Tom Farella’s original inspiration to enter the wine trade began as a youngster at the dinner table and was later fortified by a family trip to France and some gentle prodding by father Frank. He graduated from UC Davis in 1983 with a degree in Viticulture and Enology while holding down weekend and harvest work with Neyers Vineyards and Flora Springs Winery. His first real job was as winemaker at Preston in Sonoma County which he left after six years to work in Burgundy for Domaine Jacques Prieur in Meursault in 1989. The work/travel bug persisted so he then worked in Oregon for a harvest at Ponzi Winery in 1990, then in the vineyard for Beaux Freres in 1991. It was after these rich experiences that Tom Farella came back to Farella full time.
Frank Farella founded Farella-Park Vineyards in 1985 in a small, 400 square foot winery next to his house in Napa. His long-sought goal to grow fine wine grapes from a modest, depression-era background was a story that unfolded slowly and steadily. Beginning with his Italian grandparents at home, many home-made wines from the Napa and Alexander Valleys, and ultimately, a test vintage in 1982 from young Farella Vineyard grapes, the commercial venture began in 1985 as a barrel of Chardonnay, a stainless fermented Sauvignon Blanc and a Merlot/Cabernet field blend.
While the first 5 vintages were produced by Frank Farella (with Tom’s help), Tom took over in 1991 and led the winemaking until the end of 2018. Ryan Pass, also a UC Davis Viticulture and Enology graduate, was then promoted to Winemaker. His passion and skill set have dovetailed perfectly for the winemaking goals and he and Tom continue to work together as the sole labor and expertise for production of Farella wines.
In 2009, in the midst of the Great Recession, Tom steered his sights to writing a petition then sent to the federal government for the designation of “Coombsville” American Viticultural Area (AVA). It would become Napa Valley’s 16th sub-AVA in November, 2011.
The winemaking goal is to provide delicious, balanced wines that enhance the meal. Since the wines are estate bottled, we have the advantage of exact timing for harvest and all winemaking operations which has become more rare in the Napa Valley. The emphasis is on terroir-driven wines with layers of complexity and worthy of aging. Our wine library, going back to 1985, reveals the achievement of these goals. Farella wines typically are alive and ever-evolving, “telling a story” of the site and personality of each vineyard block.
The Sauvignon Blanc is a light, refreshing wine that emulates the white wines of Northern Italy. The Merlot, normally blended with a portion of Cabernet Sauvignon, is a supple wine with intriguing berry/cassis fruit and spice character. In 1991 we added Cabernet Sauvignon as a varietal, a very rich, ample and complex wine styled for fans of balanced California Cabernets. The 2001 vintage marked the first for a new product, our proprietary blend, Farella “Alta” which was produced until the 2007 vintage and has now been reborn in 2014.
Originally, Farella Alta was made as a blend assembled from individual barrels approximately 2/3 Cabernet Sauvignon, 1/3 Merlot. In 2014, the new era of the Alta has been made as a co-fermentation harvested on the same day in the same proportions and the blend finalized before bottling. It also now normally includes a small portion of Malbec.