Fife Vineyards Napa Valley and Mendocino, California
When Dennis Fife and Karen MacNeil married in 1996, they both had long-established wine careers. He had spent 18 years in high-level jobs at Beaulieu and Inglenook wineries before buying his first vineyard in 1989. She was a nationally known wine writer and educator who had moved west to "get closer to wine." The couple now own 30 acres, and Fife Vineyards produces 20,000 cases annually.
But it hasn't always been a cakewalk, and nothing could insulate them when their until-then-thriving winery was hit exceptionally hard by September 11. Fife Vineyards' main customers are restaurants, and 20 percent of its business was in the New York-Washington corridor, including restaurants such as Windows on the World. Only just now recovering from the setback, Dennis, Karen, and a consulting winemaker continue to produce highly rated Bordeaux and Rhône varieties, as well as Zinfandel, made both in Napa Valley and Mendocino.
They travel often - now with a baby daughter - while Dennis promotes the winery and Karen divides her time among Fife, her leadership of the wine program at the Culinary Institute of America in Napa, her mega-selling The Wine Bible, and her upcoming PBS series on wine and food.
"People think it's all about traveling and tasting wine," says Dennis. But it's really about hard work. Nevertheless, he says, "I wouldn't do anything else. I have to be involved in something where you can never know it all, that you can learn the rest of your life. And the wine business certainly more than fulfills that."
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