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Mike Chelini of Protégé

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Mike Chelini

Renowned for crafting numerous award-winning Chardonnays across his storied career, Mike Chelini is an iconic mentor in winemaking. In his 45th vintage, Mike set out to teach his young friend and partner, Mathew Torres, the delicate process of crafting naturally bright and fresh Chardonnay; together in 2019, they created the inaugural vintage of Protégé.

Mike’s path to becoming a quintessential Napa Valley Chardonnay winemaker began on the Mayacamas Range; he worked alongside Sterling Vineyards’ winemaker, Ric Forman, as assistant winemaker. During that time, he also tended the vines at Napa’s Stony Hill, where he was appointed vineyard manager in 1972. Mike was subsequently promoted and became Stony Hill’s fulltime winemaker in 1977. In that role, Mike established his signature wine style, always taking care to preserve the natural acidity of the grapes. He also mastered crafting wines that were “true to the vineyard” with a hallmark focus on balanced acidity and no malolactic fermentation.

A longtime friend of the Trinchero family, Mike partnered with Trinchero Family Estates in 2019 to share his genius in low-impact winemaking with his protégé, Mathew Torres. Together, they leveraged Old World techniques to create a mineral-driven Napa Valley Chardonnay with bright and fresh fruit flavors and balanced new oak that lets Napa’s terroir shine. The wine – fittingly named “Protégé” – is a nod to the inspiring significance of lasting friendships and relationships that unites Napa Valley, from one generation to the next.

Protege winemakers Mike Chelini and Mathew Torres in the vineyard laughing with each other
In the rows of grapes growing in the vineyards of Protege winery, with a beautiful pink sky in the background
Protege winemakers Mike Chelini and Mathew Torres talking in the beautiful vineyard of Protege winery