Donn Chappellet was born in 1931 in Los Angeles and graduated from Pomona College in 1954 with a degree in economics. He began collecting Bordeaux wines while in college, but until he was in his 30s wine remained a hobby. He devoted most of his time to Interstate United Corporation, a coffee-vending distributorship he co-founded in the mid-1950s, which he helped turn into the third-largest such business in the United States, with more than 7,000 employees and a listing on the New York Stock Exchange.
In 1966 he sold his shares in Interstate United and guided by the legendary winemaker Andre Tchelistcheff of Beaulieu Vineyards bought 320 acres of rocky mountain terrain at the eastern edge of the Napa Valley. One of the first of a new wave of vintners to arrive in the Valley during the late ’60s, Donn’s vision was to create world-class wines that mirrored the great first-growth Bordeaux he had long collected.
Donn believed that the volcanic soil and warm, dry temperatures of Pritchard Hill contributed strength and character the essence of a great wine. The intensity of fruit grown on Pritchard Hill proved his intuition about the potential of the land was right. The wines from the family’s Pritchard Hill vineyard, initially Chenin Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon, achieved rapid acclaim and a strong following among restauranteurs, collectors and critics.
Donn’s soft voice belied his inner conviction that Chappellet and its Pritchard Hill vineyard had extraordinary potential, an asset to be stewarded and enjoyed by generations of family for years to come. Until his passing in 2016, Donn continued to find great joy in guiding his children as they continue his legacy, making extraordinary wines that express the unique essence of the family’s Pritchard Hill vineyard.
Renowned landscape artist and James Beard award-winning author, Molly Chappellet reads patterns in the land, seeing structure and forms within to create unexpected beauty in the cradle of her family’s mountain vineyard. Throughout Pritchard Hill she has massaged the land into site-specific art that is reverent of the agricultural process and pays homage to the expansive natural landscape of Pritchard Hill.
Born and raised in Beverly Hills, Molly studied art at UCLA and Scripps College. When she moved to Pritchard Hill, her training in art was challenged by bigger canvases and three dimensional opportunities. With acres of land to mold and clients to entertain, she has made her garden her artistic pallet. Her work in sculpting the land and painting with flowers, trees and shrubs has earned Molly’s spectacular garden acclaim as one of the most unusual gardens in the area. As an entertainer, she has been hostess to such guests as Julia Child, Danny Kaye, Dinah Shore, Clint Eastwood, Martha Stewart, and Craig Claiborne.
Molly is the author of three books: A Vineyard Garden, the James Beard Award winning book that discusses her ideas from the earth for entertaining, gardening and life; The Romance of California Vineyards, authored with her daughter Carissa, and, Gardens of the Wine Country, co-authored with Richard Tracy. When she is not tending to her garden, Molly speaks about design and gardening and hosts winemaker dinners around the country. She has appeared on The Regis and Kathy Lee Show, The Home Show and Martha Stewart Living. Her list of credits also includes writing articles for national magazines and daily newspapers.
Molly and Donn have accomplished what they set out to do, not only to make award winning wines, but to live a simpler life. As she explains “A country environment has made me realize how essential it is in this age of computerized mechanization to reestablish our connection with the earth. To bring harmony and rhythm into our lives.”
Moving to Pritchard Hill when he was 10 years old, Cyril Chappellet has witnessed the transformation of the Napa Valley into one of the world’s great winegrowing regions. The eldest son of Molly and Donn Chappellet, Cyril grew up working in the vineyard and winery. At 18, Donn and Molly encouraged Cyril to make his own career choices and to explore life away from the family business.
After studying farm management at Cal Poly and completing his business education at Pepperdine University, Cyril began a career in corporate planning and acquisitions. In 1988, after nearly a decade of honing his business skills, Cyril returned to Pritchard Hill to join the Chappellet team. “The finest wineries around the world reflect a commitment that goes beyond one generation,” says Cyril. “At Chappellet, this ongoing commitment is key to our continued ability to make extraordinary wines. It has also elevated Pritchard Hill as one of the world’s finest locations for producing ultra-premium wine.”
Prior to being named chairman of the board, Cyril spent many years as the winery’s managing director. In this role, he was instrumental in guiding the day-to-day workings of the winery, overseeing sales and marketing efforts and working with his parents and siblings to ensure the ongoing vitality of the business. During his tenure as managing director, Chappellet was recognized for making some of the finest wines in its storied history, and Pritchard Hill catapulted to center stage as California’s premier location for mountain-grown Bordeaux varietals, most notably, Cabernet Sauvignon.
