Weekly Interview: Meredith Smith

Posted by | Posted in Interviews | Posted on 11-28-2014

Meredith Smith

Meredith Smith

Each week, as regular readers know, we pose a series of questions to a winemaker. This week, we’re featuring Meredith Smith, the winemaker at Sawtooth Winery in Idaho’s Snake River Valley.

By 2006, Meredith had established a career in real estate development and accounting. But she was also a wine lover; and she realized about herself that almost all of her books and magazine subscriptions were related to wine. So she packed up her career and went back to school—and enrolled in the Washington State University viticulture program.

She joined Sawtooth right after graduating. Before long, she climbed the ladder to Assistant Winemaker, and then to Associate Winemaker. Her wines have received positive press from Wine & Spirits and Wine Enthusiast.

Below, Meredith talks about switching careers, recent vintages in Idaho, and rap music.

Check out our interview with Meredith below the fold!

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Weekly Interview: Nicolas Cantacuzene

Posted by | Posted in Interviews | Posted on 11-21-2014

Nicolas Cantacuzene

Nicolas Cantacuzene

Each week, as regular readers know, we pose a series of questions to a winemaker. This week, we’re featuring Nicolas Cantacuzene, the winemaker at Emeritus Vineyards, which produces estate-bottled Pinot Noir from Sonoma.

There are some winemakers who grow up in the wine industry, for whom winemaking is family tradition; and then there are those who leave behind a career and take the leap of faith into winemaking. Nicolas is squarely in the latter group. Though he had the oenophilic advantage of a French upbringing, Nicolas never planned on a wine career until he found himself taking a break from his chemistry studies in Paris – and found himself in love in Sonoma.

Below, Nicolas discusses how chemistry can limit winemaking, punching down the cap with your feet, and what’s so special about Burgundy.

Check out our interview with Nicolas below the fold!

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Weekly Interview: Dan Fishman

Posted by | Posted in Interviews | Posted on 11-07-2014

Dan Fishman

Dan Fishman

Each week, as regular readers know, we pose a series of questions to a winemaker. This week, we’re featuring Dan Fishman, the owner and winemaker at Hatton Daniels Wine Cellars.

Dan did not grow up in the wine industry. It was by chance in college that he took Wine Appreciation 101 and feel in love. Now, a decade or so later, Dan makes wine not only at Hatton Daniels, but also at Donum Estate.

Below, Dan tells us about dropping out of a PhD Program in Psychology to work harvest, about how working retail shaped his winemaking philosophy, and about making a name for yourself as a new winemaker.

Check out our interview with Dan below the fold!

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Weekly Interview: Heidi Seifried

Posted by | Posted in Interviews | Posted on 10-31-2014

Heidi Seifried

Heidi Seifried

Each week, as regular readers know, we pose a series of questions to a winemaker. This week, we’re featuring Heidi Seifried, the winemaker at Seifried Estate, the oldest family winery in New Zealand’s South Island.

In 1973, Austrian-born Hermann Seifried and his New Zealand wife Agnes planted their first vineyard in the Nelson region. They passed on their passion to this generation. Heidi is their eldest daughter and the winemaker at Seifried Estate. She is helped by her brother Chris in the cellars, and by her younger sister Anna with sales and marketing.

Before she became a winemaker, Heidi was first qualified as a dentist. She worked full-time as a dentist for three years until 2001, when Heidi went back to Lincoln University and completed her Post Graduate Diploma in Viticulture and Oenology (with Distinction). Heidi still spends some time in surgery though just one day a week these days, while juggling a young family, and working in the family business four days a week.

Check out our interview with Heidi below the fold.

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Weekly Interview: Remi Cohen

Posted by | Posted in Interviews | Posted on 10-24-2014

Remi Cohen

Remi Cohen

Each week, as regular readers know, we pose a series of questions to a winemaker. This week, we’re featuring Remi Cohen, the vice president of operations at Lede Family Wines, which encompasses Cliff Lede Vineyards and FEL Wines.

Remi is originally from East Brunswick, New Jersey. When she came over to the West Coast to study at U.C. Berkeley, she thought she was going to become a doctor or a genetics professor. But fast forward a few years, and Remi was enrolled at the Viticulture and Enology program at U.C. Davis.

Below, Remi talks about how in the world she got to where she is; she comments on her impressions of the 2014 vintage in Napa; and she reveals her passion for dancing (World Beat Dance Collective?).

Check out our interview below the fold!

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Weekly Interview: Ben Riggs

Posted by | Posted in Interviews | Posted on 10-17-2014

ben riggsEach week, as regular readers know, we pose a series of questions to a winemaker. This week, we’re featuring Ben Riggs, a prolific winemaker based in Southern Australia.

After three decades as a winemaker, Ben is now a major player in his region’s wine industry.

To start at the beginning, Ben’s experience with wine began early. His father who knew Wolf Blass and so Blass’s Yellow Label Rieslings were often found on the Riggs family table. After an oenology course at the University of Adelaide, Ben joined Brian Croser’s team at Petaluma, followed by a 14-year stint at Wirra Wirra with the late great Greg Trott.

Ben now operates as consultant winemaker to a select group of principally McLaren Vale labels. His portfolio includes Shoofly, Penny’s Hill, The Black Chook, Woop Woop, Pertaringa, Geoff Hardy, Zonte’s Footstep, Jip Jip Rocks, Journey’s End, and Tatiarra from the Heathcote region of Victoria. He also maintains his own winemaking venture under the Mr. Riggs label.

In addition to all of those projects, Ben has served ten years as a board member of McLaren Vale Winemakers, including three years as Chairman. He also chaired the McLaren Vale Wine Show for five year period.

