Vice president of winemaking, J Vineyards & Winery, 11447 Old Redwood Hwy., Healdsburg 95448; 707-431-5226; jwine.com
Residence: Santa Rosa
Professional background: I Apprenticed at Robert Mondavi, Sterling Vineyards, Joseph Phelps, Peter Michael Winery and Alexander Valley Vineyards prior to accepting an assistant winemaker position at La Crema in 2001. Shortly thereafter, I was promoted to winemaker and stayed with La Crema for 10 years. In spring 2011, I accepted the vice president of winemaking position at J Vineyards & Winery.
Education: BS in viticulture and enology, University of California, Davis
Staff: I have a great production team: Assistant Winemaker Scott Anderson, Production Director Martin Guzman and viticulturalist John Erbe.
Tell us about yourself and your company: J Vineyards & Winery is an exceptional family-owned winery in Russian River Valley founded on the idea that great sparkling wine can be made in this region. Our founder, Judy Jordan, is the daughter of Tom Jordan, who owns Jordan Winery. The J brand has evolved into not only sparkling wine but also expressive pinot noir, chardonnay and pinot gris table wines.
I came to J with the intent of amplifying the quality of the pinot noir, chardonnay and pinot gris programs, while continuing the legacy of J sparkling-wine production.
I grew up in Lansing, Mich. and attended Calvin College from 1984--1987. After studying psychology then nursing, I dropped out after three years because I wasn’t feeling passionate about either choice.
I bummed around for a while, watched a lot of MTV and eventually moved to Bellingham, Wash., in 1989. Still not knowing what I wanted to do as a career, I spent four years doing miscellaneous things: classified advertising at The Bellingham Herald, worked on organic farms in New Zealand, drove a motorcoach and gave tours in Skagway, Alaska, drove a delivery van for Kinkos (now FedEx), mowed lawns for a landscaping company and painted greenware at a pottery studio.
Thankfully, I was winetasting one day on one of the San Juan Islands -- Lopez Island -- and discovered that a person could go to school to learn how to make wine. It was a gestalt moment for me.
I immediately moved to the Napa Valley and enrolled in the University of California, Davis, to study grape growing and winemaking. From there, I apprenticed in Napa Valley, Australia, and Sonoma County then accepted my first assistant winemaker position at La Crema in 2001. After spending 10 years with La Crema, I accepted the vice president of winemaking position at J in 2011.
[caption id="attachment_75567" align="alignleft" width="180"] Melissa Stackhouse[/caption]
What is a major accomplishment in the past year or so?: A true believer in teamwork and collaboration, I am most proud of putting together our upcoming trip to Burgundy and Champagne. As California winemakers, we need to understand Old World grape growing and winemaking. This trip will be a good R&D experience to, I believe, only further the quality of J grape growing, winemaking and authentic messaging.
What achievement are you most proud of?: So far in my career, facilitating the growth of La Crema from 2001 to 2011. It was a great journey, and I learned a lot from my time there.
What is your biggest challenge today?: Balancing motherhood with career. Balance in life has always been important to me. Funny how certain life changes require shuffling things around so balance can still be achievable.