Laetitia Vineyard & Winery

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Winemaker

President and Head Winemaker Eric Hickey began his relationship with the Laetitia Estate in 1988 when he was just 16 years old, working in the cellar with his dad, Dave Hickey, who was a production assistant for Maison Deutz at the time. Seizing the golden opportunity to apprentice with French winemakers, Eric joined the Maison Deutz team full-time after graduating from high school. From vintage to vintage, he gained a deep appreciation for the property's fruit, while also taking time to explore the Rhône, Burgundy and Bordeaux in France and participating in an extension program through U.C. Davis.

In 2000, Eric was named Head Winemaker and General Manager, overseeing the still wine program, and has since become President of Laetitia Vineyard & Winery. With a winemaking style that balances Old World tradition with cutting-edge California, Eric consistently produces generous, articulate wines that are true to the character of the Laetitia Estate.

In addition to his work at Laetitia, Eric sits on the advisory board for the World of Pinot Noir Symposium in Pismo Beach, and is a member of several vintners' associations. When he isn't consumed with winery operations, he's home with his wife Kim, and daughters Cheyenne and Riley, or he's surfing.

A deep and abiding respect for Laetitia's estate-grown fruit is the mark of Eric Hickey's winemaking. Beginning his hands-on training in the cellar at the tender age of 16, Eric has lived and breathed Laetitia all the way to the top, where he is now the Head Winemaker and the winery's President. "I keep it simple," he says, "and I stay eye-to-eye with Lino because the interplay between us is what determines the wines' quality. Everything done in the cellar starts with what we do out in the vineyard." While Eric makes a point of experimenting with small lots each vintage, his style is fundamentally built upon finding balance, finesse, and the essence of the fruit he has come to know for so many years. Similarly, Laetitia's Sparkling Winemaker and Vice President Production, Dave Hickey, is a self-described student of the vines. "The vineyards were planted in 1982, and I came on in 1985," he says. "Working with the same fruit for so long translates into a lot of knowledge." Trained in Méthode Champenoise winemaking by French traditionalists, Dave uses the winery's Coquard grape presses (the only two in North America and the gold standard for winemaking in Champagne) as the foundation for sparkling wines that have attracted devotees to the Laetitia Estate for decades.

History

The Laetitia Estate Vineyards were first planted to grapes in 1982 when French viticulturists found ideal growing conditions in the Arroyo Grande Valley for producing wines of similar character to those of their homeland in Epernay, France. Nineteen years later, the property would be acquired by Selim Zilkha, founder of a successful wind power development company and champion of environmental sustainability. Between his qualifications in renewable energy solutions and his passion for the pleasures of the harvest, Selim has developed Laetitia into the home of some of California's highest quality, sustainably-produced wines.

The Team

Selim Zilkha was born in Bagdad in 1927. He grew up in Lebanon and then in Egypt. His family emigrated to the US in 1941. He graduated with a BA from Williams College and after serving in the US Army worked for his father in the banking business. He was living in England in 1960 when he founded Mothercare, a chain of stores that specialized in everything for the mother-to-be and her baby. Mothercare became a large international success, with shops on high streets all over Europe. In 1982 Selim sold Mothercare and moved back to the United States where he founded Zilkha Energy Company, an oil and gas exploration company which by the time it was sold in 1998 had become the largest acreage owner on the shelf in the Gulf of Mexico. He subsequently founded Zilkha Renewable Energy Company (now Horizon Wind Energy) which when it was sold to Energias de Portugal in 2007 was the second largest wind developer in the United States.

Selim's principal business currently, Zilkha Biomass Energy, has developed a black pellet made from wood which can be used to co-fire or replace coal in coal plants. He also has a farming project in the Yucatan growing Jatropha for biodiesel. Selim had always dreamed of farming in California. In 1998 he was fortunate to acquire Laetitia Vineyard and Winery. Since then he has considerably expanded it and has worked with President and Head Winemaker, Eric Hickey, and Vice President Vineyard Operations, Lino Bozzano, to develop the best farming practices that support long-term sustainability.

Born in London, Owner Nadia Zilkha has walked a diverse path through everything from the world of finance to event and film production, medical innovation to the responsibilities of vineyard ownership. Through it all, her focus remains achieving balance between her love for family, business, and philanthropic causes. After pursuing a career as a financial consultant for Merrill Lynch, Nadia relocated to Los Angeles to raise two children and help found Bioplate, a medical device company. While in Southern California, she also assisted in developing a charity-based talent show for teenagers called The Rock Challenge. More recently, she produced TRICKED, a documentary about sex trafficking in the United States.

Nadia’s career in wine began in 1998, when her father, Selim Zilkha, acquired a vineyard in the Sierra Madre Mountains as well as an estate winery and vineyard in Arroyo Grande. Though neither growing region was as well known as the Napa Valley, Selim felt that both held much promise in the production of fine wines. He invited Nadia, who had cultivated her own passion and appreciation of fine wine and cuisine, to assist him in realizing the potential of his recently-purchased vineyard. Soon thereafter, Nadia joined him in launching Laetitia Vineyard & Winery and NADIA Wines as family-owned and operated brands.

