Up Close And Personal With Antonio Castellucci

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Antonio Castellucci, left, and his family, from left to right: Angela Longyear, Marco Castellucci, Maria Castellucci, and Rita Castellucci,
The Castellucci family, from left to right: Angela Longyear, Marco Castellucci, Maria Castellucci, Rita Castellucci, and Antonio Castellucci

Photo Credit: Antonio Castellucci

From the Mondavis to the Sebastianis to the Gallos, there are generations of Italian families who have helped build Northern California’s wine community. Another name that should be on your radar is Antonio Castellucci. In a short amount of time, Castellucci has become a recognized figure known in the Napa Valley for his hospitality, real estate investment and development, and philanthropic endeavors.   

Born in 1948 in a small town—with a population of 2,500—in San Solti, Calabria, Italy, Castellucci immigrated to Buenos Aires, Argentina with his family when he was eight. He was an entrepreneur at a young age. At 17, he purchased equipment and started making plastic flowers that he sold in stores. His mother passed away when he was 20 and his uncle in San Jose invited Castellucci to visit America.

Castellucci with Carmen Policy
Castellucci with Carmen Policy

Photo Credit: Antonio Castellucci

With $200 from his father, Castellucci traveled to San Jose. He stayed with his aunt and uncle and after his three-month tourist visa expired, he realized that he wanted to stay in the United States because it offered more economic opportunity than Argentina. However, it was difficult for Castellucci to obtain a visa. His uncle hired a lawyer to help him stay legally and he tried to get both work and student visas, but nothing worked. His visa expired, so when the doorbell rang, he often had to hide in the closet.

One day while in San Francisco, Castellucci met a woman who introduced him to a girl from his Italian hometown. When Castellucci met Rita, in the downstairs event room at St. Peter and Paul Church, it was love at first sight. It turned out that they attended grade school together before Castellucci moved to Argentina. Three weeks after they met, Rita and Castellucci took a Greyhound bus to Reno and got married. When they came back to her parents flat in North Beach, they did not share a bed for almost three months—until they got officially married at St. Peter and Paul Church. Friends and some relatives believe that Castellucci got married to be able to stay in America. But, the couple has been married for 46 years, and have three children and five grandchildren.

Antonio and Rita at a Festival Napa Valley event
Antonio and Rita at a Festival Napa Valley event

Photo Credit: Drew Altizer

Soon after their marriage, Rita was able to find a job for Castellucci at Robert Kirk, a beautiful English clothing store in downtown San Francisco. He worked 60 hours per week as a stock boy in the basement, making $2 per hour. It was challenging because Castellucci did not speak English. After work, he took English lessons at the International Institute on Van Ness Avenue. Robert Kirk was sold to Cable Car Clothiers, but Castellucci continued working and the new owners raised his wages to $3 per hour.

Two months later, Castellucci was given the opportunity to work the selling floor and start selling clothing. When a coworker asked Castellucci if he would like to go to the Anthony School of Real Estate for a free class, he immediately said yes. Although Castellucci didn’t know what real estate meant, he looked up the translation and became very interested. He attended the class and had trouble understanding, but was interested in being involved with properties. He learned that if he memorized all the questions and the correct answers, he could pass the real estate agent test. After a few months of study, he passed the test on the first try!

The Ink House
The Ink House

Photo Credit: David Duncan Livingston

In 1972 the Castelluccis purchased their first properties: two flats on Irving and 22nd Avenue for $47,000. They managed the apartments, which each rented for $250 per month. Rita cleaned the common areas and Castellucci attended to repairs. One of the tenants was driving him crazy, so Antonio sold the building in 1973. At that time, he was getting passionate about real estate so he purchased four units on Geary Boulevard for $80,000. He took advantage of other opportunities to acquire more properties. As value increased, he bought larger buildings in better locations and Castellucci ended up building a small property empire.

Five years ago, Castellucci discovered the upper Napa Valley. He purchased 28 properties in the St Helena area: homes, vineyards, luxury inns, and commercial buildings. Castellucci now owns the Bank of America building near Main Street and the Ink House, a bed and breakfast on Highway 29 and Whitehall Lane. He is currently working on getting approvals for a $125 million development of luxury homes plus a winery in St Helena. He thanks America for making his dreams come true and for being an amazing land of opportunity. In 2011, Castellucci wanted to give back to the community, so when the founding members of Festival Napa ValleyRick Walker, Timothy Blackburn, and Darioush Kaledi—offered him a position on the board of directors, he jumped at the chance to be a part of the festival. He and Rita have been passionate supporters of the Festival ever since.

We chatted candidly with Antonio to learn more about his life. Below is our conversation.

Maria, Antonio, and Rita
Maria, Antonio, and Rita

Photo Credit: Antonio Castellucci

Olivia Hsu Decker: How did your childhood shape your life?

Antonio Castellucci: Living in Italy and Argentina for the first 22 years of my life with strong family values gave me the foundation to appreciate life and opportunities.

OHD: What made you interested in Napa Valley?

AC: I remember my father making wine in the basement of our home in Italy and drinking wine at a very young age. With my wife Rita and three small children, we started visiting Napa Valley in the late 80s and instantly we fell in love. In 1989, we purchased a home on two acres of land in Carneros and planted Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes. In 1992, we started to make wine for family and friends. It was so fun to have the Castellucci name on a bottle of wine. 10 years ago, we purchased a home in St. Helena and now we enjoy it so much with the children and grandchildren as our vacation house—our primary residence is in beautiful Belvedere.

15392925_1776951802564332_1225917140308995295_oPhoto Credit: Antonio Castellucci

OHD: How did you become a board member of Festival Napa Valley? What is your contribution to this fantastic charity event?

AC: My love for music started at a very young age. I loved watching my father and uncle play guitar in Italy and Argentina so at 15 years old, I took voice and guitar lessons. Five years later, I formed a musical group and started playing and singing in nightclubs and local events in Buenos Aires. These were fantastic times in my life. Fast forward to 2011 in beautiful Napa Valley, when Timothy Blackburn, Darioush Khaledi, and Rick Walker asked me to join the Festival Napa Valley board of directors and immediately, I agreed to serve. I was very interested in giving back to art and music education, meeting fantastic people in the community, and having a great time along the way.

OHD: How many properties do you own now in the Bay Area?

AC: We now own about 100 properties comprising of apartments, mixed-use properties, commercial buildings, and single-family homes. The majority are in San Francisco, Marin, and Santa Clara County. We possess 28 properties in Napa Valley including vineyards.

The Castelluccis
The Castelluccis

Photo Credit: Devlin Shand for Drew Altizer Photography

OHD: How do you balance your busy life?

AC: We always take time to travel. As members of Exclusive Resorts, we have traveled the world for the last 14 years. We love to take advantage of the fabulous walks in Belvedere where we have our main home. We also play tennis two to three times per week.

OHD: What’s your advice to seekers of the American dream?

AC: My advice is straightforward: Work hard and work smart. Learn English quickly. Mingle with locals. Find your passion and follow your dreams. Have faith—the land of opportunity is still very much alive.

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