Carpineto, Capturing the Spirit of Tuscany

Rolling hills. Olive oil. Chianti. Medieval castles. Pasta. Wine…. Need I say more? Nope, but I will!

It’s been a few years since we hopped on a plane and visited Italy for the first time. It was a romantic
weeklong pilgrimage to the land of pasta and wine… better known as Tuscany. Our daytrip to Greve in
Chianti is vividly etched in my memory for eternity. I can remember the incredibly quaint hilltop town
like it was yesterday. If you have yet to visit, let me persuade you by saying that Chianti is the most scenic
area we’ve ever driven through – that’s actually how we discovered Greve. We drove until we found
ourselves in this beautiful, medieval town with breathtaking views, plenty of shops, museums, churches,
and restaurants. I wish I had known then of the amazing terroir, but I do now! Guess you could say I’m
making up for lost wine. Had to squeeze in at least one wine pun.


Today we’re focusing on some very exciting wines from Carpineto located in Dudda, a small village in the
countryside of Greve in Chianti where scattered stone farmhouses and villas look out onto wooded
hillsides and vineyard patchwork. Dudda is located halfway between Florence and Siena along one of
Tuscany’s most incredible wine roads Via Chiantigiana. It’s definitely worth exploring if you travel to
Tuscany – if not, thank goodness we can travel there by glass! Carpineto was founded in 1967 with the
vision to craft Sangiovese that stemmed from a passion for nature and sustainability. This past year the
winery received its VIVA certification from the Ministry of Ecological Transition. We love supporting a
winery that’s committed to sustainable practices and being stewards of the land! I’m absolutely loving
their Dogaiolo Bianco and Dogajolo Rosso because it’s the perfect way to lighten things up for summer.
Before we dive in, let’s cover some basics to better appreciate the Dogajolo line.


Let’s Talk Chianti vs Super Tuscan

Chianti DOCG must contain a minimum of 70% Sangiovese grapes and the remaining blend often
contains indigenous Italian grapes permitted in the region such as Canaiolo or Colorino. Chianti smells
and tastes like Italy! Red fruit, herbs, sweet tobacco, and savory flavors mingle on the palate in the most
extraordinary way. While Chianti captures the spirit of Italy in a glass, Super Tuscan is Italy’s fresh new
vibe. What’s the difference between the two? Super Tuscan wines are red blends made with mostly
Sangiovese but also include non-indigenous grapes such as Merlot, Cab Sauv, and Syrah. This style of
winemaking became popular in the 70s when winemakers started to craft wines with grapes that were
not traditionally permitted under Italian regulations. As a result, in 1992 IGT was established. Let’s pause
here for a second to decode IGT because it’s an important part of Italian Wine Labeling. IGT stands for
Indicazione Geografica Tipica. Prior to the establishment of IGT in 1992 many wines failed to qualify for
DOC or DOCG status, but not because of poor quality… it was a result of the grapes being used. If the
blend didn’t meet the minimum percentage of sanctioned grapes in their blend, they could not receive
the classification. IGT allows producers to craft wine with a little more freedom – great quality meets
really exciting grapes from different pockets of the country.

Ok, now let’s shift back to Dogajolo Toscano Rosso IGT which is a young Super Tuscan. The cool thing
about this red wine is that the blend of grapes changes from vintage to vintage based on the growing
season and how the wines develop. This 2019 vintage is a blend of Sangiovese, Cabernet, and various
other varieties chosen to balance and compliment the aforementioned. The winemaking process is
intricate as each variety is vinified separately since each one ripens at different times. When
fermentation is almost complete, the wines are blended and aged in small oak barrels. The bottled
product is deep in color between ruby and garnet. It packs some enticing flavors such as tart red plum,
red cherry, anise, and delicate undertones of potting soil. It’s full-bodied while being soft and supple on the palate with refreshing acidity. This wine is a terrific match for early evening BBQs with friends! I suggest pairing alongside caprese orzo and grilled tri-tip… yum.

