Haynes Vineyard Announces New Head Winemaker Nico Cueva
Acclaimed vintner brings over a decade of knowledge with harvest experience in California, Australia and South Africa
Napa, Calif.—Haynes Vineyard is pleased to announce Nico Cueva’s appointment as head winemaker of its historic Napa Valley wine estate. In his new role, Cueva will direct and oversee all winemaking operations, from vine to bottle, marking the start of a dynamic new era for the winery as it honors the legacy left behind by revered vintners while continuing development of the estate.
“Our mission is to acquire the greatest historical vineyards that are capable of producing wines of elegance and distinction and to pair them with the most brilliant winemakers,” said Carlton McCoy, President and CEO of Haynes Vineyard and Master Sommelier. “From the first time I met Nico a few years ago, it was obvious that our palates and philosophies about wine were aligned. Nico has a romantic and open-minded approach to coercing the purest expression of a vineyard into wine. I believe Nico and the rest of the team at Haynes Vineyard will take us on a truly great journey of telling the story of one of the world’s great vineyards.”
Growing up amongst vineyards in southern California's San Pasqual Valley, Nico was drawn to the wine industry at a young age; from a vine’s new leaves in spring to freshly pressed grapes, the sights and smells made an impression that stayed with him well into adulthood. After college, while teaching organic farming in the Galápagos Islands, Cueva ventured on a trip to Mendoza, Argentina, where he met a group of winery interns working at Bodega Carmelo Patti. This interaction rekindled an interest in the world of wine.
Following his return to the U.S., Nico began working at a San Diego wine shop, where he evolved his palate and expanded his wine knowledge. With the desire to get his hands dirty in the wine industry, Nico pursued a winemaking position by cold calling Santa Barbara County wineries until he was offered a position with Ampelos Cellars in 2007.
After holding multiple positions in wineries around Santa Barbara, Nico wanted to deepen his understanding of viticulture and took a position under Jeff Newton of Coastal Vineyard Care Associates in Buellton. In 2009, Nico joined Kosta Browne as a full-time winemaking intern, but stepped away to focus on Cabernet Sauvignon in Australia’s Margaret River at Moss Wood, followed by a harvest position at Vilafonté winery in South Africa. Nico was lured back stateside in 2011 with a Cellar Master position at Kosta Browne, where he took over as Head Winemaker in 2015.
“When I first walked the Haynes vineyards, I was not struck by a grand vista, but rather a site of tranquility and energy,” says Cueva. “As a winegrower when you walk the rows, kick the rocks and see the old vines you know something is there. With a strong vision executed by the right team, I believe we will be able to continue what the old masters saw there more than 50 years ago. Simply put, I couldn’t be more excited and humbled to be able to curate wines from this little slice of Napa’s history.”
About Haynes Vineyard:
The historic Haynes Vineyard, originally purchased by James Whitford from Nathan Coombs in 1885, is comprised of a 43-acre parcel and includes 32 acres planted to vine. James Whitford was the great uncle of Duncan Haynes, who planted the vineyard in the 1960s at the encouragement of Louis Martini. Over the last 134 years, the property has been continuously owned by generations of the Haynes family, who farmed prunes, almonds, peaches and wine grapes. As recommended by Louis Martini, the Haynes family planted Wente Clone Chardonnay followed by the Martini Clone Pinot Noir in 1967 and 1968, respectively. Louis Martini purchased the entire production from the vineyard for the first few years. In the early 1990s, production of the Haynes Pinot Noir wines was overseen by the legendary winemaker, Andre Tchelistcheff. These heritage vines, now fifty-two years old, still thrive on the property.