I became interested in wine in a most genial way: through a college girlfriend, whose roommate was an enology student. During our first year in the dorms we made wine together from diluted honey. Seeing the transformation that took place during fermentation got me hooked. I took the next fall quarter off from school and worked at the Louis Martini Winery in St. Helena; it was a great experience, and by the end of harvest I was determined to make wine my life’s pursuit.
I returned to U.C. Davis, acquired my B.S. in Enology in 1984 and took off to Europe for more practical training: one year in Italy and six months in France. While Davis had given me a solid theoretical foundation in winemaking, Europe helped refine my palate and gave me a deeper understanding of what wine is and how to enjoy it. I learned in Italy that wine is food, as important a part of the daily meal as bread and pasta. France taught me to recognize how soil, climate and human factors influence the character and personality of wine.
I returned from Europe in January of 1986, ready to embark on a winemaking career in Napa Valley. I landed my first job at Saintsbury Winery in Carneros as a cellar worker and soon had the good fortune to meet and become friends with Andre Tchelistcheff. It was Andre who, one year later, introduced me to Clarke Swanson.
Clarke took a chance and hired me, an inexperienced twenty six year old, to make wine for Swanson Winery in the Oakville region of Napa Valley. Andre provided the winemaking expertise and Clarke the patience to get me through the first few years.
Under direction of Swanson, I took my first trip to Australia in the spring of 1990 to work for a few weeks during their harvest.
It was a revelation. In their isolation, the Australians had developed their industry relatively free of the influences of European winemaking traditions. Many of the vineyards and winemaking techniques we employed at Swanson were learned during this, and a subsequent, visit in 1991.
In April of 2002, I purchased a small vineyard and home in the Fairplay region of El Dorado County with the desire to produce an affordable, hand crafted wine that represented the “terroir” of the region. I left full-time employment at Swanson in May of 2004, after 17 years, to dedicate more time to my project. At this time I also began consulting for a few small wineries in the foothill region, from Nevada County south to Calaveras County.
Last year, during an afternoon of wine tasting in Fair Play, I met Paul Toogood. I was immediately struck with the beauty of his property and the enormous potential of his young vineyards. Thus I joined the Toogood Estate team in the spring of 2005, in charge of winemaking.