Frank Altamura's lifelong pursuit as a winemaker is fueled by his passion for viticulture. Born and raised in Napa Valley, Frank began working with his cousin, a vineyard manager, right out of high school and knew that this would be his life's calling. Formal viticultural training began at Sterling Vineyards in 1976 where he began to explore what winemakers were looking for from the vineyard. This concept was further developed from the winemaker's perspective at Caymus with mentor Charlie Wagner.
"Growing up in Napa Valley and surrounded by farming, my most influential experience came from working at Caymus for five years where we developed many grape varieties from Burger to Zinfandel, refining the concepts of soil and climatic influences and growing for quality rather than quantity," reminisces Frank. "As we worked to get the most from each vineyard site, I learned that it was important not to have pre-conceived ideas about what to expect from a vineyard, rather to discover the flavors that the vineyard offered. My job now as a winemaker is to successfully get those flavors into the bottle which, incidentally, is only about 10% of the whole process; the other 90% happens in the vineyard." Over twenty years later, richly textured Altamura Cabernet Sauvignon and Sangiovese are lauded for their intensity and silky integration of the elements unique to each the vineyard sites on the expansive Valley Oak lined ranch in Wooden Valley.
Frank and Karen Altamura established Altamura Vineyards and Winery in 1985. Many of the early vintages of Cabernet Sauvignon were sourced from a vineyard located on a sprawling 400 acre Altamura Ranch in historic Wooden Valley that had been settled by members of Karen Altamura's family in 1855. Frank sensed the long-term potential for this growing region and began extensive site selection research within the Napa Valley to ensure optimal vineyard development on the Altamura Ranch. They began their adventure, taming what had once been a cattle ranch by clearing 65 acres and planting to Cabernet Sauvignon and Sangiovese on six different sites. Caves were dug and meticulous construction was begun on the stone winery. Lured by the natural beauty and rural atmosphere, the Altamura Family found their home in Wooden Valley.
Altamura Vineyards and Winery, established in 1985 by Frank and Karen Altamura, is the only winery in Wooden Valley located within the Napa Valley appellation. Napa natives Frank and Karen have a decidedly hands-on approach to every step of the growing and winemaking process. Thus, a natural production limit is established at the Altamura Ranch and the wines reflect the Altamura's deep commitment to reflecting the terroir of Wooden Valley.
The 400 acre Altamura Ranch in Wooden Valley is host to 65 acres of hillside and valley floor vineyards at elevations of 700 to 1,000 feet. The approximately 12 different soil types and microclimates carry distinguished traits found in other areas of the Napa Valley and required a rigorous site selection process prior to planting. Using the U.S. Department of Agriculture Soil Survey of Napa County as a guide, Frank identified soil types on his ranch that were similar to the Rutherford Bench and the mountainous regions of Howell Mountain, Pritchard Hill and Mount Veeder. As a result, several different clones of Cabernet Sauvignon on a number of different rootstocks were utilized for the initial planting and replanting of existing vineyards in 1986. The 5 acre Sangiovese vineyard was also planted in 1986 on a western facing hillside in nutrient-poor soils perfect for the vigorous varietal. In addition to Cabernet Sauvignon and Sangiovese, a small amount of Sauvignon Blanc and Nebbiolo are grown on the Ranch.