MANTECA — Ninety years after Sicilian immigrant Gaspare “Nono” Indelicato first planted grapes on a 68-acre former dairy ranch in Manteca, the company he founded, DFV Wines, is one of the largest and fastest growing family-owned and operated winemakers in the state, cultivating more than 10,000 acres in the Central Valley and along the coast.
Until 2007, it was known as Delicato Family Vineyards. Even with the name change — a move aimed to stay relevant to millennials while keeping the loyalty of baby boomers — “family” remains one of the company’s core values.
The company’s definition of “family,” however, extends beyond bloodlines to include its employees, a number of whom have recommended their employer to their family members.
“It’s a testament to the culture we have here that the people know we care about them and want them to succeed. We have not just one person but their family members integrated in different departments,” said advisory board member Marie Indelicato Mathews, 58, who is among the family’s third generation of leaders. She is the daughter of Gaspare’s son, Vince Indelicato, the former CEO and president, who now chairs the family board of directors.
At least half of the 500-plus employees work at the DFV Wines Tasting Room in Manteca, according to Mathews. The rest are in Lodi and Napa, where the company’s headquarters is located.
As director of hospitality and sales, Mathews oversees the Napa and Manteca tasting rooms and related functions, including merchandise ordering, public relations and donations, website orders, the wine club, test marketing, and five events a week for private, non-profit, trade or in-house groups. She has five direct reports and about 30 indirect reports.
“I’m not a micromanager,” she said. “I like to give staff authority. I’d rather have them make a wrong decision than none. It takes the pressure off me to be all and do all. If you hire the right people for the right job, let them do it. We have so many very educated and intelligent people. I get really good results.”
Mathews calls the tasting rooms “the face of Delicato.”
“We interact with people. A cross-section of America comes in because everybody drives down the highway.” The Manteca tasting room is on State Route 99 near French Camp Road.
She points out that the tasting rooms can provide pleasurable introductions to wine even for those who think they can’t drink.
“A lot of women are sensitive to the tannins in red wine but may be able to handle pink wines or red blends. Men are usually sensitive to the sulfates in white wine so they choose red. Those under 21 or on medication can enjoy sparkling non-alcoholic juice,” Mathews said.
DFV Wines produces and distributes Gnarly Head, Bota Box, Noble Vines, Twisted, the HandCraft Artisan collection, Irony, Juxtapoz, La Merika, Black Stallion Estate Winery, Brazin, Domino, Massimo, Sequin, Sonoma Hills, Fog Head, Frusion Wine, First Press, and Belle Ambiance.
Its largest brand, Bota Box, sold 2.6 million cases in 2013, a 14 percent increase, according to Impact Databank. The three-liter boxed wine label is geared to the eco-conscious millennial consumer. Its newest label is Belle Ambiance, aimed at the female and millennial market, according to Shanken News Daily.
“The Indelicato family has a proud legacy of leadership and a pioneering spirit that has helped build and unite the California wine industry. Also, their early adoption of sustainable practices reflects their long view of winegrowing and winemaking,” said Bobby Koch, president and CEO of Wine Institute, an advocacy group made up of 1,000 California wineries and wine-related businesses.
Mathews and her husband, Kim, have for the past 30 years lived in the brick house her grandfather built in Manteca. In grade school she did her homework at the winery. When she was older she answered phones and did filing.
“In those days we did a lot of things ourselves. Everybody had to pitch in. My brother loved working in the cellar and the bottling line. My favorite part was always retail. I made gift packages for the tasting room. I’ve never been a good filer,” she said.
“The Indelicato family is a great part of the Manteca community,” said Manteca Mayor Willie Weatherford. “I’ve known them since we moved to Manteca in the ‘60s. We visited with them personally. Rarely do you get to rub elbows with those who have such an elevated position in the community.”
“I’m happy to be here and happy to contribute. I enjoy what I do; I enjoy my family and my customers. It’s all about the people,” Mathews said.
Their son, Stephen, 26, is building his niche in the family business. He is interested in the production aspect and is furthering his education via online courses in winemaking at U.C. Davis.