Check out our interview with Ben below the fold.

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Weekly Interview: Christine Barbe

Posted by | Posted in Interviews | Posted on 10-10-2014

Credit: Coquerel Family Estates.

Credit: Coquerel Family Estates.

Each week, as regular readers know, we pose a series of questions to a winemaker. This week, we’re featuring Christine Barbe, the owner and winemaker of Toquade Wines and the winemaker at Coquerel Family Estates.

Christine was born and raised in Bordeaux. And even though her family worked in the wine industry, Christine says she was never interested in following the family career path. But still – can it really be attributed to pure chance? – her studies undoubtedly prepared her well for the wine career that was to come. She graduated with a degree in biochemistry without knowing what to do with it. It led to a seamless transition to a PhD program in Enology and Viticulture at the Bordeaux Institute of Enology.

While she was a doctoral student, Christine had the fortune of applying her studies to help make wine at Château Carbonnieux and La Louvière in Pessac-Léognan. This is when she fell in love with Sauvignon Blanc. Or, as Christine would say, this is when she developed a certain toquade for Sauvignon Blanc (hence Toquade Wines).

In 1996, Christine graduated with the PhD and she came to California. She explained that in Bordeaux, it is very difficult for female winemakers outside of well-established Bordelais families to advance in the wine industry. And in comparison, in California, “you can do whatever you want.” Not only are jobs more accessible to qualified people, winemakers have the freedom to experiment – something which might be sneered at in Bordeaux as untraditional.

After some time at Gallo, Robert Mondavi, and Trinchero, Christine became the winemaker at Coquerel Family Estates in 2010.

Chatting with Christine was a joy. She retains a thick French accent, and her answers to my questions – sometimes succinct, sometimes stream-of-consciousness – revealed plenty of savoir faire.

Check out our interview with Christine below the fold.

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Weekly Interview: Blair Poynton

Posted by | Posted in Interviews | Posted on 10-03-2014

Each week, as regular readers know, we pose a series of questions to a winemaker. This week, we’re featuring Blair Poynton, the director and winemaker at Jed Wines.

Blair Poynton

Blair Poynton

Blair hails from Perth in Western Australia – located just a few hours’ drive along the coast from Margaret River. So, Blair explained to me, youngsters in Perth got exposed to wine “whether they like it or not.” Blair was no exception.

After a short stint at a wine shop in Cambridge, United Kingdom, Blair now lives in Sonoma. He travels to the Uco Valley in Argentina every year to produce wine under Jed Wines. A real cosmopolite, then. An Aussie who lives in Sonoma and makes Argentinian wine.

When you talk to Blair, it all makes sense. Blair is an interesting mix of childlike glee and relaxed composure. He would slowly select his words and then – when he hit on a tickling thought – would let out a giddy chuckle. You could tell that he’s happy to let the world guide him to its many corners and pleasures.

Check out our interview with Blair below the fold.

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Weekly Interview: Timm Crull

Posted by | Posted in Interviews | Posted on 09-26-2014

tim crull photo

Timm Crull

Each week, as regular readers know, we pose a series of questions to a winemaker. This week, we’re featuring Timm Crull, the winemaker at The Terraces winery in Napa.

Timm was an undergraduate student at Berkeley at a time when it was, as he describes, a “gourmet ghetto” – with current titans like Alice Waters and Kermit Lynch just starting to establish themselves in the area. Quickly, Timm started blending in to the environment. He took some cooking classes, continued gardening, and, in the early 1980s, started making wine in his house with purchased grapes. “It’s the hobby that went awry,” he chuckles. Not long afterwards, in 1993, he took the plunge and bought a piece of property up in Napa – “back when it was still affordable for a guy who worked” – and started growing his own grapes at Quarry Vineyards.

At the time, Timm was mainly a grapegrower, and only secondarily a winemaker. He sold his grapes to Beringer which Beringer used in their Private Reserve line.

But then opportunity knocked. I guess opportunities tend to do that to guys who stick around long enough. Timm had gotten to know Wayne Hogue, as they were neighbors at the time. Wayne had founded The Terraces in 1991. Just like Timm, Wayne, too, had been a grapegrower for much longer than he was a winemaker. In the early 1980s, Wayne had had sold his Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon to Caymus. Could it have been that similarity that persuaded Wayne? One Saturday morning, Wayne drove over to Timm’s house, had coffee, and said, “Timm I want to sell you my 20 acres to add on to your property.” And thus began Timm’s winemaking career at The Terraces.

Even though it’s harvest time in Napa – a grueling time for any winemaker – Timm’s enthusiasm and passion shone when I interviewed him. Check out the interview below the fold.

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Weekly Interview: Sarah Cabot

Posted by | Posted in Interviews | Posted on 09-19-2014

Sarah Cabot.

Sarah Cabot.

Each week, as regular readers know, we pose a series of questions to a winemaker. This week, we’re featuring Sarah Cabot, a winemaker at Precept Wines in the Willamette Valley.

Last week, we interviewed a globe-trotting veteran winemaker with projects in multiple continents.  We’re taking a sharp turn in the other direction this week with Sarah, who is a young emerging specialist in Oregon Pinot Noir.  Sarah has spent most of her career in the Willamette Valley – for eight consecutive years now.  Prior to joining Precept Wines, she worked at Omero Cellars since its start in 2008, at Willakenzie Estate before and during her tenure at Omero, and also at Belle Pente Vineyard.

These days, Sarah is working at Precept Wines on a variety of single-vineyard projects. She’s busy with harvest right now, so we were very glad to be able to catch her in her free time!

Check out our interview with Sarah below the fold. Read the rest of this entry »