Mario’s passion for wine has taken him around the world. His decade-long professional wine journey began with a job at a wine bar in his native France. As his expertise and experience grew, Mario moved to New Zealand for his role as Brand Experience Cloudy Bay. Today he is Senior Customer Experience Manager for iconic Napa Valley winery Newton Vineyard.
Get to know more about Mario and his achievements with the following 10 questions.
Tell me about your current role at Newton Vineyard.
I started at Newton Vineyard in 2017, and I am in charge of our hospitality, events, wine club, e-commerce, and private clients. It is a very exciting role as no days are similar. For example, last week, among other things, I launched an eCommerce campaign, worked on the opening of our future tasting room, hosted a Private Client dinner in NY, and organized and hosted a Club Event at our estate in Spring Mountain. We are a small team at Newton, and it allows us to be exposed to many different topics and challenges.
When did you discover your passion for wine?
Being French, wine is part of my culture, but when I moved to Paris at the age of 19, I discovered nice restaurants and excellent wines. I quickly became quite geeky and applied to a group with several wine bars as a server. The director was very friendly and gave me Mondays off and all his invitations for trade tastings that usually happened on that day. A few months later, the group’s CEO offered me to take responsibility for a wine shop close to the Arc de Triomphe. I accepted and stayed six years. During that time, I was running two wine shops (with a food offer) and was buying all the wine for the five restaurant wine bars. It was an incredible experience.
What is your favorite summertime wine?
I love Sauvignon Blanc, and Cloudy Bay has a special place for me as I spend almost four years working for that winery in New Zealand. Lately, I have discovered beautiful fresh California wines in the Mendocino Ridge appellation, including Sauvignon Blanc.
Favorite place in the Napa Valley(besides Newton, of course)?
Calistoga is a lovely little town with great wineries, a brewery, nice hotels, spas, and a cool, far west feel.
What sets you apart in your industry?
It is a difficult question. I think many French working in the wine industry are from a wine-growing region and tend to gravitate around what they know. It is not my case. I am from Toulouse, so I am open to loving any wine from any part of the world, as long as they are created with passion and integrity.
How do you stay connected to the local Napa wine community?
I do so by supporting local organizations and charities. I also maintain a good relationship with people who work and live in the valley.
Newton Vineyard was recently nominated for American Wine of the Year. What do you think helped your team achieve this?
We are all working toward the same goal with a lot of energy and passion. Incredible things happen when you work as a team.
Besides wine, what are some of your other passions?
I spend most of my time riding a horse, mainly bareback, in the vineyards. I discovered natural horsemanship when I moved to the US, and it is fascinating. It is incredible to create a special connection with this remarkable animal. When I am done riding, I usually cook on an open fire with friends, and we typically celebrate with some great wines.
What is one thing you hope to accomplish in your lifetime that you haven’t yet?
To have my own ranch/winery. It will take time but I am confident it will happen.
Tell us something that would surprise people about you?
Last year Newton gave me the fantastic opportunity to work in the cellar for two months during harvest. I learned a lot, which gave me more confidence in my daily job. My team and I are currently farming 200 vines that survived a fire. This vineyard is meaningful to us and a fantastic learning opportunity. On a more personal level, I moved to Paris from Toulouse to study acting, which I did for three years… I guess I was better at tasting wine.