Cyril was elected chairman of the winery’s family-run board of directors in 2012, becoming the only person other than his late-father, Donn, to hold this position in the history of Chappellet. Today, Cyril is actively involved in every aspect of the winery’s operations and works closely with his family to ensure the continued success of Chappellet.
As the youngest son of Donn and Molly Chappellet, Dominic was born a year after the founding of Chappellet Vineyard & Winery. Dominic grew up exploring Pritchard Hill and has spent time working in the vineyard and as a cellar assistant during crush. He has also participated in many blending trials over the years which, along with early exposure to wines at the dinner table growing up, has helped him to develop a keen palate and a strong understanding of the family business.
Currently working at Chappellet Winery, Dominic Chappellet has spent the last several years in the Napa Valley living on Pritchard Hill with his Family. Daily operations management and marketing fill most days but he spends time representing Chappellet on the road as well with his wife Amy. Dominic can also be found giving tours at the winery and documenting life on Pritchard Hill through his photography. His activities outside the business focus on playing an active roll in the lives of his four children.
Carissa graduated from Monterey College of Law and went on to refine her skills specifically in mediation. It is those skills and training she brought back to the family business when she took on the role of Director of Legal Affairs.
Carissa works alongside her mother, Molly and two of her brothers, Cyril and Dominic, to run the day-to-day operations of Chappellet Winery and Vineyard. Together they are committed to the long-term sustainability of their iconic winery. Carissa also mentors those in generation three who express interest in learning about the family business.
Her Dragon Labels featured on Chappellet’s Malbec have gained her a fervent following. Each year club members look forward to discovering a new Dragon of Pritchard Hill. Her dragon paintings are on display at the winery.
Carissa is the author of three books: The Romance of California Vineyards, portrays a visual tour of the wine country, The Dragons of Pritchard Hill, is a fanciful history of the Napa Valley through the eyes of her dragons, and Poetic Moon, features her poetry inspired by her life in Big Sur and the Napa Valley. Her photography has been published in A Vineyard Garden, Gardens of the Wine Country, and Longhouse.
Carissa also chairs the Chappellet Board of Director’s Environmental Committee. The purpose of this committee is to keep the environment at the forefront of Chappellet’s awareness. The committee brainstorms on ideas to help the company be better stewards of the land. The committee takes a broad look at creating and maintaining a healthy environment in the vineyards, workspaces, open spaces, staff, family, and community.
When not working on behalf of Chappellet, Carissa explores her many areas of interest and expertise, which include a passion for bluegrass music, playing the mandolin and banjo, hiking, gardening, photography, cooking, bodysurfing, and cycling. Speaking of cycling, she spent all of 2000 cycling around the world, pedaling over 15,000 miles and visiting 45 countries. Of her many loves, overshadowing all is her love for her Vizsla, Tuk.
Like all of Donn and Molly Chappellet’s children, Alexa grew up playing in the vineyards of Pritchard Hill, picking grapes during harvest and spending time in the winery absorbing the alchemy of winemaking. The first of the family’s second generation to officially work for the winery, Alexa began her career at Chappellet as a cellar hand in 1981. In this capacity, she worked with winemakers Tony Soter, Cathy Corison and then assistant winemaker, Phillip Corallo-Titus. Learning from this trio of acclaimed winemakers, Alexa established a comprehensive knowledge of the Chappellet portfolio.
She continues to be actively involved in Chappellet as a member of the family-run board of directors, contributing her strong voice and valuable insights to all major decisions. “Chappellet is an important part of my identity,” says Alexa. “I am proud of what we have accomplished, and what our name has come to stand for in the wine world.”
Alexa lives in the Los Angeles area with her husband, J.P. Flagler, and their three children, Aubrey (analyst at Touchdown Ventures), Brooke (senior at Williams College in Massachusetts) and Zachary (sophomore at University of Washington, member of Alpha Delta Phi).
Alexa is an avid tennis player and often can been seen riding in the Santa Monica Mountains on her one of her Friesian horses (Indigo, Teade or Cabernet).
Lygia Chappellet moved to Pritchard Hill with her parents when she was 14 years old. Lygia remembers driving up the mountain for the first time with her family: “My father turned to us and said, ‘The only way this will work, is if we work it together.’ I took those words very literally.” Throughout her teen years, Lygia helped at the winery doing a variety of tasks including picking grapes, bottling wine and labeling. As she explored the rugged mountain property and the nooks and crannies of the vineyard, Lygia began to develop a deep appreciation for nature and agriculture – an appreciation that would help to shape her life, and her future work as an artist.