Next up we have Dogajolo Toscano Bianco IGT for the white wine lovers out there! I said it often and I’ll
say it again… I love a crisp Italian white wine! There is nothing more invigorating than sipping this on a
warm, relaxing summer day. Once again, a big shoutout to IGT for allowing creative winemakers to
compose some really interesting, exciting blends. Dogajolo Bianco is a blend of Chardonnay, Grechetto,
and Sauvignon Blanc. The grapes are destemmed and undergo cold fermentation to retain purity of
flavors. The juice remains in contact with the skins for a brief period which gives the final product a
vibrant yellow hue speckled with green highlights. We’re all familiar with Chardonnay and Sauvignon
Blanc, especially if you frequent my accounts because I’m a big fan. But, have you tried Grechetto? It’s
actually the primary grape in Italy’s Umbria and Lazio regions which makes this find exceptionally cool!
It’s a fuller bodied white wine that delivers flavors of white peach, honeydew, white florals with a touch
of minerality. It perfectly marries together the characteristics of juicy Chardonnay with that of a lean
Sauv Blanc to create a harmonious, one-of-a-kind white wine blend. For pairing tips, go with anything
Mediterranean or get a little crazy and enjoy alongside a mildly spicy dish of pad thai.

What I love about these wines is their approachability! They both drink incredibly well young but they
can also age for a bit. I would decant the red for about 20 minutes to really capture all those subtle
herbal nuances. And when you do open these bottles, don’t forget to sit back and imagine those rolling
hills, covered in vines and the occasional medieval castle – it’s easy if you try.

Thanks for sipping with us!

The Social Grapes | @smashleythegrape

Wine365, a better way to shop for wine.

White wine for summer is not a groundbreaking concept. You know what is? Whites from around the world in one delicious shipment. Wine365 is a newly launched website that offers various types of wine bundles. The thing that sets Wine365 apart from the rest of the online wine shop world is this: engaging, educational content in every media form. That’s right! In addition to accessing over 80+ of the world’s best producers, you can learn from the industry’s top professionals through blog posts, videos, and podcasts. It’s one of the best resources around if you’re ready to take your passion for wine to new levels and turn it into an official hobby.

We recently enjoyed the “Crisp White” three pack and made some amazing appetizers at home to liven up our outdoor summer happy hour. Roasted grape and honey crostini as well as caprese orzo kept the vibe refreshing and we immediately felt transported to Italy and Argentina by glass. Recipes for both at the end of this blog! But first, let’s dive into each bottle starting with an incredibly refreshing Sauvignon Blanc from Mendoza, Argentina.

Bodega Norton Select Sauvignon Blanc harvested in 2021

Argentina is the fifth largest wine producing country and has so much to offer. If you think Mendoza is only for Malbec, think again. While 75% of vineyards are planted to Malbec, there are lots of wines to discover… about 1,300 so to speak. There are 104 official wine appellations in Argentina which are called Geographic Indications (GI for short). Most vineyards here are planted at about 4,500 ft above sea level. Higher elevation leads to more direct sunlight during the growing season and results in fantastic natural acidity, optimal ripeness, and structure. Located along the foothills of the Andes Mountains, Bodega Norton is one of the first wineries in this area and some of the vines on the estate have been around for 80 years! With that said, this estate gets really interesting soil types influencing the wines as well as that refreshing acidity from higher elevation. Bodega Norton is crafting a one-of-a-kind, crowd-pleasing Sauvignon Blanc with a Mendoza flare. Honestly, I love this wine for you… especially this time of year!

Villa Matilde “Rocca dei Leoni” Falanghina IGT

Next, we’re traveling by glass to my beloved Italia to learn more about the next bottle in this shipment: Villa Matilde “Rocca dei Leoni” Falanghina IGT. Located in Campania, Italy is Beneventano IGT which is a key appellation in Campania and often referred to as “the earthy” side of the region. Let’s pause here for a second to decode IGT because it’s an important part of Italian Wine Labeling. IGT stands for Indicazione Geografica Tipica and it was introduced in 1992. Prior to 1992 many wines failed to qualify for DOC or DOCG status, but not because of poor quality… it was a result of the grapes being used. If the blend didn’t mean the minimum of 85% sanctioned grapes in their blend, they could not receive the classification. IGT allows producers to craft wine with a little more freedom – great quality meets really cool and underrated grapes for any given region. Ok, shifting back to the wine now – Falanghina is the grape and Villa Matilda has made this single varietal. It’s the signature white of Campania and definitely worth getting to know. Falanghina is an ancient Italian grape with Greek origins, so it’s as Mediterranean as it gets and we love that! The vines thrive in the porous volcanic soils around Mount Vesuvius with the warm Mediterranean climate. When I think about crisp Italian white wines, this is it. It’s giving lovely flavors of lemon zest, citrus blossom, stone fruits, ashy minerality with a touch of honey and almond. It’s dry, medium-bodied, and balanced with elevated acidity. This wine is a conversation starter so be sure to share with friends!

