made from his grapes and soon there were medals being awarded. This was all too tempting and in 2005 Nello producer his first vintage of commercial wines with wine makers Lance Campbell (former owner of Mount Aukum Winery) and his current winemaker Marco Cappelli, who was able to make arrangements for him to produce wine at Paul Toogood Winery.
As the owner of Sequoia, a fine dine restaurant in Placerville, Nello had an excellent outlet for his wine sales. Gradually his wines were among those most often requested by dinner guests.
In 2010, Nello entered his wines for the first time in national and international competitions. He came away with 27 awards, including Platinum and Gold medals, and won Best Sangiovese in California at the California State Fair… Nello Olivo Wines were now something to be reckoned with!
In 2007, Nello visited his ancestral home in Umbria and attended a wine festival in Montefalco, not far from Massa Martana, where his remaining family in Italy now resides. He discovered the rare but celebrated wine of the area…Sagrantino de Montefalco. Nello has recently acquired some Sagrantino vines and has already harvested his first vintage. He is among only a handfull of growers and producers of this rare Italian gem of a wine in the U.S.