Petaluma Profile: World traveling oenophile Bianca Lucchetti

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“The beautiful thing about wine,” Bianca Lucchetti explains, “it’s not just about history, geology, chemistry, culture and cuisine. Even if you are an expert, you are not an expert. There is always something to learn.”

Born in Buenos Aires and “bilingual since birth,” Lucchetti’s family moved to Sonoma County when she was an infant. Her father was an Olympic fencer for Argentina, who went on to coach at Princeton, and now teaches in London. Since her mother worked at the Gloria Ferrer Caves and Vineyards, Lucchetti grew up with great wine and food.

Attending San Francisco State with the intention of becoming a diplomat, Lucchetti’s degree is in international relations. She also holds a B.A. in Spanish language and literature from her “year abroad” at the Universidad Complutense de Madrid where, she says, “I learned from Spanish wine, as well as the Goya, Velazquez, Durer and Hieronymous Bosch paintings in the Prado (Museum).”

With her diplomas in hand, Lucchetti returned to Buenos Aires, but found the city “so hysterical,” that she relocated to Mendoza to work as the hospitality manager at Septima Winery for a year.

“The Uco Valley,” she says, “is famous for its red wines (especially Malbec), and Mendoza is the Latin version of small town wine country — great food, a really fun wine industry where I quickly made friends at the numerous Asado barbecues. It is the first time I lived in the snow, but also in a desert.”

Lucchetti explains that she has used the wine industry to live in different countries.

“After Mendoza, I came back to work in the Kamen Estates tasting room in the Sonoma Plaza,” she says. “When I learned that Australia and New Zealand offer a working holiday visa, I used my savings to live and work in Melbourne for a year as a lead sommelier who recommended Argentine-style wines. I extended my visa by being sponsored by wineries in the Yarra Valley — an area known for its Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and sparkling wines.”

Backpacking through Southeast Asia before returning home (to be “a real person,” she says), Lucchetti admits she failed a job interview but still managed to get a gig with Young’s Markets, a wine and spirits distributor.

“This allowed me to explore the middle part of wine’s three-tiered system,” she says, referring to production, distribution and retail. “Working on commission from 60-100 assigned accounts, I quickly learned that good contacts are invaluable, and I needed to think like the sommeliers. So I continued to study wines and spirits to achieve a rare WSET Level 3 Advanced certification from the Wine & Spirit Education Trust. I also noticed that tastes change. That little sushi spot may end up being my best friend, and the way to get in with Michelin Star restaurants was to earn my WSET Sake Level 3 (with merit).”

Lucchetti says she also began to chafe at the changes to her beloved San Francisco.

“Things aren’t the same as when I was in college,” she admits. “Traffic, trash, noise, congestion, homelessness, the rents … I cannot believe the rents. So my carpenter/welder boyfriend [and his dog] and I decided we should live in a small town, and picked Petaluma for all the good things combined into one package.”

Three weeks ago, after being “headhunted” by the Silverado Vineyards in Napa, Lucchetti started a new job as their Northern California Sales Manager. She likes that Silverado is family-owned (the Disneys) and everything is estate grown, in that it is made and bottled by the vineyard.

“The challenge,” Lucchetti says, “is being in the humbling position of building a new empire. It’s super exciting.”

(Contact Gil Mansergh at gilmansergh@comcast.net)

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