Weekly Interview: Elena & Karoline Walch

Posted by | Posted in Interviews | Posted on 06-27-2014

Karoline Walch, Elena Walch, and Julia Walch

Karoline Walch, Elena Walch, and Julia Walch

Each week, as regular readers know, we pose a series of questions to a winemaker. This week, we’re featuring Elena Walch and her daughter, Karoline Walch, proprietors and visionaries at Elena Walch in Alto Adige.

Born in Milan, Elena had been an architect before marrying into a winemaking family in 1985 and moving to the Alto Adige. When she first arrived, Elena says she “became famous in a quick way,” as there were not many women in architecture at that time.

To add to her new neighbors’ curiosity, she then transitioned out of architecture and began to overhaul and make changes at the family’s winery. “Twenty five years ago,” she says, “being a woman in winemaking was very ‘suspicious.”

When Elena took the reins, Alto Adige was making a lot of red wine, namely Schiava. However, Elena started to plant more of the whites – at first, Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, and Pinot Bianco. She also drastically lowered yields, made investments in different trellising, implemented higher density plantings, and began using high quality clones.

Over dinner with Elena and her daughter, Karoline (who manages U.S. marketing), their wines all showed beautifully. My favorite was the Pinot Bianco Kastelaz 2012, which comes from the steep hilly vineyards behind the local church. The wine is crisp and clean with depth and lovely floral notes. Elena says, “I find this wine more expressive than the Pinot Grigio, but it is not more loved. It’s like a hidden beauty.” Her Pinot Grigios (as recently called out by Lettie Teague) were also excellent and distinctive. Adding to Elena’s grape resume, she’s also been dubbed the “Queen of Gewürztraminer” by Gambero Rosso after accumulating so many bicchieri.

Get to know Elena and Karoline in the interview below the fold. Read the rest of this entry »

Chatting with Virginia’s 3 Top Winemakers

Posted by | Posted in Interviews | Posted on 06-23-2014

EDC-Cover-PageWine critics everywhere are starting to pay serious attention to Virginia.

After a recent visit to the Old Dominion, celebrated British wine authority Jancis Robinson suggested that Rutger de Vink of RdV Vineyards has “a good chance of putting the state on the world wine map.”

De Vink’s name is almost always mentioned alongside Jim Law of Linden Vineyards and Luca Paschina of Barboursville Vineyards, two key figures in Virginia’s wine industry. Bottles from these producers would convert just about anyone who doubts the state’s potential.

In mid-May, I visited Linden Vineyards with Sebastian Zutant of The Red Hen to chat with de Vink, Law, and Paschina about the future of Virginia wine.

We were out there to interview the winemakers for Edible DC, a brand new magazine that hit newsstands last week. It’s free, so be sure to pick up a copy.

If you can’t wait for a hard copy, please check it out online!

Weekly Interview: Mike Officer

Posted by | Posted in Interviews | Posted on 06-20-2014

Mike Officer CarlisleEach week, as regular readers know, we pose a series of questions to a winemaker. This week, we’re featuring Mike Officer, the owner and winemaker of Carlisle Winery and Vineyards.

Mike fell in love with wine when just 19.

One night, his older sister hosted a small dinner party and offered him a glass of amber-colored wine. It was a late-harvest Riesling, and for Mike, it was life-changing.

He promptly dove into the world of wine, attending tastings, collecting wine, and reading every publication he could find. After graduating from college, he embarked on a career in software development. But after just five years, Mike realized that his heart wasn’t in it. So he began making wine at home – and the hobby quickly grew out of control.

By 1997, Mike and his wife Kendall were producing over 300 cases of “garage” wine and garnering critical acclaim for their efforts.

Today, Carlisle has a reputation for making some of the nation’s best Zinfandels alongside a number of Rhone-inspired wines. He is also a founding member of the Historic Vineyard Society.

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

Weekly Interview: John Hilliard

Posted by | Posted in Interviews | Posted on 06-13-2014

hilliard bruceEach week, as regular readers know, we pose a series of questions to a winemaker. This week, we’re featuring John Hilliard. Together with his wife Christine, John is the owner and winemaker at Hilliard Bruce in the Sta. Rita Hills.

When John and Christine met, they had both already built successful careers and were ready for something new. So they began taking wine classes together at Rice University and studying gardening at Texas A&M and the University of Arizona.

In 2002, they purchased a 101-acre ranch in the Sta. Rita Hills where Christine could grow an equestrian practice and John could focus on the soil. They soon planted 21-acres to Pinot Noir and Chardonnay and began taking classes in the viticulture and enology extension program at UC Davis.

Today, they help run the property together, with Christine heading up Chardonnay production and John focusing on Pinot Noir. Check out our interview with John below the fold. Read the rest of this entry »

Weekly Interview: Ashleigh Seymour

Posted by | Posted in Interviews | Posted on 06-06-2014

Ashleigh SeymourEach week, as regular readers know, we pose a series of questions to a winemaker. This week, we’re featuring Ashleigh Seymour, the winemaker at Avignonesi in Tuscany.

Originally from Melbourne, Australia, Ashleigh grew up surrounded by wine – her parents regularly visited wineries on vacation. When it came time for college, Ashleigh studied enology at the University of Adelaide.