Nadia has found that the wine industry allows her to express herself not only as a businesswoman, but also as a creative, adventurous artist. A gifted painter and writer, Nadia frequently applies her artistic talents to the further development of each winery brand. Instrumental in branding efforts for both labels, she often consults with the vineyard and winery crew, and can be found representing Laetitia and NADIA wines at national events and conferences.
“A winery brand is only as successful as the people who care about it, who nurture it, who impart to it some measure of singularity and vision,” says Nadia. “My father and I have been fortunate enough to work with brilliant vineyards, and an equally talented and brilliant group of people. We do everything in our power to translate these components into a family of wines that capture the senses and that deliver to the consumer a rare experience at very reasonable prices.”

Joseph J. Romano has been a Director and Vice President of Laetitia Vineyard and Winery since 1999. Born in Racine, Wisconsin, he comes from a long line of Italian winemakers, including both of his grandfathers who made their own wine to accompany the pasta they ate nearly every night of the week.



The common thread across Joe's long career is an interest in sustainability and renewable energy – a passion for which he has partnered with good friend Selim Zilkha for 20 years. Joe has served as President and CEO of Zilkha Renewable Energy, and Senior VP and CFO of Zilkha Energy Company. He is currently President and CEO of Olympic Energy Partners, and CEO and member of the Board of Managers of Socratech, ZZ Alztech and ZZ Biotech.



Visiting Laetitia on a monthly basis to meet with Selim and the team to discuss winery operations is a highlight of Joe's career. At home in Houston, Joe enjoys family time with his wife Anne and their three children, Joey, Regina and Natalie.

Lino Bozzano comes by his title of Vice President Vineyard Operations honestly; as a third-generation California farmer, he has been learning how to steward the land since childhood. After graduating from Cal Poly with a degree in Crop Science in 1996, he took a viticulture position at Bien Nacido Vineyard, home to some of the most revered fruit and most respected winemakers in the world. By observing the effects of his vineyard practices, the soils, and the climate on the finished wines, Lino gained a pragmatist’s understanding of what it means to be a “wine-grower”.

He later went on to manage vineyards for the David Bruce Winery, witnessing drastically different growing conditions at 2,200 feet in the Santa Cruz Mountain appellation. But in 2004, Lino returned to the Central Coast to take the position of Vice President Vineyard Operations for Laetitia, and has been a vital member of the team ever since. His knowledge of the 620 acres under vines extends to nuances in soil type, topography and micro-climate of any given vineyard row, not to mention the seven grape varieties – including ten clones of Pinot Noir – grown on the estate. In terms of style, “Every block is approached from a ‘wine-growing’ standpoint,” says Lino. “My goal is to farm every block of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in a way that will distinctively express the site.”

Lino is a graduate of the California Agricultural Leadership Program; a member of both the American Society of Enology and Viticulture and the Central Coast Vineyard Team; and serves on the board of directors for the Central Coast Wine Growers Association. Off the Laetitia property, if Lino isn’t spending time with his wife, Jeanne, and young children Richie and Leah, he is probably surfing or making small lots of his own wine on the side.

Wendell Cottle is Laetitia's Vice President Chief Financial Officer, managing all financial and technical matters.

Wendell began life as a botanist. He received his Bachelor's Degree from Cal State University, Sacramento, Master's Degree from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, and PhD through the Institute of Biological Chemistry at Washington State University. After having spent several years as a chemist, he gravitated to accounting and finance. Upon returning to California, he joined a public accounting firm in the Napa Valley, where he earned his CPA license. Wendell held financial positions at V. Sattui Winery and Sanford Winery before joining Laetitia in 2006.

Wendell's lifelong involvement in agriculture has spanned the spectrum from picking tomatoes as a teenager to performing scientific research on cork biosynthesis, and now to winery and vineyard finances. He serves on the Board of Directors of California Community Forests Foundation, the Wine and Viticulture Program Advisory Council at Cal Poly, and the steering committee for the wine industry's Direct-to-Consumer Symposium. Wendell and his wife Barbara live on the east side of Arroyo Grande where they are stewards of a small native live oak forest. In his spare time Wendell enjoys gardening and riding his Ducati motorcycle.

Dave Hickey's career as Vice President Production and Sparkling Winemaker began unexpectedly in 1985 when he was hired for construction and clean-up at Laetitia’s predecessor, Maison Deutz. During his time around the winery, Dave became fascinated with the traditional Méthode Champenoise for sparkling winemaking. “I was a willing student, and the winemaker was a willing teacher,” says Dave, adding, “I love to learn.” It wasn’t long before he was invited to join the Maison Deutz staff assisting in sparkling wine production and overseeing winery systems operations.

Like his son, Eric Hickey, Dave made the all-important journey to France to supplement his hands-on education by observing the styles and techniques of noted Champagne producers. In addition, Dave has received comprehensive training from several esteemed sparkling wine consultants in both the New and Old World styles.

Dave became Laetitia's Sparkling Winemaker in 1999 and has since become the Vice President Production and brought his accumulated experience and artistry to bear on the winery's award-winning series of sparkling wines. In his spare time, he enjoys spending time with his wife, Carmen, children, grandchildren, and building classic cars.

