When Chelsea Hoff was born in the Twin Cities in 1992, she had more Best Buy in her blood than wine.
Her grandpa, Richard Schulze, founded the company. Her parents, Susan and Duane Hoff, met in college at the U of M and both went to work at Best Buy, eventually becoming executives there. But the Hoffs founded Fantesca Estate & Winery in St. Helena, California, in 2004, and a couple years later, at the age of 15 they moved Chelsea from Minneapolis out to Napa Valley.
“I remember waking up early and running downstairs to join my dad as we’d walk through the cave and do punch downs, take brix and temp measurements during harvest. The winery was and still is my happy place,” Chelsea says.
Fantesca is a rock star winery, with rock star winemaker Heidi Barrett. Chelsea learned from the best, went to the best winemaking college (UC Davis), and worked harvests in northern Italy, near Bordeaux, France, at Château Smith Haut Lafitte, then in Australia at Charles Melton. She could have come home and worked for Fantesca, but “I wanted to make wines that reflect the passion of my generation and their zest for challenging the status quo,” she says. Hence: Fearless Wines was born.
Organic vineyards, small lots, unusual grapes for Napa, and affordable price. “When it is sold out, it is sold out,” she says. It’s only sold directly to customers right now, and that’s why Chelsea will be in the Twin Cities this weekend to meet with current and prospective customers. (Head to Else Warehouse on Saturday, June 29, from 1-4 p.m.; it’s $25 per ticket, for food and three glasses of Fearless wine.)
“Many of my relatives and our friends still live in Minnesota and are also very supportive of Fearless,” she says. “I enjoy any excuse to come back and visit them in the summer months when the weather and sunsets are just magical overlooking the lakes.”
How’s the wine? I sampled the 2018 Fearless Rosé, and it’s excellent: mineral, light, crisp, shockingly Provence-like for a Napa Valley wine. Clearly a direct result of Chelsea’s time living in France. “I love the minerality and dryness of their rosé wines, all while the fruit practically jumps out of the glass,” she says. “My favorite Provence rosés are made with Grenache, so this was an easy decision given my experience.” She doesn’t bleed red wine out to get the pink; she uses an Amador County organic vineyard just for the rosé. It’s a $28 wine, but and you can guarantee you get some of that as well as the Fearless red and white wines by becoming a member of the Fearless club (with two releases a year of 3, 6, or 9 of each).
Chelsea says she still considers herself part-Minnesota (she’s lived here technically longer than she’s been in California), and she still has a bit of a Midwestern accent. Her goal is to get younger people interested in wine. “I named it Fearless because it is ‘for those who are passionate for their dreams and are fierce in their tenacity for life.’ It is a very entrepreneurial brand, which many can identify with, and also parallels with the pursuit of my dream. I get to share in their journey, while they get to share in mine.”
Get tickets for the Minneapolis wine release party: Saturday June 29, 1-4 p.m., Else Warehouse rooftop, 730 N. Washington Ave.