Erik Nickel, Partner
Oklahoma native Erik Nickel spent a good deal of time growing up around the wine business, due to the influence of his uncle, Gil Nickel, proprietor of Far Niente. But with a keen interest in architecture and historic restoration, Erik never envisioned a wine industry career. Yet today, Erik is a partner in Napa Valley wineries Far Niente, Dolce, Nickel & Nickel and EnRoute in the Russian River Valley.
Raised and schooled in Tulsa, OK, Erik graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a degree in business marketing. As a teenager, he spent summers in the Napa Valley, working as a member of the landscape and cellar crews at Far Niente. It was during this time when he realized his interest in historic preservation by witnessing the restoration of Far Niente.
"Watching how Gil transformed Far Niente from a stone shell of a building into one of the most breathtaking estates in the Napa Valley is what planted the seed. Ever since then, I’ve been obsessed with architecture and restoring old homes," said Erik.
Erik did not follow a straight progression into construction and restoration. Instead, after college he joined Greenleaf Nursery, his family’s commercial nursery business based in Oklahoma, as a sales representative. At 23, he became the youngest Greenleaf salesperson to have his own field sales territory, when he took over the Dallas, TX, market. While Erik enjoyed success at Greenleaf, he rediscovered his passion for restoration, switched to a career in real estate and eventually began working independently as a restoration specialist.
Projects in Texas and Southern California helped Erik establish himself and his fledgling business. Other opportunities began to materialize, including one from his uncle in Napa Valley, who by then had fully established Far Niente as a highly sought-after, luxury Napa Valley property, and was starting a new winery project.
"The bait with Nickel & Nickel was the opportunity to restore the Sullenger home, the Queen Anne farmhouse which was built on the site in the 1880s. Little did I know that Gil had the whole winery construction in mind," said Erik.
In January 2001, Erik closed his Southern California-based restoration company and relocated to the Napa Valley to become construction manager for Nickel & Nickel. Ground was broken on the project in June 2001 and the winery opened to the public in July 2003.
Erik was named a winery partner in January 2002, and today he serves as vice chairman of the wineries. Erik makes his home in Napa, CA, in a handsome, Napa Victorian, circa 1891, which he restored to pristine condition.