WineMaker to Winemaker: Dry Finish

My winemaking career all started with an issue of Wine-Maker. Seven years ago, I was working in high-tech marketing and business development in the Silicon Valley. One day I stumbled into a bookstore and came across the December 2003-January 2004 issue of WineMaker magazine. I bought it, brought it home and read it cover-to-cover. I was immediately hooked and I quickly scribbled out a subscription card and dropped it in the mail. That day changed the course of my career!
In 2004, my partner, Chris, and I moved to a house in Marin County, ten minutes south of Sonoma County. There was just enough room in the backyard for a single north-south row of grapevines, so we decided to plant Petite Sirah 03 on 1103P rootstock. We later added one Zinfandel vine and one Cabernet Sauvignon.
But one row turned out to be not enough for me. I wanted to learn how to care for our new vines and how to eventually make wine from their grapes, so I began reading books on grape growing and winemaking. In 2006, I interned for the harvest at Gundlach Bundschu Winery in Sonoma. I had the time of my life assisting with grape sampling, lab tests and cellar work. I learned that winemaking is equal parts science, art, passion . . . and a lot of hard work.
That same year, I made my first homemade wine: a Barolo from a wine kit. There was no turning back after that, and since then I’ve worked with the winemaking teams at Cline Cellars, Jacuzzi Family Winery and Kunde Family Estate, all in Sonoma County. I have also studied enology and viticulture at Napa Valley College and UC-Davis Extension. Last year I made wine for the first time from our little backyard Petite Sirah vines, and in 2010 I was appointed Enologist for Cline Cellars and Jacuzzi Winery.
After all this time, I still have my first copy of WineMaker. It is hard to believe that it has been seven years. I still make wine at home, and this year I’ve fermented three lots of our own Petite Sirah using three different yeasts: RP15, Clos and NDA21. I also made an estate Petite Sirah Rosa for the first time. In addition, I am currently making a 3-gallon (11-L) batch of Zinfandel (using VRB yeast) and another of Grenache (with Clos yeast). I am eager to compare the red wines and to experiment with blending. If you are interested, you can find out more of what I am making on my website: www.capmarinusa.com
I guess if I were to give advice for anyone interested in making wine professionally from my experiences, I would advise all winemakers, not just novices, to document everything. Buy a notebook and write down every single step, addition, test result and blend. Note all of the dates, times, temperatures, and measurements. If you encounter a winemaking problem, a question, a helpful tip, or an idea for future wines write it down. Also, be sure to label all fermenters, carboys, jugs and bottles. Use the same diligence with your grape-growing and vineyard work. You’ll look back on those notes countless times, and, before you know it, seven years will have flown right past you, and you will be reminiscing about your first time.
And who knows — maybe after reading this issue of WineMaker, you’ll change your future, too!