Chelini made his name in Napa at Stony Hill, where he was a longstanding winemaker, moving there with his wife Kathleen and their family in 1972. Chelini began at Stony Hill in the vineyard manager role before becoming the winemaker. Born in Sonoma in 1948, he and Kathy came to Napa in 1970, beginning his wine career in the Valley at Sterling Vineyards as an assistant winemaker.
Chelini would go on to craft wines and, ultimately, the reputation of Stony Hill as one of the Napa Valley’s most iconic Chardonnay producers. Crafting long ageing wines that reflected the terroir of the Spring Mountain vineyards from which they came. Eschewing oaky Chardonnay, Chelini made wines of precision and focus, making his first Chardonnay in 1973. Mike would go on to be the longest-tenured winemaker in Napa at Stony Hill until the sale of the estate in 2019.
When Stony Hill was sold, Chelini went on to partner with Trinchero Family Estates in a mentoring role, working with Napa’s next generation of winemakers. He worked with young winemaker Matt Torres, his protégé, teaching his approach to crafting Chardonnays of precision and balance for Trinchero’s Protégé wine brand. The wines are a result of their relationship and Chelini’s giving approach to mentorship.
Chelini was a proud family man, steeped in his Italian-American culture; he is survived by his wife Kathleen Ann (Ragghianti), his children, daughters Misha and Missy Gott, and his son Rico, seven grandchildren and his sister Kit Chelini of Sonoma.
In lieu of flowers, the family would welcome a gift to the Mike Chelini Wine Growing Scholarship instead (PO box 528 Saint Helena, CA 94574) created by his family for aspiring winemakers and grape growers attending St. Helena High School.