Montoliva Vineyards & Winery

Mark Henry was one of the first to plant the prized clones of Sangiovese introduced to the U.S. by Vivai Cooperativi Rauscedo in 2000, and the first to plant the southern Italian mainstay Aglianico in the North Sierra Foothills.

Chicago Park

... was originally settled by German and Italian Americans. The original Italian settlers came here from Chicago in the mid-1880's looking for somewhere to re-connect with their agrarian roots. None of the original vineyards still exist, however, agriculture in the form of century old orchards and newer vineyards, including Montoliva Vineyard reflect the spirit of our pioneering forebearers. ​ Chicago Park is Nevada County's agricultural epicenter. At 2300' elevation, it is blessed with very warm days, and cool nights; perfect for the central and southern Italian varietals we love to grow.


Chicago Park, California is on the western slope of the Sierra Foothills at 2300 ft elevation, about equidistance from Sacramento and Lake Tahoe. Warm summers, cool evenings and soils of decomposed igneous rock create a very happy home for our 1820 Sangiovese, 80 Aglianico, 600 Primitivo, 600 Negroamaro, 400 Montepulciano, 200 Teroldego, 200 Aleatico and 150 Canaiolo Nero vines. This, combined with the old world tradition of close planting (4ft x 3ft), means that Montoliva Vineyard & Winery is blessed with an annual bounty of high-quality fruit.

In addition to our estate vineyard, we also grow five acres of Aglianico, Teroldego, Nero d’Avola, Dolcetto, Falanghina and Vermentino about a mile away at the Wabash Avenue Vineyard.

We adhere to the idea that our vineyard will reach its full potential, not under our watch, but when our children and grand-children are tending it. We use no pesticides, very limited weed control and employ sustainable farming practices.

While we practice organic methodologies, we are not certified. Don’t even get me started on the racket commonly known as “organic certification”. All leftover grape skins/stems from the winery are composted back into the vineyard. We do have a goal of eventually reaching biodynamic certification (a cert that actually means something), we still need to acquire a bit more land to make that feasible.

Our estate vineyard was planted in 2000. We were fortunate that this same year, Vivai Cooperativi Rauscedo, Italy’s largest grapevine nursery, opened a subsidiary in California and made available, for the first time, many prized clones of Sangiovese.

Montoliva Vineyard has a higher degree of clonal diversity than any other Sangiovese vineyard in California. By combining these exciting grapes with the old world tradition of planting vines very close together, we are blessed each year with a bounty of very high quality fruit.

The Future

It has always been our goal to grow all of our own fruit here in Chicago Park. I will be the first to admit it has taken us a lot longer to get there than I thought it was going to. Twenty-two years after putting the first vine in the ground, the only varietal we work with that we do not grow ourselves is Barbera. For a while there it felt like every morning I’d wake up and say to myself “Today’s the day. Today I am calling the nursery and ordering vines. I’m going to get the trellising up and plant some Barbera”. At the end of those days was a completely different conversation, “what on earth are you thinking? You don’t have time for the 9 acres you’re working with now!”. I have finally reconciled myself to the reality that my children will be planting the Barbera.

We continue to slowing expand our planting of Canaiolo Nero on the estate vineyard. This is a really (really) obscure varietal in California. No grapevine nursery stocks it, so I self-propagate about 100 vines a year. I estimate that by 2026 I’ll have enough mature vines to start producing a stand alone wine from our Canaiolo Nero.

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Join the Chicago Park Wine Society

The Chicago Park Wine Society is a special release club, offering exclusive opportunities to sample and purchase pre-release and limited release wines.

Club Members also receive a 20% discount on all of our other wines – this means you are paying $13.50 for our multiple-award-winning Sierra Bella!

Your commitment is 2 bottles each of two different wines, four times a year. Join the club and enjoy wines nobody else makes, or can obtain.

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