The Seeker Pinot Grigio 2021

Let’s head to the northeast corner of Italy where Pinot Grigio rules the land in Veneto! Our final bottle in the shipment is The Seeker Pinot Grigio. Veneto is an anomaly to me because it’s smaller than Italy’s other popular regions such as Piedmont, Tuscany, Sicily, and Puglia but it’s producing more wine than any of them! I guess you could say it’s small but mighty. If you’re reading this and wondering if Pinot Gris and Pinot Grigio are the same, the answer is yes. Same grape from different countries and both share genetics with Pinot Noir and Pinot Blanc. Pinot Grigio from Veneto is benchmark for this variety. Veneto is cooler in climate due to alpine influence which leads to lean, crisp wines. I love Pinot Grigio for it’s spritzy essence, fresh citrus, and lean persona. The Seeker has done a terrific job in seeking out top-quality wines from the regions that grow them best and bringing them to market on a global scale. This wine is made with grapes planted atop hillside vineyards that sit 750 feet above sea level on well-drained, mineral-rich soil. The final result is fresh, vibrant, and crisp with flavors of white nectarine, green apple, Meyer lemon, and citrus zest. It’s an everyday kinda wine and one that should always be in stock in your wine fridge.

As for the pairings….

I love finding a couple easy recipes that pair with a few different wines in the lineup and this has got to be one of my best! As I mentioned earlier, we made caprese orzo and roasted red grape crostini with honey. These two small plates played incredibly well with all three whites. *chefs kiss*

The original recipes can be found on this blog as well as here. One thing to note, we doubled upped the herbs in the roasted grape recipe because well… we love herbs! We also used homemade lavender olive oil instead of regular olivo and holy smokes that made this a showstopper. Either way, these pairings and of course the wines are perfect for your summer soirees. You can save 10% with my code SMASHLEY and once again, here’s the link.

Thanks for sipping with us!

@smashleythegrape | The Social Grapes

Women Making Wine Ft. Sauv Blanc Day and The Queen of Sauvy B

Today is #SauvignonBlancDay and I had the pleasure of celebrating this fabulous grape variety with winemaker extraordinaire, Jules Taylor of Jules Taylor Wines all the way from Marlborough, New Zealand.

Sauvignon Blanc should be celebrated today and everyday! It dates back to 18th century France, specifically Loire Valley where it’s the top dog to this day. I love the meaning of Sauvignon Blanc — it’s derived from two French words: Sauvage which means wild and vigne which is vine. This grape tends to grow a little wild on the vine so it’s aptly named to say the least. Sauv Blanc is special in the sense that it grows well under a wide range of climates and soil types. It thrives in cool climates like Marlborough where it can give more citrus and tropical flavors while also showing off in warmer regions like Napa. It’s siblings include Grüner, Chenin, and Silvaner. The coolest fact about Sauv Blanc though is that it’s the parent of Cabernet Sauvignon. Yep! This lovely lady mingled with Cabernet Franc to create a fabulously bold child.

Marlborough is the Mecca for New Zealand Sauvy B. Sauv from this region is incredibly distinctive with intense notes of citrus, green bell pepper, fresh cut grass, and rich tropical flavors. Jules Taylor Sauv Blanc is benchmark to no surprise. She’s incredibly talented at what she does, connected to the land, and very down to earth. Her perspective on the wine industry is a breath of fresh air just like her style of wines. She has an extensive background in winemaking with tenures in some of the world’s most respected regions. Now she’s back to her roots in Marlborough and producing some of New Zealand’s finest selection of wines. Jules Taylor Wines started in 2001 with about 200 cases. Over the next five years, the label really came to fruition as she and her husband went all in! After speaking with her it is obvious that Jules is passionate about wine and growing her wine business has been a labor of love. She was awarded the Winemaker of the Year Award in 2021 by an Australian publication, making her the first from Marlborough to receive this merit. She’s literally crushing the wine scene (wine pun intended).

If you didn’t have a chance to catch our Instagram live, here’s a recap! Feel free to catch the interview here.

Ashley: Can you describe Jules Taylor Wines without describing the wine, specifically Sauv Blanc?

Jules: Relaxed, not too serious, authentic, and vivacious.

Ashley: Can you tell us about your early days working in wine?

