From Napa With Love

Vintner's Daughter founder April Gargiulo on the birth of her brand, why rituals matter, and what she's feeling hopeful about now. In conversation with Jamie Rosen.

The Conservatory: There are face oils, and then there’s Vintner’s Daughter. How did it go from you creating a desert island skincare product for yourself to launching a brand that has accomplished so much?

April: We had one product for five years. So I had this very long runway to tell my story and for it to have this really like this grass roots, girlfriend to girlfriend, growth. Our growth has been 100% word-of-mouth and really that is about what’s in the bottle. People sharing their experience with our actual products. Every single one of our customers who wanted to tell their friends and their family about it. People get stopped on the street to ask, ‘What’s going on with your skin? What are you using?’ And then they learn about Vintner’s Daughter.

TC: Were there any moments along the way that really increased awareness?

April: At first, I couldn’t get retailers because they didn’t understand a single product line. This was at the height of the Korean skincare routine where everyone wanted more steps and here I am, taking about fewer but better steps. By chance, I was going through my junk mail and had an email from an intern at Into the Gloss, pre-Glossier. They were doing a story about winemaking and skincare and they had come across Vintner’s Daughter. I explained, this is a really cool idea but I don’t think we’re right for it. Vintner’s Daughter is not about wine making ingredients, it’s that we sit on the same philosophical foundation as winemaking. We pour everything into the quality and the craftsmanship and the formulations and the time it takes and no shortcuts. I get off the phone thinking, ‘Great, April, you just talked yourself out of being in Into the Gloss.’ Two or three weeks later I woke up and there was an article on Into the Gloss named, “The face oil to end all face oils.” That was a moment for us that changed things.

TC: Tell us about your connection to winemaking philosophy and your family’s roots in Napa.

April: Napa Valley is this place that I feel honored to have, in part, grown up in. It’s this community made up of really audacious women and men who set their sights on creating a wine making region that would be as recognized and beloved as Bordeaux, Burgundy, Tuscany. And this was at a time when the only wines that were being made in Napa Valley were wines for religious services. What I had always known and what I had always learned was that how they accomplished that was by setting their sights on the finest quality. Everything you do is about craftsmanship. Everything you do is about taking the time to do things well. My parents’ aunt and uncle were a part of that, and then my parents started too.

TC: How did you apply that philosophy to skincare?

April: I was somebody who had always struggled with my skin and thought I was using the best products, products that were very expensive and had pretty bottles. And it was when I was pregnant with my first daughter, which is a super familiar refrain, that I realized that they were anything but luxury. My idea of luxury would be Old World luxury, where you start with the finest ingredients, you honor those ingredients, and you create something that’s even greater than the sum of its extraordinary parts.

TC: You have two products. The steps are simple, but you recommend a specific application process. Why is that important?

April: For skin to be its most healthy, it needs nutrition, it needs hydration, and it needs moisture. In the United States, we talk about hydration and moisture as if they’re the same, but they’re not. We begin with whole plants and honor them with a lengthy 21-day process to capture nutrition; for Active Treatment Essence, we capture all the water-soluble nutrition, which happens to be hydration; and for Active Botanical Serum, we capture all the oil-soluble nutrition for moisture. The delivery systems are just as important – you need the right chemistry, the right pH and the right way for your skin to recognize the ingredients. Part of that is the application process. For the essence, we call it push-pat, for the treatment serum, we call it push-press. It helps the product penetrate into the skin.

TC: What do you love about being a part of the Napa community?

April: The community is so committed to this idea of ‘High Tides Rise All Boats.’ It’s not about one individual winery, it’s about supporting each other, what’s being made in Napa is for the world. From the craftspeople and artisans to the growers, the chefs, ceramicists, artists, there’s a real appreciation for artisanship.

TC: As an entrepreneur, a founder, as a mom, as a woman, what are you feeling hopeful about right now?

April: I’m hopeful that change is actually happening. All the conversations that are happening that have never happened before or or have, but not to this degree. It makes me hopeful that systemic and foundational change is happening.