Studying at Lewis & Clark College, Lygia focused on biology and literature. She then continued in enology, viticulture, languages and liberal arts at the University of California, Davis. Lygia graduated with a Bachelors of Fine Art from the California College of Arts and Crafts. As an artist, she decided to make her home in Big Sur, where she lives with her husband Carlos Volpini on a family ranch that abuts the Ventana Wilderness, and hosts a herd of milking goats, sheep, cows and horses.
In addition to rearing her three children and working the ranch, Lygia has also established herself as a respected artist; exploring her talent in and array of mediums including oil, silk, watercolor, pastel and sculpture. She strives to portray the power and grace of animals in a manner that elevates their standing in society and encourages their preservation. Lygia’s art resides in collections in both the United States and Europe. It is currently being show in galleries in St. Helena and Big Sur. Her images have also graced the labels of several Chappellet wines, and has been featured on several of the winery’s Artist Series wines.
As a board member, Lygia brings her passion for sustainable agriculture, as well as her design background to the winery. Her goal is the ecological balance between wild lands and farm land, both on Pritchard Hill and the entire Napa Valley.
Lygia believes there are benefits of multiple ages working together in a family business. “I see achieving the full potential of our family’s winery as the work of generations with generations.” In keeping with this sentiment, Lygia and Carlos’s children are beginning to participate in the winery. Their eldest daughter, Sequoia, has interned at the winery in a variety of capacities; she has worked in the sales and marketing department, as well as pruned in the vineyard. Their second daughter Lukie, and their son London, help to organize and lead family meetings. Sequoia, Lukie and London represent part of an inspiring and promising third generation of Chappellet family, poised to make their mark on the winery in years to come.
As Chappellet’s winemaker for over three decades, Phillip Corallo-Titus has guided the family’s storied winemaking program, building on Chappellet’s legacy as one of California’s preeminent producers of Cabernet Sauvignon. A gifted winemaker with a passion for experimentation, Phillip has embraced the diversity of Pritchard Hill to craft benchmark wines that authentically express the terroir inspired complexity and character of their mountain origins.
Phillip discovered his passion for viticulture and wine at the age of 12 when he began helping his father in the family vineyard. This early exposure to working the vines was complemented at the dinner table, where Phillip’s father would pour French wines from his cellar. Building on this foundation, Phillip studied agronomy, viticulture and enology at the University of California, Davis. A dedicated student of wine, Phillip also traveled to France to learn about the great wines of Bordeaux and Burgundy.
In 1981, Phillip joined the Chappellet team as assistant winemaker, where he spent four years honing his craft and learning about the estate vineyards before pursuing winemaking opportunities at Stratford and Cartlidge & Brown wineries. In 1990, Donn Chappellet invited Phillip to return to the winery as Chappellet’s winemaker, a position he has held ever since.
Working side-by-side with longtime vineyard manager Dave Pirio, Phillip’s approach to winemaking begins in the vineyard. From his focus on harvesting at ideal ripeness to his emphasis on maintaining the integrity of Chappellet’s numerous vineyard blocks throughout the fermentation and aging process, Phillip strives to make wines that reflect both the vineyard and the vintage.
Born and raised in the Napa Valley, David Pirio has the terroir of the valley in his bones. As the vineyard manager guiding Chappellet’s estate since 1984, the rocky slopes of Pritchard Hill is the terroir Dave knows best. Over the years, he has learned the nuances of every inch of Chappellet’s 104 cultivated acres of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Chenin Blanc.
With elevations climbing from 800 to 1,800 feet, managing Chappellet’s Pritchard Hill Estate Vineyard is an awesome task. Each varietal and each of the mountain’s numerous vineyard blocks requires specific care and attention to thrive. Over the past 30+ years, Dave has learned the subtleties and sweet spots of each block, and works closely with Winemaker Phillip Corallo-Titus to continually improve the quality and flavorful intensity of Chappellet’s mountain-grown fruit.
Dave is also the point person for Chappellet’s sustainable farming efforts. Under his direction, Chappellet has become a proving ground for sustainable farming and non-chemical pest management practices, ultimately leading to the vineyard’s organic certification in 2012. The techniques used by Dave and his skilled, year-round vineyard team keep the vineyards healthy and thriving, while allowing each distinctive block the opportunity to express itself individually. In addition to farming organically, these practices include the use cover crops, bird boxes and on-site composting.
Dave’s background also includes training in both winemaking and vineyard management. Prior to joining Chappellet as vineyard manager, Dave worked as the assistant viticulturist for Christian Brothers and as part of the cellar team at Grgich Hills. Dave holds a degree in viticulture from UC Davis. He lives in Yountville with his wife, Vickie.