Musings of Napa from a 5th Generation Native
Having grown up on a 15-acre farm in the Carneros AVA, Mallory McEligot is unique in Northern California wine country as a fifth-generation Napa native. Her husband, Matt McEligot, also hails from Napa and is the Director of Operations for Reverie II, making them a formidable wine industry duo. Matt’s ancestors are part of the Concannon wine family that introduced Clone 7 Cabernet Sauvignon to California. Today, Concannon Clones 7, 8, and 11 represent 80 percent of the Cabernet Sauvignon plantings in California.
Mallory makes lasting impressions quickly and works a room like the seasoned pro that she is. There are no strangers to Mallory, and nothing stands in her way. In a word, she’s effortless. If you need something, she’s there; if you have a question, she surely has an answer; and if you want the inside scoop on what’s happening, she seems to know everything and everyone. Her genuine friendliness, sense of humor, and relaxed charm make you feel connected and cared for, which in turn, makes her the perfect hospitalian.
But make no mistake, Mallory is a busy lady. She is a wife, mother, blogger, and social media maven, Director of Events and Membership at Silver Trident Winery in Yountville, and founder and board member of By-Appointment Networking Group, or BANG Napa Valley. She doesn’t have much time to sit and chat, but because of who she is, she’ll be smiling, interested, and engaged the entire time. Or, she might say, “I have to run some errands. Come with me and we’ll chat in the car.”
BANG Napa Valley is one of Mallory’s proudest career accomplishments. Its vision and mission is “to work in partnership with likeminded, highly-selective by-appointment wineries and other comparable businesses (including concierge, chauffeurs, and caterers), allowing them to provide elevated services to their clientele.”
With hundreds of members across the valleys, the By-Appointment Networking Group hosts private events at wineries, hotels, and restaurants. Mallory explains, “We invite a selection of businesses to showcase their offerings to a focused group of industry professionals. This model has proved successful in fostering inter-winery relationships, as well as lasting connections with trade partners. Our vast network works together to generate new business and revenue for all participating members.”
With her work at Silver Trident Winery, Mallory also shares a passion for Yountville’s small, tight-knit community. According to Mallory, “In a one-stop-sign town, I can drink phenomenal wine, get pampered at world-class hotels and spas, eat tacos off a truck or at a handful of Michelin-starred restaurants. I can walk through The French Laundry gardens, and shop at cute boutiques. Sounds terrible, right?” Yes. Terrible, indeed.
KS: You spent ten years with the PlumpJack Group managing membership programs for their impressive and well-known portfolio of brands including PlumpJack, CADE, and Odette. What did you take away from those early years of your career?
MM: I spent the first half of those years working in the Food & Beverage sector of the Group, Carneros Resort and Balboa Café, and the rest at the wineries. I learned everything there was to know about the wine business from daily interaction with casual drinkers and day trippers to collectors and connoisseurs—what drives them, their value on wine scores, how limited availability, location, and winemaker impacts their decision making. It is still fascinating to see what drives people to visit wine country, purchase wine, and in general, what makes them tick.
KS: Silver Trident Winery is incredibly unique, given the outstanding quality of your wines, your location in Yountville, and your partnership with the Ralph Lauren Home Collection. In your opinion, what makes Silver Trident Winery so special?
MM: Silver Trident Winery, above all, is authentic. The proprietors, Bob Binder and Walter Jost have crafted a seamless hospitality experience and have hired some of the best in the valley, starting with our incredible winemaker, Kari Auringer. Before taking over the reins at Silver Trident, she was a consulting winemaker who had a hand in several highly sought “cult” wines in Napa Valley.
I also think that people seek accessibility to high-end experiences when they come to wine country. While Silver Trident is known for outstanding wines with approachable price points, our tasting experience sets us apart curated with crafted small bites in intimate spaces decorated with the Ralph Lauren Home Collection. You get all of that in addition to visiting our team and me while drinking wine with Keith Richards, our official winery dog, or Carmelita, my crazy Australian Shepherd. It’s as real as it gets!
