The winemakers, John Compagno and Gail Lizak are both very active in the physical and manual vineyard and winery work themselves, tending to Árdiri’s unique vines with great care and dedication to making the finest Pinot noir and white wine blends.
John’s interest in wine began as a child working alongside his parents in the family grocery store. His job included the restocking of shelves with new merchandise, including those bottles and jugs of wine with such colorful labels. The bottles and names of all the Italian wines were an intriguing mixture of information and colors delighting one’s imagination. His father was originally a fisherman, where bread, fish and wine were family staples. The family vacationed annually in Calistoga where the young John would see the vineyards growing in the valley.
After years of science and biochemistry classes, a stint in the Navy, jobs on the East Coast and Midwest, he settled in the East Bay where his interest in wine was rekindled by the proximity to the Napa Valley. Wine was always a complement to traditional Sicilian family recipes. After a move to the Napa Valley and classes in Viticulture and Enology at Napa Valley College, John’s interest was heightened when an opportunity to purchase a neglected, but well planted, Pinot noir vineyard in the Carneros became available. The opportunity to be outdoors tending and nurturing the vines has now become an important part of John’s weekly routine, preferring to do as much of the manual labor as possible.
Gail’s interest in wine began as a child watching her grandfathers make wine in their cellars and always having grapes growing in their back yards. Being raised in an Italian family, wine was always at the dinner table as the accompaniment to any and all dishes. Her maternal grandfather always had “his” bottle sitting on the floor beside his chair during dinner. Wine was more a “food” than drink. Most of the wine during these times was red and Chianti style. Cooking beside her mother and Aunt Anna was also a wonderful experience, learning all the recipes brought over from Italy.
After an undergraduate degree in Medical Technology/Chemistry, California called and the trek in a Volkswagen bus across the country ensued. After years of research at Stanford and a few graduate degrees, a move to the Napa Valley ensured the family winemaking bug would come alive. Pinot noir was always a favorite to drink, since it had many different “lives” and complimented a broad range of foods. A few classes here and there, a stint working at Sebastiani Vineyards and Gypsy Dancer, the love of the land, outdoors and the opportunity to be a partner in a neglected Pinot vineyard was all that was needed to bring the desire to tend the vines and make a Pinot noir true to its terrier to fruition.
The Double Helix
The red “double helix” references the winemakers full-time careers in the molecular and diagnostic field of DNA testing, as well as the scientific understanding that Pinot noir has the most genetically unstable DNA of any varietal.