Winemaker for Mendocino County’s Fetzer Vineyards wins North Bay Forty Under 40 award
Responsibilities with your company: For our flagship and namesake brand Fetzer, I am responsible for the entire winemaking process from grape to glass starting with sourcing fruit in the vineyards, fermenting, ageing, bottling and supporting sales along the way.
How do you exemplify the spirit of being a top Forty Under 40 professional?
I respect tradition and appreciate heritage, but am ambitious and optimistic, always seeking to improve, embrace change and strive for innovation.
Years with company: 6
Length of time in current position: Fetzer brand: 5 years, 8 months; as head winemaker for Fetzer brand, 2 months
Number of companywide employees: 300
Number who report to you: 0
Greatest professional accomplishment: Becoming head winemaker of our flagship Fetzer label, founded in 1968.
Greatest professional challenge: Embracing the "art" aspect of winemaking. As much as I appreciate what can come out of the process and the unique nuances that are expressed, I am very much a meticulous planner and the chemistry of wine is paramount to me; yet, in this profession there are myriad factors beyond your control.
Although I struggle at times with this unpredictability, the very nature of harvest (unpredictable) is the beautiful side of winemaking that makes each lot so unique and interesting, from vintage to vintage--and affords opportunities for ongoing growth for me as a winemaker.
Best advice received: Do what you love!
Single most important event in your professional life in the last 12 months: Thriving in the midst of a pandemic during an eventful 2020 harvest. We took many precautions around the winery, and though we had to adapt to new ways of communicating and everything took much more time and effort, in the end our amazing team made it happen!
What’s the biggest change COVID-19, the restrictions and the economic impact has had on your work and personal life?
It's a whole new world for winemaking in these times! The fundamentals of the job have not changed in that we were able to produce a stellar vintage of wines from the past year.
That said, the greatest area impacted was how we communicate and collaborate. We can't join in groups or team tastings in person, host any visitors at the winery, or travel to support our sales teams.
We didn't participate in any trade shows and or in-person industry events.
Personally, my husband and I have enjoyed finding new ways to enjoy our lives in beautiful wine country in recent months, with some fun new discoveries and optimism on the horizon.
And what’s the biggest lesson you’ve taken from that experience?
Overall, I feel very fortunate and am proud of how we have been able to accomplish in these trying times. I feel grateful to have been able to continue going into work every day, have our company morale remain strong, and have all employees feel comfortable and safe while doing so.
What steps is your company taking to sustain your organization and morale in the current economy?
Fetzer Vineyards, whose portfolio includes the flagship Fetzer wines I make, has undertaken lots of initiatives to focus on safety, of course, but also to find new ways to keep our workforce engaged and motivated during COVID.
One initiative that was really moving for a lot of us was our Feeding the Frontline grocery worker program, wherein Fetzer Vineyards brought complimentary lunches to these folks, who have helped make food and other essentials available to the public during a challenging time.
We partnered with restaurants to create the meals, thereby supporting the restaurant sector as well as frontline grocery workers. In total, we donated over 3000 meals to frontline grocery workers in 50 US cities, and supported over 50 restaurants.
Next professional goal: I am always looking to further educate myself and grow my craft. I am currently studying to become a Certified Bourbon Steward.
Education: Bachelor of Science degree from California Polytechnic University, San Luis Obispo, with a major in agriculture business, concentration in marketing, and a minor in wine and viticulture.
Hometown: Ferndale, CA
Community/nonprofit activities: North Bay Chapter of the Cal Poly Alumni Association; Treasurer & Adopt-A-Highway Chair; ASEV (American Society for Enology and Viticulture); Women of the Vine & Spirits Member
Mentor/admired businessperson: Bob Blue & Dennis Leonardi. My Dad, Dennis, is a successful third-generation organic dairy farm operator in Humboldt County.
Being raised in that lifestyle, around the ups and downs of a production agriculture business, along with the strong example set forth by his work ethic, shaped me from a young age to be the person I am today.