Jules: Got a job and I worked the vintage in 1994 and got sucked in to this whole wine thing. It changes how you see things… It changes the way we see food. It’s just a cool product. Years later here I am in the industry and I love it. It’s hard. It’s hard because you’re working with Mother Nature. It’s interesting. It’s fun.

In the beginning there weren’t a lot of women in the wine industry. In my first job I was the only women in the cellar. They tried to talk me out of it and there were some things they wouldn’t let me do like operate a forklift. Growing up my parents always encouraged me to go for it.

I loved this POV on harvest: “it’s the one chance you get to capture a moment in time. Game time decision is paramount.”

Ashley: how was the wine industry changed in the last 10 years?

Jules: It’s a lot bigger. Bigger players have swallowed up some of the smaller guys. Not as many of us little guys but we need those big guys. I think it adds to the interesting industry we work in. We got to start somewhere.

This is just a taste of the great, inspiring perspective Jules offered about the industry in New Zealand and her experience as a winemaker. I hope you take a moment to watch the full interview and grab a bottle of her Sauv Blanc and Pinot too for that matter. You won’t regret it! Shop via this link.

Once again, big thank you to Jules for sipping with us!

Cheers,

The Social Grapes | @smashleythegrape

#WomenMakingWine part 8: Sarah Citron, Mother & Co-Founder of Bricoleur Vineyards

Welcome back to my second annual series featuring women in wine who are at the top of their game. This year we have the privilege of hearing from women in various roles – from business operations to vineyard management, cellar masters to winemakers, and even CEOs/Presidents. The accomplishments of women in a male dominated industry is worth celebrating not only on International Women’s Day, but all month and all year for that matter. These amazing women are paving the way for future generations of female leaders and powerhouses in wine. I hope you enjoy learning about their journey and winemaking philosophy and feel as inspired as I do to go after your dreams. Check back here for updates as I continue to roll out these interviews daily on Instagram.

We’re heading to one of my favorite Sonoma AVAs – Russian River Valley – to chat with Sarah Citron, Co-Founder of Bricoleur Vineyards

Russian River Valley, home to world class Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. I know we’re not supposed to have favorite children, but I mean… I love the wide range of wine styles coming out of this quaint AVA. From lush and rich to lean fruit-driven, you can find a wine for every palate here. Centered on the Russian River, RRV accounts for about one-sixth of the total planted vineyard acreage in Sonoma County. This is where you will find Bricoleur Vineyards, which has the most beautiful olive groves, rose gardens, and vineyard views. We visited back in 2019 and fell in love with the space, the land, and the wine. We were new parents at the time and felt a kinship to their “Flying By The Seat of Our Pants” label – as any new parent would! They have a really great portfolio that includes a refreshing unoaked Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, AV Zinfandel, Sauv Blanc, Cab Sauv, and 2 styles of rosé (Pinot and Grenache #myfavs) to name a few. Add to cart!

Sarah Citron is a Co-Founder and truly an inspiration for not only women in wine, but mothers in wine. This tribute to Isla Rose, her daughter, is really special. Isla Rose is going to be a force in the world of wine one day! This wine embodies the entrepreneurial spirit of strong female leadership and represents the countless empowered women in the wine industry. We need more of this type of encouragement for young women and it’s the purpose of this series. As a first time mom with one foot in the industry, I was incredibly nervous about trying to balance my passion for wine while being a mother. There are many who are quick to judge or offer unsolicited advice on the subject. When Amelia arrived I wasn’t ready to let go of the wine life I’ve worked so hard to build. It’s brought a ton of wonderful new people into my life and new role models, such as Sarah, who are finding ways to include family in their line of business.

Wine isn’t going anywhere. What was once an old boys club is evolving. It’s more inclusive, approachable, and down-to-earth than ever before. I love to see parents sharing their passion with their children. Our own LO enjoys the vineyards and learning about various types of soil, tasting grapes from the vine, and watching people work hard at what they love. Wine is about community and experience and Sarah values that for her guests. Her take on work/life balance hit really close to home and it’s a breath of fresh air! I strongly encourage you to add Bricoleur Vineyards to your list of wineries if you’re ever in Russian River Valley.

Without further ado, our virtual interview…

Ashley: What’s the most important piece of advice you’d give to future generations of women pursuing a successful wine career?

Sarah: I truly believe, in order to be successful in any industry/job it is important to always be flexible and eager to learn as much as possible even if it is not part of your job. The more skills you learn and know the more valuable you are in the long run.

Ashley: What are some of the challenges you’ve overcome in establishing a winery?

