Above: The future and present generations of GAJA, Gaia and Angelo Gaja.
Angelo Gaja began to work at his family’s winery, GAJA (Piedmont) in 1961 after completing studies in enology at Alba (Piedmont) and Montpellier (he would later earn a degree in economics at the University of Turin). An indefatigable traveler, Gaja often credits his importing business for his expansive knowledge of the world of winemaking. Because he visited wineries as a prospective importer, he told Edward Steinberg (author of the 1992 landmark profile of the winery, The Vines of San Lorenzo), he was given unprecedented access to their winemaking techniques. Inspired by contemporary and traditional winemaking approaches in France, he began to apply his experiences to the family winery in the 1960s, introducing barrique aging, hybrid French bottle formats and longer corks, and clonal and massale selection in the vineyard. In the process, he single-handedly established Barbaresco as one of the great appellations of the world. His electric, charismatic presence and often poetical ruminations on nature of fine wine make him one of the most respected and beloved figures in the wine industry today.
In 1994, Angelo Gaja purchased the historic Pieve Santa Restituta estate in Montalcino. In 1996, the family also purchased the Ca’ Marcanda estate in Bolgheri as part of its quest to bring its expertise and experience in the production of world-class wines to Tuscany.
After completing a degree in economics at the University of Pavia, Gaia Gaja spent two years in the wine industry in San Francisco before returning to Italy to begin working with her father. She remembers fondly how a bottle of GAJA 1989 Barbaresco, shared with her by her parents’ friends in San Francisco, inspired her to return home to Italy and accept her father’s offer of a position with the winery. Today, she is involved in every aspect of her family’s business. When not shuttling between the family’s properties in Tuscany (Montalcino and Bolgheri), she travels abroad, serving as the winery’s top ambassador in the United States, where the gentle northern Californian cadence of her English only adds to her already contagious charm. The winery’s Gaia & Rey, first released in 1983, is named after Gaia and her great-grandmother, Clotilde Rey, the great matriarch often cited as the anchor in the truly epic story of this family of winemakers.