Gianni Abate, Winemaker
Born and raised in California, Gianni Abate frequently rode his bike around the family asparagus farm in California’s Central Valley, never once imagining that he could make a career out of making wine. As far as he was concerned, wine was just something great grandparents made down in the basement.
Gianni began attending the University of the Pacific with aspirations of becoming a pharmacist and holds a degree in Biological Science. Fortunately soon after spending time working as a pharmacy technician he realized that the pharmacy industry was not well suited for him. Due to the many hours spent in a lab coat and no clear career path Gianni found himself working in the laboratories of several San Joaquin County wineries. It was in these wine labs that Gianni was exposed to the details of wine making and the structure of the wine business. This experience proved to be the hook that has kept Gianni focused on making world-class wines for the past 18 years.
Gianni was most recently the winemaker at Morgan Winery in Salinas, where he made award winning wine for 11 vintages. Prior to that Gianni received winemaking experience at Robert Mondavi, Woodbridge, Bronco and Delicato Family. He is thrilled to be moving to the iconic Chalone Vineyard where he will continue the tradition of producing world-class wines. His hands-on approach to winemaking will be a brilliant addition to Foley Family Wines. Gianni will be working with consulting winemaker Michael Michaud who brings more than 30 years of experience with the Chalone AVA.
When Gianni is not at the winery, he enjoys driving the Corkscrew of Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, spending time with his son, Matteo, and barbequing with his wife, Gretchen.
Michael Michaud, Consulting Winemaker
Michael Michaud grew up in Hollywood, California, graduated from Hollywood High School and headed up North to pursue his dreams. After Graduating from the University of California at Davis in 1979, Michael joined Chalone Vineyard as Assistant Winemaker. Four years later he became head winemaker and a year after that became General Manager. During Michael’s tenure, Chalone Vineyard moved from the 19th century into the 20th Century. Until 1986 Chalone Vineyard had only generators to provide electricity and water was conveyed from the valley floor by truck, 3000 gallons at a time.
With the construction of a 3 phase high voltage powerline, 8 miles long, it was then feasible to build an 8” pipeline from a well on the valley floor to Chalone Vineyard 1300’ above and 8 miles away. The water allowed proper irrigation of the vines, allowing them to ripen more slowly and naturally instead of from excessive dehydration. Numerous experiments were conducted in the vineyard and winery to determine the best level of irrigation and crop load. The wine quality was dramatically improved by proper irrigation, lowering wine pH and raising natural acid levels and promoting elegant fruit and floral aromas and flavors in the wine. Many Chalone wines scored over 90 points and Robert Parker called Chalone Chardonnay “The Montrachet of California”.
Michael left Chalone Vineyard in December 1997 to pursue continued development of Michaud Vineyard. When asked about coming back to be Consulting Winemaker at Chalone Michael said, “I am thrilled to assist the Foley Family Wineries and Winemaker Gianni Abate to return Chalone Vineyard to the successful winegrowing practices that made Chalone Vineyard wines internationally respected.”