KS: BANG is such an impressive organization. Can you share the positive impact on its members and any plans for the group in the future?
MM: BANG is my baby. I needed a network to refer my clients to when I was managing the membership programs for PlumpJack, CADE, and Odette, and that’s when I formed BANG. Over the last several years, we have created a real and growing community in both Napa and Sonoma for the little guys, the wineries that are small in size and seating capacity but have the biggest hearts and the most passion.
Recently, we launched a skills-focused webinar series geared towards resume building, interviewing skills, LinkedIn profile optimization, all ending with a job fair that takes place on October 1st, which will be our second job fair since July. It has been a huge success for not only BANG members, but we’ve partnered with local job boards and local governments to make opportunities more available and accessible. It helps create awareness that our industry has both hiring needs and qualified individuals to fill openings across the valleys. We provide social media consultation services and have started to offer in-person industry tastings for groups of less than six people.
Adapting is the key to 2020, and I’m proud of our efforts to keep members updated and engaged. We have great communities here in Napa and Sonoma.
KS: To some people, when they hear Napa Valley, they immediately feel intimidated and are concerned that they won’t fit in or measure up. However, I think the very opposite is true since after all, you’re a community of farmers and agricultural workers. What is your take on Northern California wine culture?
MM: I was born and raised in the Napa Valley, and my family does not own a vineyard. That was always a fun personal misconception growing up. My family owns a 15-acre farm in Carneros, and we don’t grow grapes. That puzzles nearly everyone.
I think that Napa Valley has created the perception and mystique of exclusivity. Still, it helped create and solidify a thriving wine culture and community in the United States. To put it another way, if Napa wineries hadn’t participated in the famous Judgement of Paris in 1976, I’m not certain that we would be in the same enviable position today as far as clout.
That said, I don’t think any of that fame and notoriety is what drives people to wake up at 2 a.m. to pick grapes and work with little to no sleep for weeks on end until harvest is complete. It’s the passion for the job. For those of us in hospitality, we try to tell stories of the people, the process of making great wine, and of the land and vineyards, so that our guests can understand the true passion, commitment, and backbreaking work behind the creation of Napa and Sonoma Valley wines.
KS: Given another year of devastating wildfires and a global pandemic, how are you dealing with the challenges of 2020?
MM: Besides drinking a lot of wine? Kidding, of course, but it has been a difficult year. Our son turned one this year, and it’s scary to think about the lingering effects of this pandemic or the next one on the horizon that we don’t know about yet. And of course, the wildfires are devastating, and we’re always on edge at this time of the year, and fearful for our friends, neighbors, and loved ones.
The wine industry and our communities rely on visitors, so when you take that away, it changes the entire area’s dynamic and it forces you to change directions, try new things, and go outside of your comfort zone. On a positive note, our members and guests have remained thirsty in 2020, and we’re grateful for that.”
KS: If you were not in the wine business, what would you be doing?
MM: I’d be working for a media company doing public relations, most likely in the social media influencer space. I specialize in networking and engagement, which would be a natural fit for my interests and personality.
KS: What wineries do you love right now? What is currently in your glass?
MM: Anything from Three Sticks in Sonoma (Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Rhône white blends), but also Vermentino from Migliavacca Wine Company, and I recently tasted a Riesling from Read Holland in Anderson Valley that blew me away. I’m really into white wines, but those are a few that I’m pretty excited about; there are so many incredible wines from Napa and Sonoma.
KS: New or must-see places in Napa?
MM: In my “best of” category, I would say that Barnett Vineyards is one of my favorites to visit along with Pride Wineryand Fisher Vineyards. And of course, everyone should come to visit me at Silver Trident Winery in Yountville.
To visit Mallory McEligot and the great team at Silver Trident Winery Tasting Home, they are located in the southern portion of Napa Valley at 6495 Washington Street, Yountville CA 94599, and open daily 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. To make an appointment, please call (707) 945-0311 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.