Awards

April 2014-Huffington Post-A Pleasant Twist-Screwtops for Fine Wines!

March 2014-theBrideScoop.com-Bubbles & Budgets

March 2014-The Nittany Epicurean-Sparkling Wine from Arroyo Grande Valley

February 2014-Jeff Russell + Companions-Corks–Nadia 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon

February 2014-The Elkhart Truth-California has funky weather, wine and food

February 2014-In Mama Maggie's Kitchen-Laetitia Brut Rose

February 2014-The Dish by PSPR-Seductive Wine and Cuisine Ideas for Valentine’s Day

January 2014-Touring & Tasting Magazine-Perfect Pairings

January 2014-Life Refined Magazine-Bubbly for the Holidays

January 2014-Wine Country this Week-Laetitia Vineyard & Winery

January 2014-Bigger Than Your Head-The Eighth Day of Christmas: New Year’s Day

January 2014-Chicago Tribune-Off Cali's beaten path

December 2013-TODAY Food-Bubbly beyond Champagne: 7 sparkling wines for New Year's

December 2013-The Tribune-Best of the Bubbly

The People's Palate-A cornucopia of international wines for your holiday gatherings

December 2013-The Tribune-Locally made sparkling wines to savor on New Year's Eve

December 2013-SLO Visitor's Guide-Laetitia says 2013 harvest is big & rich

December 2013-The Tribune-Bubbly and beyond at Cuvée Bistro & Champagne Bar in Avila Beach

December 2013-Palm Beach Daily News-Seek balance when pairing wine, food

December 2013-The Wine Connection: Snapshot: Laetitia Vineyard & Winery

December 2013-Toledo Wines & Vines-2012 Laetitia Whole Cluster Pinot Noir

December 2013-Mas Vino Miami-Wine of the Week: 2011 NADIA Cabernet Sauvignon

December 2013-Gayot: Top 10 American Sparkling Wines

December 2013-Food & Beverage Magazine-Harvest 2013: Big & Rich

December 2013-Harvest 2013: Big & Rich-Laetitia Vineyard & Winery Reflects

December 2013-Your Home with Karie Engels-Laetitia Vineyard and Winery : Harvest 2013 ~ Big and Rich

November-December 2013-The Grapevine-Laetitia Vineyard & Winery Turns 30

November 2013-Santa Barbara Independent-A Knack for Sustainability

November 2013-Denver Life Magazine-Pop In The New Year

November 2013-The Dish by PSPR-Thanksgiving Wine Pairing How-to

November 2013-Wine Food Explorer-Luscious Libations for Thanksgiving and The Holidays

November 2013-The Drinks Business-Quality of California Pinot "Skyrocketed"

November 2013-SLO Visitor's Guide-An entrepreneurial family champions sustainability at Laetitia Vi

October 2013-The Dish by PSPR-A Knack for Sustainability

October 2013-Jetsettersblog-From Wind to Wine: Thirty Years of Success at Laetitia Vineyard & Winer

October 2013-WineBusiness.com-A Knack for Sustainability

October 2013-Taste California Travel-A Knack for Sustainability

October 2013-Wine Industry Network-A Knack for Sustainability

October 2013-The Californian.com-Laetitia Wines: Good stuff from Arroyo Grande

October 2013-Indulge Magazine-Laetitia Vineyard 30 Year Celebration

September-October 2013-Entree-Exciting California Pinot Noir: Laetitia and Droubin's Laforet

September 2013-The Dish by PSPR-A Few of Our Favorite Things

September 2013-Jetset Extra-Exploring the Arroyo Grande Wine Trail

September 2013-San Luis Obispo County Visitors Guide-Toast the end of summer with Laetitia

August 2013-Paperblog-Summer in the Vineyards: San Luis Obispo

August 2013-Wines Lines Online-Laetitia Winery Begins Celebration of 30th Harvest

August 2013-Santa Barbara Independent-A Pearl Anniversary for Pearl of Central Coast Wine Country

August 2013-Wine Country This Week-Three Sparkling Decades

July-August 2013-805 Living-In The Pink: 2009 Laetitia Brut Rosé

July 2013-PBPulse.com-Summer Sampling-2010 Laetitia Single Vineyard Les Galets Pinot Noir

July 2013-Uncorked Ventures-Laetitia Vineyards & Winery

July 2013-The Tribune-Locals shine at the Central Coast Wine Competition

July 2013-Examiner.com-Haute wines for summer: 2011 Laetitia Reserve du Domaine Pinot Noir

June 2013-Inside Jersey-T.J.'s Favorite Sparklers

May 2013-NorCal Wine-Wine of the Day: 2009 Laetitia Single Vineyard La Colline Pinot Noir

May 2013-WineReviewOnline.com-Wines Well Worth Drinking

May 2013-Wine Business Monthly-Eric & Dave Hickey Feature

May 2013-Milwaukee Magazine-Wine of the Week-2011 Laetitia Estate Pinot Noir

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Address

453 Laetitia Vineyard Drive
Arroyo Grande, California 93420
United States

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