The Pelissa family legacy is unique to Napa Valley and rare in the modern day California wine industry. It began in 1902 when Joseph Pelissa came to Napa Valley from Liguria, Italy and purchased his first 35 acres of land with a single gold coin in 1903. His son Andrew later took over, building successful dairy and trucking businesses and eventually acquiring 1000 acres in Oakville and Yountville where he planted wine grapes and other crops. A civic-minded man who was an early champion of keeping Napa Valley in agriculture, Andrew was instrumental in establishing Napa Valley’s Agricultural Preserve Zone. Today, the Pelissa grape-growing operation continues to be family-owned and run, overseen by 4thand 5thgeneration family members who live on and farm the land. Since planting their first grapes, the family has supplied fruit to some of the most prestigious wineries in Napa Valley, and its entire 635 acres of grapes have been 100% certified organic since 1991.
In 2006, over 100 years after Joseph Pelissa came to Napa Valley, the Pelissa family decided to create their own wines from the grapes they grow. Ghost Block Estate Wines, comprised of three separate brands, are meant to showcase this unpretentious family’s pride in where they live, the vineyards they farm, and their family’s deep roots in Napa Valley history.
In the end, this is a real story about a real family who, for five generations has woken up every day to the vista of their own vineyards. Nothing gives the family members more pride than farming their own land organically and creating the finest wines possible. It is no coincidence that their land is in the heart of Napa Valley. Their greatest hope is that a little bit of their history and true passion for farming is expressed in each and every bottle.
Andrew Hoxsey is a fourth-generation grape grower who spent the summers of his youth learning the Napa Valley winegrowing business from the ground up. “I’d tag along with my grandfather’s ranch manager as much as he let me. That’s where I learned how to t-bud a vine.” Napa Wine Company became the incubators for these brands, many of which made great names for themselves and went on to establish their own wineries.” Today, Napa Wine Company is still a brand “incubator,” and the Pelissa family, with Andrew in the lead, produces its own wines under the Bonded Winery #9 portfolio. He is joined in the family business by his two daughters, Kendall and Morgaen.
Growing up in Napa Valley was special, but she didn’t realize just how idyllic it was until she left home. “For so many years it was all I knew, but when I got out into the world, I realized what a paradise this valley really is.” In 2015, as her family’s wine brands – Ghost Block, Elizabeth Rose and Oakville Winery – continued to grow, Morgaen returned to Napa Valley in the role of National Sales Manager. A self-described ‘people person’ who travels extensively, Morgaen is also actively involved in the custom crush side of her family’s business, interacting with Napa Wine Company clients and working on special projects. The opportunity to work closely with her sister, Kendall, and her father, Andy, however, gives her role at the company special meaning. “As the fifth generation, Kendall and I are determined to uphold our family’s legacy and to continue what my Dad started when he founded Napa Wine Company over twenty-five years ago.”
In 2012 a reorganization at Napa Wine Company opened up a position for Kendall and she was named Business Manager. Working closely with her father, she took on increasing responsibility, including the implementation of Napa Wine Company’s Vintrace cloud-based winery management software to facilitate wine tracking. Today, in addition to managing her family’s organically-farmed Yount Mill Vineyards in Yountville, Kendall oversees accounting, client contracts, government agency interface and special projects. “I’m very dedicated to the legacy of our family, and to continuing the path forged by my father and great-grandfather.”
Kendall is married to Jeff Onysko, who serves as assistant winemaker at Napa Wine Company and winemaker for her family’s wine brand, Elizabeth Rose.
In 2001 Kristi joined Napa Wine Company where she puts her technical and practical winemaking experience to use as well as, she says with tongue in cheek, her early background in behavioral studies. Working closely with customers to ensure their wines are produced to their exact specifications is her number one priority. “We make every effort to understand and implement our clients’ goals.” There are many personalities and a lot of moving parts, but Kristi finds the complexity of her job exhilarating.
“I get a lot of satisfaction out of completing difficult tasks; it’s perfectly suited to what I like to do.”
Lynn joined Napa Wine Company in 2002 and today serves as Laboratory Director overseeing all lab functions including chemical analysis, bottling QC, the implementation of new equipment and protocols, and conducting microbiological tests. Her work brings her in close contact with clients as she provides timely, accurate analysis and also assists with data interpretation. “We have a great exchange of information with our client winemakers and we all share our knowledge. It creates quite an educational environment at the winery.”
Lynn, who also serves as winemaker of the Pelissa family’s Oakville Winery brand, enjoys working at a family-owned business, particularly in an industry where mergers and acquisitions are becoming more common. “Whether it’s a technical, mental or physical challenge, the staff at Napa Wine Company is very supportive, and I feel the family really respects our work. I’m very happy to see the fifth generation (Kendall and Morgaen Hoxsey) involved.”
Jeff attended Cal Poly San Luis Obispo where he earned a Bachelor of Science in Wine & Viticulture and graduated in the 2010. During his sophomore summer in college he studied in Spain at the University of Valladolid.
In 2016, he began making wine for our Elizabeth Rose wines at the home of Napa Wine Company and is currently working as Assistant Winemaker for Napa Wine Co.