Winemaker Interview: Lisa Strid

Posted by | Posted in Interviews | Posted on 08-04-2017

Lisa Strid

Lisa Strid

As our regular readers know, we frequently pose a series of questions to a winemaker to probe their winemaking philosophy and to gain insight into how they became a winemaker. This week, we are featuring Lisa Strid, the winemaker at Aridus Wine Company in Arizona.

Aridus is a new winery in an emerging wine region. Currently it makes wine from purchased grapes, but Aridus has owned 40 acres of estate vineyards since 2009. The winery is just beginning to figure out how best to express the grapes from there.

Lisa Strid will therefore have a significant role in developing Aridus’s portfolio. Lisa joined Aridus just a year ago, after spending some time at Gallo.

Check out the interview below the fold!

Where were you born and raised?

I was born and raised on the plains of northeastern Wyoming.

When and how did you get into wine?

I wouldn’t have even thought about a career in wine without the Great Recession. At the time I was working at a magazine, and after a major drop in ad revenue, I was let go. I figured it was as good a time as any to move, so I washed up in Oregon. The only person I knew in the area was my uncle who had a small farm and vineyard in southern Washington. I started out spending weekends, and then as much time as possible working with him in the vineyard, and making wine during harvest. After about a year of this, I realized it was something that could be an actual job. It was really through love of the physical labor itself that I found my way into wine.

What has been your career path to where you are?

I started out in tasting rooms and wine shops as soon as I decided that I wanted to get into wine. It was a fairly flexible way to begin while I was taking classes at Oregon State University, and at the same time a great way to taste a lot of different wines and talk with consumers all across the spectrum of tastes and preferences. I also interned at a winery in the Dundee Hills while still in school. From there, I moved south to E&J Gallo Winery, working both in their Process Technology group and in Winemaking. The great thing about a place like Gallo is that I was able to both work in large volume production and understand the sorts of decisions, compromises, and conversations behind one bottle of wine produced at such a scale, and to work with cutting-edge processes and equipment and see firsthand how changes in production affect the style of the final product. After about three years there, I needed to make a few personal changes, and at about that time I saw the posting for the job here at Aridus. Arizona had always been on my radar for winegrowing, and I’d thought I’d spend a few more years in California before eventually coming out here to consult, but the circumstances just aligned in this case. I’ve only been here just over a year, and it’s been incredibly rewarding.

In your view, what makes your vineyards special?

We’re actually in the process of just finding that out— our estate vineyards are in their first bearing year, so we’re conducting trials to find out how to best treat these grapes to achieve a unique style. As far as the vineyards that we work with to produce wine currently, here in Arizona it’s largely the individuals who manage the vineyards who make the difference. We work with a meticulous engineer who is always experimenting and measuring his results, a man who spent his career working with vines in Oregon who intimately understands grape physiology, and an Italian in New Mexico who has been in the region for decades and who knows how to adapt just about any grape to the weather. It’s a fantastic mix of backgrounds and the grapes that come from each of these people have their own strengths, which gives me a lot of options when it comes to blending the final wine. Also, our altitude doesn’t hurt. (The vineyards sit at a minimum elevation of 4,100 feet.)

What is your general winemaking philosophy?

I’m almost disgustingly pragmatic, especially here in an emerging region. I want to make solidly great wines that sell, first and foremost. I’m also deeply committed to trialing new techniques to improve quality.

What’s your biggest challenge as a winemaker?

Currently, deepening my understanding of vineyard practices and dynamics here in the southwest. It’s just very different here— we get monsoons at harvest time.

Who are your favorite winemakers in history, through personal account, or their wines?

Max Schubert. I like stories of people not doing what they’re told. Eileen Crane. Where would U.S. sparkling wine be without her?

What new winemakers are you most excited about, and why?

I’m excited about anyone who isn’t a straight white man.

What’s your favorite wine region in the world – other than your own?

Mosel, Germany.

What’s the best wine you’ve ever tasted? The most interesting?

Best – Dr. H. Thanisch Berncasteler Doctor Riesling Auslese, I suppose. It’s a difficult question. I love the aromas and flavors of sherry, so Valdespino’s Tio Diego gets my vote for most interesting.

What’s the oldest bottle in your cellar? The most expensive?

Oldest – 2002 Pegasus Bay Riesling. Most expensive – I try to forget this aspect of a wine, but probably a Domaine Robert Groffier Chambolle-Musigny 1er Cru. At least that’s one that I remember. I try to hide all the expensive ones from myself, so I can be surprised later on.

What’s open in your kitchen right now?

2011 Les Vins De Vienne Crozes Hermitage. Opened it for a pool party.

If you had to pick one red and one white to drink for the next month with every dinner, what would you choose?

I’ve really been into Fiano recently. Oregon Pinot Noir for the red.

Is beer ever better than wine?

It’s a lot easier to hold onto a beer bottle than a wine glass when you’re cleaning up at the end of a 16 hour day of grape processing.

How do you spend your days off?

Walking the dog, yoga, cooking, spending time with my partner and friends. My life is very quotidian.

What would people be surprised to know about you?

I listen to a lot of Korean pop music.

If you weren’t making wine for a living, what would you be doing?

Writing or baking bread.

How do you define success?​​

Personal engagement and fulfillment in the minutiae of the day-to-day.


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