While in school, she interned at Peter Lehmann in the Barossa Valley, where she learned the basics. She then landed a position at The Lane Vineyard, a small winery in the Adelaide Hills. After finishing her studies in 2008, Ashleigh headed to the Northern Rhone to work at Domaine Andre Perret. 

Upon her return to Australia, she worked in the Yarra Valley at Yarra Burn and in Tasmania at the Bay of Fires. In late 2010, she headed to Tuscany to help out at Avignonesi – and she’s been there ever since.

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

Weekly Interview: Laura Orozco

Posted by | Posted in Interviews | Posted on 05-30-2014

Laura Orozco - V. Sattui WinemakerEach week, as regular readers know, we pose a series of questions to a winemaker. This week, we’re featuring Laura Orozco, the winemaker at V. Sattui in Napa Valley. Born and raised in Michoacán, Mexico, Laura always knew about Napa, as her father worked in the vineyards there.

When it came time for college, Laura headed to UC Santa Cruz, where she graduated with a degree in molecular biology in 1998. Although Laura planned to go to medical school, she landed a position as a lab assistant during harvest at Franciscan Winery in 1999 – and then decided that her heart was in the wine industry. So she stayed on board at Franciscan, eventually becoming the lab supervisor while taking winemaking and viticulture classes at Napa Valley College.

In 2006, after seven years at Franciscan, Laura joined the team at V. Sattui as an enologist. She’s been there ever since, and has quickly worked her way up the ranks.

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

Weekly Interview: Chad Stock

Posted by | Posted in Interviews | Posted on 05-23-2014

Picture of Chad Stock and familyEach week, as regular readers know, we pose a series of questions to a winemaker. This week, we’re featuring Chad Stock, the proprietor of Minimus Wines and the winemaker at Omero Cellars in the Willamette Valley.

Originally from Concord, California, Chad became interested in wine after learning that Fresno State offered a degree in viticulture and enology. Until then, he had planned to study business.

After graduating in 2006, he landed a harvest job at Rudd Wines in Oakville, California. The next year, he moved to Oregon to work at Antica Terra. Chad would then work at Two Hands, Johan Vineyards, and Durant Vineyards.

In 2011, Chad launched his own wine label, Minimus. And he joined the team at Omero this spring. Check out our interview with Chad below the fold. Read the rest of this entry »

Weekly Interview: Brian Brakesman

Posted by | Posted in Interviews | Posted on 05-16-2014

brian BrakesmanEach week, as regular readers know, we pose a series of questions to a winemaker. This week, we’re featuring Brian Brakesman of Summit Lake Vineyards.

Brian started his career at Summit Lake while just a baby; he was born and raised at the winery, which his parents launched in 1971.

Brian studied agricultural engineering at Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo before heading off to New Zealand to work in wine for a year. When he returned to Napa Valley, he landed a position with John Gibson, a consulting winemaker with Snowden Vineyards, Andrew Geoffrey, and Salexis.

After apprenticing with Gibson for 3 years, Brian joined the team at Duckhorn as the assistant winemaker at Paraduxx Winery. Four years later, he moved to Ledson Winery in Sonoma as the chief winemaker. Today, in addition to his work at Summit Lake, Brian is the winemaker at the J.W. Thomas Group.

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

Weekly Interview: Stacia Williams

Posted by | Posted in Interviews | Posted on 05-09-2014

Stacia Williams (small)Each week, as regular readers know, we pose a series of questions to a winemaker. This week, we’re featuring Stacia Williams, who just opened Cairdean Estate with her husband Edwin in St. Helena, California.

Stacia grew up in Rhode Island farm country. After high school, she headed to Worcester Polytechnic Institute to study computer science and then started a career as a software engineer, first working for Sun Microsystems and later for Object Design.

Stacia slowly fell in love with wine, so in 2000, while living in Woburn, Massachusetts, she and her husband began buying grapes from California to make wine in their garage. The hobby soon became an obsession, complete with travel to wine regions, lots of tasting, and more and more wine production.

Finally, they decided to drop everything and move to California so Stacia could study winemaking. In 2010, she earned a certificate in enology from Fresno State while also interning as a viticultural research assistant.

That same year, Stacia and Edwin found 50 acres in St. Helena and started construction on a family winery. In 2011, they purchased an adjacent, seven-acre parcel and have since purchased

the 10-acre Acquaintance Vineyard in Coombsville and the 28-acre Confidant Vineyard in the Russian River Valley.

The winery, which is located two miles north of downtown St. Helena, just opened. Check out our interview with Stacia below the fold. Read the rest of this entry »

Weekly Interview: Stephanie Pope

Posted by | Posted in Interviews | Posted on 04-25-2014

Stephanie Pope, Hess Associate WinemakerEach week, as regular readers know, we pose a series of questions to a winemaker. This week, we’re featuring Stephanie Pope, who heads up winemaking for The Hess Collection’s Mount Veeder projects.

Stephanie’s wine career began in 2004 after graduating from UC Davis with a degree in viticulture and enology. After working harvest at Trefethen Vineyards & Winery in Napa, she headed to New Zealand to work at Whitehaven Wine Company.

When Stephanie returned to the States, she re-joined the team at Trefethen before landing a position at Charles Krug as a senior lab technician. She began working with the Hess team in 2008 as an associate winemaker.

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