Winemaker Leo Tellez's path to wine started early. In fact, wine was written into his story well before he was born.
A third generation Napan, Leo’s great grandfather moved to Napa Valley from Jalisco, Mexico and bought one acre of land back in 1950. His grandfather spent his career at Charles Krug Winery while Leo’s father devoted more than 25 years at Robert Mondavi Winery until the winery sold in 2004, after which, he continued his career caring for vineyards with a local vineyard management company.
Leo remembers making several vineyard visits with his father as a child, but his personal connection to wine began in high school when he started working in fine dining at Domaine Chandon’s now shuttered Étoile restaurant. Subsequently, Leo worked at La Toque, The French Laundry and Masa’s in San Francisco. Progressing from a food runner to a barista to a captain (server) by the age of 20, he had been influenced by some prominent mentors in the world of wine and food: Chef Robert Curry and Restaurant Manager John Gretz at Domaine Chandon, Sommelier Scott Tracy and Chef Ken Frank at La Toque and Master Sommelier Alan Murray at Masa’s. These mentors and experiences were formative in his appreciation of fine wine and its role at the table.
After graduating from San Francisco State with an International Relations degree, he pursued viticulture and enology classes at Napa Valley College and applied for his first winemaking internship at Kapcsandy Family Vineyards in Napa Valley where he worked closely with winemaker, David Sotelo, who served as an important mentor. In 2012, Leo joined celebrated winemaking consultant Denis Malbec (Malbec, his father and grandfather all worked at Chateau Latour in Bordeaux) as his assistant winemaker, working with small family-owned wineries including Kapcsandy, Blankiet, Repris, Captûre, Notre Vin and Sodaro Estate walking vineyards and making wines from sites all over Napa Valley. In 2016, Leo joined Sodaro Estate in Coombsville full time as their winemaker, working with viticulture consultant Michael Wolf and the family to craft their small-production Cabernets.
With Ackerman Family Vineyards, Leo has found the perfect fit as part of a small, family operated, estate-based wine company where he can use his well-rounded expertise in winemaking, business management and hospitality. He is also deeply associated with the Coombsville AVA, home to Ackerman Family Vineyards 11-acre organic Stonehaven Vineyard, and a region he loves for the balance and minerality he finds in the wines. Leo plans to explore the nuances of their Stonehaven Vineyard estate by getting to know each block, managing single lot fermentations while evaluating the wines and tailoring his winemaking expertise and barrel selections to create beautifully balanced, elegant wines.
Leo admits he is constantly searching winebid.com and other auction sites for older vintages of classic Napa Valley Wines and indulges in side projects and wine experiments with many of his winemaker friends. He continues as winemaker for Sodaro Estate and with the 2019 harvest, the Ackerman Family Vineyards wines will be produced at the Sodaro Estate Winery in Coombsville.Back to “Our People”
THE ALLURE OF ACKERMAN
Within Coombsville’s discreet wine country community, an authentic experience awaits
Since our very first days in Coombsville, we’ve been inspired by legendary Napa Valley names and meaningful winemaking. We identify with wines that are rooted in tradition, but made in the spirit of today. Our small vineyard has become synonymous with the quality the Coombsville AVA produces. We never looked back after we released our first commercial vintage in 2007— our 2003 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. About it, Master of Wine Peter Marks’ has said, "…consider yourself fortunate if you still have this in your cellar."
From the beginning, all of our actions in the vineyard have been purposeful. We began sustainable farming in 2004, and by 2009 we earned our California Certified Organic Farm (CCOF) label – a designation no other Coombsville winery has obtained. To us, it’s a testament to our patience, time and enthusiasm. Our wines—a 100% Cabernet Sauvignon with softer edges and lower alcohol levels—are contemporary expressions that reflect our evolving vineyard valley. As of today, we’ve made only one other wine; Alavigna Tosca, meaning "in the spirit of " Tuscany. It speaks to our love of approachable wine, down to earth food, sophisticated culture and special places. For us, it encapsulates “the sweet life.”
CANTERING AND DECANTERING
Arrive to an unhurried pace where wines remain faithful to the place
Our first nine years in Coombsville were intense, spent mostly outdoors in our new backyard between the horses and vines. We quickly adjusted our lives to the rhythm of the grapes, our passion for winemaking growing with each season. So did our sustainable path. Adhering to it, we’ve cultivated stronger, more intimate connections to the land while producing higher-quality, better tasting wines. This kind of vigilance—we think—pays it forward. The rewards are showing themselves through surprising, and delicious, subtleties in our California Cabernets. By staying true to our roots, we’ve evolved into having strong and intimate connections to our vineyard which, in turn, produces high quality, remarkable wines. As we’ve grown into our Coombsville home, we’ve refined what we started—our ideals unchanged: We’re true to ourselves, our wines, our community and neighbors.
Quintessential Napa Hospitality
A small but mighty team that loves what they do
Authentic experiences offer a better understanding and appreciation of a place. We welcome you to visit our team at The Ackerman Heritage House and step back into the historic era of Napa to enjoy artisan wines from Ackerman Family Vineyards. Within walking distance of the popular restaurants and shops of downtown Napa, The Aviary at The Ackerman Heritage House offers guests a unique wine tasting experience. The Aviary offers the opportunity to relax as you learn about the historic Ackerman Heritage property and the family stories behind it while enjoying our acclaimed wines.
Director of Sales and Marketing
Hospitality and Sales Manager
House and Events Manager
GIVING BACK TO A PLACE WE LOVE
History, Community, Passion
Authentic experiences offer a better understanding and appreciation of a place. Yet, fewer cities and towns uphold their original splendor and heritage as the years go by. Since Bob and Lauren moved to the Napa Valley in 1994, they’ve taken a keen interest in making sure that the special places and events that are significant to the history of Napa Valley and Coombsville are preserved. They understand that the heart of a place is important to its longevity and that giving back to the community they are part of is an important step in being a strong member. Being engaged in the historic community of Napa Valley is a vital ingredient for the Ackerman's - a sense of community is what makes it all come together.
Restoring a quintessential Queen Anne is no easy feat. In 2010, Lauren purchased an iconic, but sadly faded 1888 Queen Anne Victorian known as the Gifford House. So began an illuminating journey of cautiously restoring one of Napa’s famous pink ladies to its former 19th century splendor. Located just two blocks off of downtown Napa’s iconic Main Street at 608 Randolph Street, this historic mansion stands as a reflection of the area’s rich cultural history. While we restore and polish original redwood handrails, 17 stained glass windows, original plaster moldings and the like, we’re also adding complementary features: a state-of-the-art kitchen, formal dining room and chef’s garden. Now re-christened the "The Ackerman Heritage House," this grand old lady will proudly welcome a new generation of visitors to partake in Napa's historic charm. This beautiful entertaining space will, once again, exhale a new spirit.