Paul Colantuoni works closely with Mary Rocca to craft world-class wines with a non-interventionist approach. “My goal is to faithfully express the personalities of Rocca’s vineyards,” he comments. “These sites have wonderful rocky soils with excellent drainage. Both vineyards have great climate conditions and sun exposure. All of the pieces are already in place to make world-class wine, so my job is mainly to stand out of the fruit’s way,” he adds.
Paul has spent much of his life between the US and Europe, and his winemaking style is the perfect mix of old-world finesse and new-world exuberance. “My goal is to make charismatic wines with lots of flavor and aromatics, without sacrificing elegance,” he explains. “I try to make wines that are very intense and expressive, but they must also be balanced and authentically convey the character of the vineyards.”
The son of an Italian father and an Italian-American mother, Paul was born in Princeton, New Jersey. When he was 13 years old his family moved to Belgium, where they were first exposed to the top wines of France and Italy. “Those wines were a revelation,” he states. “Being introduced to such beautiful wines at a young age had a profound impact on me, and those wines continue to influence my winemaking style,” he adds.
In 1990, Paul returned to the United States to study Chemical Engineering at Princeton University with the goal of becoming a doctor. At the beginning of his senior year he took a year off to travel and spend time with his family in Europe. While living in Italy, a roommate introduced him to some family friends associated with a local winery. Paul was instantly drawn to the Tuscan countryside, and he quickly found himself spending most of his free time at the winery, tasting and learning about wine. When he returned to Princeton in 1994, he was determined to build a life as a winemaker.
“When I resumed my senior year, I changed my major to Romance Languages and started looking for a wine job in Napa,” Paul explains. “I had never even been to California, but I knew that Napa was America’s wine mecca and that there was no better place in the world to start. I wrote a blind letter to Tim Mondavi and explained that I had no experience in wine, but that I was motivated and would get the job done. I guess it worked, because he ended up offering me a job,” he says.
After working as a Wine Educator and a Lab Technician at Robert Mondavi Winery for two years, Paul set his sights on securing a position that would offer him hands-on involvement in winemaking. He eventually crossed paths with a talented young winemaker named Ehren Jordan, who received his training in the town of Cornas in France’s Rhône Valley under the renowned vintner Jean-Luc Colombo. In 1998, Jordan brought Paul on as Assistant Winemaker at Neyers Vineyards, a small winery located in the Pritchard Hill area of Napa Valley.
“Ehren had a big influence on me,” states Paul. “He’s a Europhile with a very traditional, vineyard-focused, hands-off approach. That remains my style to this day. I believe that 90% of great winemaking is done in the vineyard. It’s a fundamental principle. My job is simply to realize the full potential of Rocca’s amazing fruit,” he says.
Paul further refined his vineyard-focused approach by working in Europe for several years, beginning in 2002 at Domaine du Vieux Télégraphe in Châteauneuf-du-Pape, France, and in 2004 as the Cellar Director for Brancaia in Maremma on the Mediterranean coast of Tuscany. It was here the Italian Winemaker Carlo Ferrini taught Paul to hone in on a vineyard’s signature qualities to more faithfully express terroir.
After returning to the United States in 2006, Paul started Colantuoni Consulting. In addition to Rocca Family Vineyards, he also currently works CONSTANT –Diamond Mountain Winery / Diamond Mountain Vineyard, and Noriea Vineyards.