Sarah: Some of the challenges of establishing a winery is overcoming all the obstacles that come your way. Navigating the opening of a business at the heart of a pandemic was not what anyone expected but we learned to Flying by the Seat of Our Pants and pivot to make the most of every opportunity.

Ashley: What’s your favorite thing about Bricoleur?

Sarah: My favorite thing about Bricoleur is building this community of people that can gather and connect with amazing wine and food. I love getting to know every single club member and creating memories together. It has been so wonderful seeing my daughter grow up on the vineyard and our community being a part of all of her major life moments.

Ashley: Can you share how you balance a career in wine while being a mother?

Sarah: Balancing a career and being a mother is all about being flexible. Every day is different depending on work and the needs of your child and family. In being honest, I could not do what I do without the help of my amazing mom and nanny. Having a solid support system has allowed me to better balance my career and my time at home. But also, making the most of my time I do have with my family by being fully present is really important to me. Once I get home from work my sole focus is my daughter until she goes to sleep.

Ashley: What goals are you still working towards in your career and for the brand?

Sarah: Some goals I am always working toward is to become a thought leader at Bricoleur Vineyards by inspiring and offering guidance to our staff. I am always working towards coming up with innovative ways to break the mold of traditional wine tasting and create amazing experiences for our guests. I would love to grow Bricoleur Vineyards to become a lifestyle brand.

Sarah, thank you so much for sharing this wine with us and offering some much appreciated wisdom from one mom to another. We look forward to following Bricoleur’s journey and visiting the winery again in the future!

Thanks for sipping with us!

The Social Grapes | @smashleythegrape

#WomenMakingWine part 7: Vitalie Taittinger, President and Christelle Rinville, Vineyard Director of Taittinger Champagne

Welcome back to my second annual series featuring women in wine who are at the top of their game. This year we have the privilege of hearing from women in various roles – from business operations to vineyard management, cellar masters to winemakers, and even CEOs/Presidents. The accomplishments of women in a male dominated industry is worth celebrating not only on International Women’s Day, but all month and all year for that matter. These amazing women are paving the way for future generations of female leaders and powerhouses in wine. I hope you enjoy learning about their journey and winemaking philosophy and feel as inspired as I do to go after your dreams. Check back here for updates as I continue to roll out these interviews daily on Instagram.

Lets travel by glass to Champagne, France to meet with Vitalie Taittinger, President of Taittinger Champagne

When it comes to wine, France is in a league of it’s own. It would take a lifetime to learn all there is to learn about French wine, and that’s not a bad journey to embark on. There is no other country as diverse in terms of quality or wine styles, which is why some of the world’s most coveted bottles are from France… particularly Champagne. Champagne was the first region in the world to make sparkling wine and it’s home to the traditional method – this is where the bar has been set for decades. Wines here are blended with Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier. The most treasured wines age for a minimum of 3 years. If sparkling wine has a role model, it’s Champagne. This region is comprised of five wine-growing regions and three towns: Epernay, Ay, and Reims where Taittinger Champagne is located. This historic estate has deep roots that can be traced back to Champagne as early as 1734! Taittinger is one of only five Champagne houses to cellar wine in the famous Crayères of Reims which are chalk caves originally dug out by the Romans. Today, the Champagne House remains family owned and operated with Vitalie as President of the company. She’s done an exceptional job at honoring the family’s tradition and dedication to excellence in Champagne. She’s a breath of fresh air who believes in living life to the fullest each and every day.

Without further ado, here is our virtual interview with Vitalie Taittinger…

Ashley: Can you describe Champagne Taittinger for us without describing the wine?

Vitalie: A family adventure for generations, focused on excellency of producing champagne.

Vitalie: What’s the most important piece of advice you’ve been given?

“Decide with your heart”. My grandfather told that to my father. When you are at the head of a company, you are always challenged on your brain ability… to be able to consider that heart is part of the decision is a unique way to stay human and humble. This is also very linked to reality : what makes your real place on Earth? Maybe we should consider that pleasure is a very good instrument of measure!

Ashley: How can women support other women in the wine industry?

Vitalie: Easily…being there when needed without being in competition, more in a kind of building spirit. This is great to be part of a business which totally includes the women talents and it would be a shame not to be able to be conscient of that. Since a few years now I am part of a woman’s association called la Transmission and this is probably the greatest adventure I could have experienced in Champagne. 9 Women decision-makers and owners, all having chosen to embody and reflect the Champagne diversity and ecosystem. Our Houses and Estates are established from North to South of the appellation, are of various sizes and structures. The unique way to defend a common vision of Champagne for tomorrow.

