Eleven Eleven: Greek-American owned winery in Napa Valley
Read about Napa Valley’s Greek-owned Eleven Eleven Winery, created through a series of serendipitous events, including how we found it.
Small town Greek-American girl
Eleven Eleven Winery co-owner Ellie Anest traces her Greek roots to Lafka, near Korinthos, and Kalamata. She was born and raised in the small town of Bayard, Nebraska. There, about 100 Greek families settled, establishing the Assumption Church, where they could celebrate and perpetuate the religion, language, and traditions of their homeland.
“It was unique to have such a small, yet mighty Greek community in our town. We stuck together and supported the continuation of our culture,” Ellie explained. “We had it all – Greek church and Sunday school, language classes and dance. We all contributed in one way or another. For instance, I enjoyed baking with the ladies in the Philoptochos, participating in church choir and playing the church organ.”
Growing up, athletics played a significant role in Ellie’s life, resulting in a volleyball scholarship to Eastern Wyoming College. Later, she decided it was time to give big city life – and warmer weather – a try and transferred to San Diego State University to complete her undergraduate degree.
“Like many Greeks, my parents believed strongly in education. They felt it was important that we get exposure to new ideas, enhance our knowledge base and develop an independent career for ourselves,” she shared. She decided to pursue business with an emphasis in accounting, graduating with a position at a Big 6 accounting firm. While this was a great opportunity for a young professional, Ellie always felt a pull to do something on her own.
Listening to Ellie’s tales of life in California, her three sisters – and eventually her parents – made the move to San Diego. This would be a very different life for her parents, who were farmers. They’d have to adjust to not only a new city but also to a new way of life.
The family opened a business in San Diego called the European Market and Deli, which sold imported Greek products, as well as homemade pastries and lunch specials. There, Ellie caught the entrepreneurial ‘bug’ and enjoyed the idea of implementing her business acumen while tapping into her creative side.
“My sisters and I helped our parents in the store while we built our careers in the fields of business, medicine, and science. It was a great way to meet the local community while doing something that was very important to my mother and father– staying true to our roots,” Ellie said.
Subsequently, Ellie accepted a job with Taco Bell Corporate in Orange County, which ended up being a career changing experience.
“I learned so much about business principles, finance, and marketing, as well as leadership skills — especially the importance of employee development and recognition. My career was my focus, and I worked countless hours climbing the corporate ladder.”
From there, her entrepreneurial spirit led to the creation of her own management consulting firm. Hoping to advance her career, she later joined a larger firm, but never gave up the dream of doing something of her own.
“I wanted to create a product, something tangible. I brainstormed, did vision boards, but couldn’t come up with anything that I was passionate about starting. I was willing to be patient because I knew there was something out there for me,” she recalled.
It was all about timing.
“We saw 11:11 as a unique moment in time. So instead of saying,‘Make a wish’, we say, ‘Make Your Moment.’~ Ellie Anest
A fortuitous meeting
On a return flight from Barcelona in 2010, a fateful meeting changed everything.
“I started talking to a very interesting guy from France, Aurelien Roulin. He had an unconventional career,” she explained. “He had a construction business, yet he was also a professional dancer, entertainer, and aerialist – so different from me. We sparked a friendship over a few years of getting to know each other, that opened up an entrepreneurial discussion and wanted to build a business together.’”
Ellie and Aurelien quickly realized they shared many common interests, including a strong work ethic, positivity, openness to trying new things and, of course, wine. With these qualities in mind, they began their partnership with a real estate investment alongside Ellie’s lifelong friend, Carol Vassiliadis. When she first moved to San Diego, Ellie met Carol and her husband, Laki, who were members of the Greek community. Laki was Ellie’s first employer and he encouraged her entrepreneurial spirit in real estate and to pursue her dreams. The trio set out to create a business and out of pure coincidence, the land they purchased came with a world-class estate vineyard. Shortly after, Aurelien connected with Kirk Venge, a friend and now winemaker for Eleven Eleven. Kirk, a coveted Napa third-generation winemaker, serendipitously took on Eleven Eleven as his eleventh consultancy.
In determining the name, Ellie said they wanted it to be “something that people could relate and connect to in a memorable way.”
Ellie and Aurelien chose the name Eleven Eleven “to represent the meant-to-be-moments in life that are worth celebrating. Just like looking at a clock at precisely 11:11 and feeling something special, Eleven Eleven Wines is the expression and celebration of the idea that what is meant to be will be.”
“We saw 11:11 as a unique moment in time. So instead of saying, ‘Make a wish’, we say, ‘Make Your Moment.’ We love how this has resonated. It means something to people,” she expounded.
The Eleven Eleven experience
As if their story alone isn’t testament to the power of synchronicity, I stumbled upon this winery by chance. I hadn’t identified them in my research. Rather, I learned about Eleven Eleven when we stopped at a coffee shop in Napa. While waiting in line, I noticed a book, called Wine Country Women of Napa Valley. It includes stories and recipes. Ellie, and her recipe for Spanakopita, was listed first. We had a full schedule, but I just had to visit.
The tasting room and winery are located right in town. We found it easily and drove through the gate to find the vine leaves changing and falling. The autumn splendor was a beautiful backdrop for what was to come. We walked inside and the spirit of legendary Greek hospitality was immediately evident; we were greeted warmly by Hospitality & Events Associate Jordan Goldberg. It was akin to entering a fine restaurant and getting the VIP treatment. All guests are VIPs at Eleven Eleven, by design.
“We want everyone to have that luxury experience. Greeks are known for hospitality and we celebrate that spirit here,” Ellie added.
We tasted several wines, each better than the last. The 2017 Old Vine Zinfandel, an expressive wine with exploding fruit flavors, was my husband’s favorite; mine was the 2016 Estate Cabernet/Laki’s Estate Vineyard, a full-bodied, refined, yet very approachable wine with a smooth, velvety finish. Jordan suggested sampling them with chocolate – it made the wine dance on our tongues. We took home a few bottles, and some of that scrumptious locally made chocolate.
Eleven Eleven has expanded each year. They’re currently developing a small vineyard on the west side of the property, which will eventually allow them to increase their yield, yet remain a boutique winery. For now, the partners of this winery remain steadfast in their quest to provide an exceptional experience for their guests and create fine wines to enhance it.
Wines are available on the website and in the tasting room. When you visit Napa, be sure to stop by Eleven Eleven, and “Make Your Moment”. You’ll love it.
Eleven Eleven Winery is located at 620 Trancas Street, Napa, CA. The tasting room is open daily from 10:00 am – 4:00 pm. Reservations are required. Call 707.224.2211 or email Hospitality@1111wines.com.