Overview Vineyards Mike Duffy Family Fitch/Optima
For Mike Duffy, owning a winery was the culmination of a labor of love and a dream fulfilled. Born in Salem, Oregon, and raised in Redding, California, it was apparent at a tender age, that he was destined to pursue a career in the wine business. His father was an avid home wine maker. Young Mike was fascinated by the process and would often help his dad. For Mike Duffy, this became his calling, a life-long ambition that began in the family garage. There, Mike would take any fruit he could get his hands on and craft it into wine. He once even raided the neighbor’s rose bushes to produce a rose petal champagne. While just a sophomore in high school, Mike declared his intention to major in enology at UC Davis.
In 1980, during his last year at Davis, Mike landed an opportunity to intern at Trefethen Winery in Napa Valley, where he had worked briefly during an annual crush. He was soon offered a job as Assistant Winemaker, and so moved by his enthusiasm, he decided to accelerate his education by finishing his last year’s worth of academic work in two quarters.
In 1983, Mike moved over to Sonoma County and the Alexander Valley to continue his pursuit of one day owning a winery. That year he became the winemaker at a start-up winery in Sonoma County, Balverne, which specialized in white wines. In 1998, Mike accepted the winemaker position at Field Stone, working alongside André Tchelistcheff, America’s most influential post-Prohibition winemaker. He stayed at Field Stone for nine years while also crafting a Cabernet Sauvignon for his newly launched Optima label. It was in 1984 that Mike first purchased grapes leading to the inaugural 400 case production of his own Cabernet Sauvignon, which he made in his garage. Since 1997, Mike has been fully devoted to Optima and Fitch Mountain Cellars. His approach to winemaking combines art and practicality.
In 2001, Mike married Nicol Massa Trenam, and with his three sons, Danny, Chris and Will, and Nicol’s son, Tyler, they became one family – all involved in the winery operations. Today, they celebrate the continued success of Optima Winery close to three decades later, while continuing the tradition of producing premium world class wines in limited quantities. Total production averages less than 5000 cases annually.
“For us, it’s totally a family affair.” says Nicol. “Each bottle that leaves the winery represents our hard work, our dreams and our devotion to each other.”
The Optima winery focuses on outstanding red wines produced from grapes grown in premium locations in Sonoma County. These include the flagship Cabernet Sauvignon from Alexander Valley and two wines from Dry Creek Valley, a Zinfandel and a Petite Sirah.
Fitch Mountain Cellars wines have a humble beginning. The initial production was created with use of a $5000 tax refund. Initially, they were designed to be a temporary label while the Optima wines aged, but their ongoing popularity has kept them going ever since the first release. While these wines share much in common with their Optima brethren, they are meant to be consumed at a younger age and represent incredible value for their price and quality. Currently available is an Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon that is barrel aged for 18 months and bottled unfiltered.