Naoko Dalla Valle

Naoko Dalla Valle was born in Kobe, Japan, and as a young woman studied art in London. In 1982 she moved with her Italian-born husband Gustav Dalla Valle to the Napa Valley, with the goal of growing grapes. The vineyard led to a winery completed in 1986. After Gustav’s untimely death, Naoko took over the reins of the company and has guided the winemaking for the past twenty-six years, during which time Dalla Valle has become one of Napa Valley’s most sought-after wines. In 2017 Naoko was joined by her daughter, Maya, who now makes the wine and assists Naoko in running the business.

Learn more about Naoko Dalla Valle in the interview below.


Karen MacNeil: Are you inspired by other wine regions? Which ones and why?

Naoko Dalla Valle: Yes, I am inspired by Burgundy and Bordeaux for their classification of the vineyards (Grand Cru and First Growth, etc.).  I identify more with Burgundy Grand Cru because they are smaller and more similar to our size.  Understanding terroir is very important for me.


KM: Has the Napa Valley changed since you came to live here in the 1980s? If so, how?

NDV: Napa Valley has become more international because of our colleagues from Europe, the restaurant scene, and melding cultures – it has evolved a lot! At the same time, it remains an agricultural community with natural beauty.


KM: Do you think that women, in general, possess greater sensory ability when it comes to tasting wine- or maybe different sensory ability?

NDV: Yes, I think women, in general, possess greater sensory ability in tasting wine. I feel we are better with nuances and other areas because we are instinctively more attuned it.


KM: If you had to choose to drink a wine that was elegant or one that was powerful which would choose and why?

NDV: I would choose a wine elegant in style.  I enjoy more nuanced and complex wine.  That is more appealing to my senses.  If I were to opt for a powerful wine, it would need to be aged.


KM: In addition to wine, what is your other favorite beverage?

NDV: I enjoy tea – specifically different types of Japanese, Chinese, and English teas.  In particular, I love good Gyokuro (Japanese green tea) hot/cold brew.  There is a lot of umami in good quality Gyokuro.


KM: Tell us something about you that would surprise most people to learn.

NDV: I am a farmer and passionate about producing great wines.  I also grow fruits and vegetables and I am into canning.  Now my daughter, Maya, is the winemaker taking the lead in grape growing and winemaking, but I am still interested and involved.

“[How has Napa changed since the 1980’s?] Napa Valley has become more international…the restaurant scene and melding cultures… at the same time, it remains an agricultural community with natural beauty.”


More Q&A Pairs …



Get WineSpeed

Join tens of thousands of other wine lovers. Get each week’s edition of WineSpeed delivered to your inbox every Friday. It’s fast. It’s free. It’s the smartest way to stay up to speed on wine.
Email address
First Name
Last Name
Be sure to check your inbox to confim your subscription.