When Mike Duffy decided to start his own winery, he briefly struggled to think of a name – he wanted a name that was easy to remember and people could pronounce, out of thin air came Optima and it stuck. Now more than thirty years later, he finds the moniker quite fitting.
The dictionary defines Optima as the plural of Optimum which means “…the best of several outcomes”. The story of Optima and the Duffy family could have had several different endings. But this one truly is among the best. Optima, located in picturesque Healdsburg, California, is the epitome of a small family winery, annually producing only 5,000 cases of top quality Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, and a Zinfandel Port.
The limited production allows everyone in the family – Mike, Nicol and sons Danny, Tyler, Chris and Will – to be personally involved in all aspects of the operation. And it enables Mike, as winemaker, to employ winemaking techniques that larger wineries don’t have time for, such as counter pressure racking, extended maceration and unfiltered wines. Mikes approach to winemaking combines art and practicality.
The Optima label made its first appearance in 1984 on 400 cases of Cabernet Sauvignon, crafted by Mike and his late wife, Tina. Over the years, Mike worked full time as winemaker for Trefethen in Napa Valley and Field Stone in Alexander Valley. Optima, in a sense, was his “weekend warrior” project. In 1997, Mike left Field Stone to operate Optima full-time, a move he made because it allowed him to spend
more time on his brand and with his family.
Sadly, Mike lost his wife to cancer, but that did not stop Mike from moving forward raising three boys, coaching baseball and soccer and making wine. In 2002, Mike met Nicol Massa, and with his three sons, Danny, Chris and Will, and Nicol’s son, Tyler, they became one family. Today, they celebrate the continued success of Optima close to three decades later, while continuing the tradition of producing premium world class wines in limited quantities.
“For us, it’s a totally a family affair.” says Nicol. “Each bottle that leaves the winery represents our hard work, our dreams and our devotion to each other.” The winery focuses on outstanding red wines produced from grapes grown in premium locations in Sonoma County. These include the flagship Cabernet Sauvignon from Alexander Valley and three wines form Dry Creek Valley, a Zinfandel, Petite Sirah and a Zinfandel Port.