Q: Is there one thing that sparked an interest in wine? If so, what was it. If not, what led to your interest in working in wine?
A: 1952 Chateau Margaux. In a tasting class at Cornell, everyone around me was pouring it out because it tasted like boot leather, cigar box, spice and mushrooms. I held out my glass, and enjoyed all my friend’s wine around me. I knew I must have some sort of attraction to wines, and pursued it further from then.
Q: You’ve worked internationally. Can you explain your roles with international wineries, and how did working in those prepare you for working in Oregon/at DPC?
A: I worked for Delegat’s winery (Oyster Bay) in Marlborough, NZ. It was a big winery with 64 international interns from 23 different countries. I worked alongside people of varying skill levels, and though it was my first harvest, I contributed meaningful work (I think). I learned how to efficiently work to make excellent wines at different price points using different techniques. It was an outstanding first experience, and one that truly galvanized my love for winemaking.
Q: How many harvests have you worked? How many vintages have you made wine from? (trick question because you probably would have forgot 1996).
A: 2017 will mark my 11th vintage, and 10th year making wine. All in all, I’ve had a hand in wines from 2005 to the present, with a slight nudge to 1996.
Q: What has been your favorite vintage to work?
A: 2016 was an extremely memorable vintage, simply as it was my first as the head of Duck Pond Cellars. I felt like a kid in a candy store, taking the opportunity to craft wines I’ve been wanting to make for years. At the same time, I was more involved in the vineyards, cellar, planning, winemaking and sales than ever – with new challenges around every turn. It has been constantly exciting to come to work at Duck Pond and watch this vintage evolve.
Q: What has been your favorite DPC wine to make – completed wine, non-completed wine.
A: This would be our 25th Anniversary Pinot noir. It’s a celebration of 25 years of Duck Pond, and will combine our six vineyards into one special bottling. The uniqueness of such a product only allows itself to be novel once a quadranscentennial (every 25 years). I’m excited to see how these 6 vineyards marry together.
Q: If you could only have one grape varietal to drink wine from for the rest of your life what would it be?
A: It would be Pinot noir, in all its varied forms. We are lucky at Duck Pond to have a bunch of different wines we craft from Pinot noir. From the 2016 vintage, I crafted 17 different still Pinot noir, one sparkling wine (Blanc de noir) and one still white (our Pinot Noir Blanc). It’s a true chameleon, and allows for a lot of thinking to go on. It’s an ethereal wine, and always presents challenges, and pleasure in each iteration. It would be tough to find a wine experience as enjoyable as one with a good Pinot noir.
Q: 2016 was a near perfect vintage in Oregon – ranking up with 2012. People have said 2017 could be similar to 2013. What are your thoughts on this?
A: If you didn’t make good wines in Oregon in 2016, you should probably be looking for a different profession. This was a goldilocks vintage for Oregon, and although not classic “Oregon,” provided a pretty easy road for a winemaker. Early budbreak and no frost? Absolutely! A mild summer with few heat spikes and few rain events? Thank you very much! An early harvest in before the October rains? Could I ask for more? There will be a ton of really good, plush wines, with good acidity from this vintage. Everything in barrel has been extremely approachable while young, so I can’t wait to see how they develop in bottle.
Q: What’s a fun fact most people wouldn’t know about you.
A: I wanted to be a plant breeder until I found winemaking to be amazing. I actually was building a breeding program for Hostas, and at one point, had collected over 200 different cultivars.
Q: If you weren’t a terrific winemaker, what would you be doing?
A: I would probably be a teacher, either high school or professor. I’ve always enjoyed the quest for knowledge – and if you’ve been on one of my tours, you’d know I love to share knowledge as well!