"After quietly working as the Pinot Noir & Chardonnay Winemaker at Niner for the last two years, I am excited to say this marks the release of my first wines!"
Both the 2014 Chardonnay & the 2014 Pinot Noir are now available online and in our tasting room! Click here to shop now
Where were you born & raised?
I was born in Minnesota but grew up mostly in Wisconsin. I returned to Minnesota for college before moving to California in 1996 to pursue a career in Viticulture.
How did you become interested in wine?
I was initially drawn to wine because I thought it sounded romantic and I liked the history behind it. I also liked the idea of growing a crop that could be crafted into something that brings people joy.
When I was 20, I spent six months studying in the South of France and got exposed to wine for the first time. When I returned to Minnesota, I started working at the University-run research vineyard and winery and quickly found out growing grapes and making wine is not romantic, but the hard work appealed to me and a few months later I moved to California.
Tell us about your background in the wine industry.
I have degrees in Viticulture Management and Fruit Science. While in school, I worked for vineyards, wineries and a grapevine nursery in order to gain practical experience. Eventually I transitioned more into the winemaking side where I worked my way up from cellar hand to Enologist to Assistant Winemaker then Winemaker. I’ve worked mostly on the Central Coast, with a few years in Sonoma County. My family also planted and managed a small vineyard in the Sta. Rita Hills for eight years, which was a labor of love.
All of the 2014 Chardonnay went through ML fermentation, and the lees stirring created a creamy & luxurious mouthfeel. Brioche, yellow peach & caramel aromas prelude a silken mouthfeel that showcases pear & cream notes
What makes Jespersen Ranch a good site to grow Pinot Noir & Chardonnay?
It has the perfect combination of abundant sunshine balanced by marine cooling. The vineyard is only 3 miles from the ocean so it receives fog coming off the ocean every morning and cool breezes blowing in every afternoon (this helps keep acidity in the grapes) but the middle of the day is bright and sunny to ensure ripening.
What is the most challenging aspect of making Pinot Noir? Chardonnay?
Pinot Noir is notoriously difficult to grow and make, but I think there are two main challenges: one is that it doesn’t blend well with other varietals. For example, if it is deficient in structure, I can’t just blend in another, more tannic varietal. Instead, I try to get a variety of different characteristics through varying fermentation techniques, aging regimes, and clonal selection to have a complex wine in the end. The second main challenge is that it is a “transparent” wine – meaning it tends to show flaws very easily and doesn’t like manipulation.
Chardonnay is much easier to make by comparison. The most difficult thing is that there are so many of styles of Chardonnay – from crisp and unoaked to rich and toasty – and it is impossible to please everyone. I like to say that making white wine is easy, but making great white wine is very difficult. Getting the perfect balance of freshness, richness, and oak is a moving target, but when it all comes together it is incredible.
Do you have a winemaking style? If so, how would you describe it?
I worked as a custom crush winemaker for several years, making wines for a dozen different brands each year – from tiny to enormous in scale - so I saw just about every style of winemaking. It was a great way to learn and in the end I took away the things that made most sense to me – do the work to get the best possible fruit in the vineyard, make wine that reflects the site where it was grown, and don’t do anything unnecessary. I tend to use simple, clean winemaking techniques and focus on pure flavors with a balance of lush fruit, structure, spice and oak.
The 2014 Pinot Noir has cherry pie & blueberry compote aromas are contrasted by delicate rose, dried tea and toasty baking spices. The palate transitions effortlessly from bright fruit to smooth tannins and an opulent finish.
What do you do when you’re not held captive in the cellar by harvest or bottling?
The long hours during harvest definitely take a toll on family life, so when I’m not at work I like to soak up time with my husband and son exploring the local beaches and mountains. And eating. I love food!
If you had to pick a stand-out wine moment in your life – do you have one?
Two out of three of my siblings followed me into winemaking, and we had a collaborative winemaker dinner at Maegen Loring’s restaurant, The Park, about 10 years ago. It was one of those perfect moments where work, family & friends coalesce.
What would people be surprised to learn about you?
People are always surprised to learn I’ve been in the wine industry for 20 years… perhaps wine is the Fountain of Youth?