Ashley: As President, what do you see as the most important part of running your business?

Vitalie: I am probably the one who carries the challenge to reinforce and give a certain harmony to the human adventure of the company. Each one has to be at the right place, developing himself within the company. This is a real question of how to build the talent capital of our House in the happiest way! We are building on long-term perspective, and are even more engaged to make choices that are less financially driven and are coming from the heart. It also means restraining one’s ego in the interests of building something based on a set of values that can be transmitted to the next generation.

Ashley: What goals are you still working towards in your career and for the brand?

Vitalie: I am not considering my own career at all… I am following my way, my ideal and really would like our Team to take pleasure and develop itself working towards the ambition and vision of the company…the second thing is to inspire enough to the next generation,  to be able to transmit in complete harmony this piece of art that Champagne can be…

Vitalie, thank you so much for taking the time to share your passion and business expertise with us. We admire everything you are doing for the brand and respect the dedication to tradition while incorporating a sense of modernism into the brand.

This post is overflowing with great insight. Next up we had the pleasure of virtually interviewing Christelle Rinville, Vineyard Director of Taittinger Champagne

Christelle joined Taittinger in 2015 and brought with her about 10 years of consulting experience with various Champagne Houses in technical services. As Vineyard Director, she leverages technology for maximum output in producing the highest quality wine grapes. Technology isn’t scary to her and she’s passionate about people and agriculture. It’s inspiring to see you an experienced female in this position for such a prominent, well-established Champagne House. Without further ado, our virtual interview…

Ashley: How did you get started in wine?

Christelle: My father was a steelmaker. I did not come from a family of viticulturists but he pushed me to study, my sensibility brought me naturally to an ecologic subject. I wanted to do a job linked with environment . I had an opportunity at the Comité Champagne in Epernay and discovered the vineyards and the Champagne area, that’ s when I knew my career would be linked with the vines!

My first job consisted in managing all subjects in relation with vineyards (experimental phase, research, pest and disease management, soil and subsoil), in local and national communication, to create and implement a Magister network (close observation of vines and sustainable wine growing education).

I have learnt a lot about the spirit of growers. I have met different points of view, different technical levels and different ecologist’s sensitivity. I needed to be creative and innovative with dynamic and visionary leaders.

Ashley: What’s the most important piece of advice you’d give to a woman thinking of starting a career in vineyard operations?

Christelle: Be yourself, have a good sense of humane welfare is also a key because managing a vineyard means also being in touch with the workers who are in the vineyards (work organization, safety and hardship), having strong environmental convictions to answer societal challenges, knowing how to observe, listen.

But perhaps above all: have a lot of humility and strength to adapt because you work with nature and it is nature that is the strongest, nothing is ever acquired!

Ashley: What is one of the hardest things about producing a successful crop every year?

Christelle: Sustainable objectives are a combination of science, economic and human parameters. With global warming there are harder weather conditions since a few years like storms with hail, heavy rain and specially more spring frosts. It is threatened for our yield! Vines need to be well protected from diseases under our climate even if you would like to do without it. Downy mildew, powdery mildew, botrytis.

Ashley: What’s a day in the life of a Vineyard Director?

Christelle: There is not a single day that looks like the other: a lot of human and managing issues (technical and organizational policies, exchanges and support for managers, meetings with teams in the field, social dialogue, Management Committee), a large administrative component (budget monitoring, needs assessments and orders , environmental policy, traceability/certifications, regulations) and the priority of being close to the field through visits to the vineyards (observations, technical evaluation, monitoring of practices, evaluation of areas for improvement). Not to mention the involvement in professional and inter-professional bodies (Champagne Committee, Corporation of Champagne Winegrowers, Magister, etc.).

Christelle, thank you for walking us through the details and responsibility of your role! You are incredibly adaptable and doing an exceptional job. Truly an inspiration a great source of knowledge for women in wine.

Thanks for sipping with us,

The Social Grapes | @smashleythegrape

#WomenMakingWine 2022 part 6: Katie Madigan, Winemaker St Francis Winery & Vineyards

Welcome back to my second annual series featuring women in wine who are at the top of their game. This year we have the privilege of hearing from women in various roles – from business operations to vineyard management, cellar masters to winemakers, and even CEOs/Presidents. The accomplishments of women in a male dominated industry is worth celebrating not only on International Women’s Day, but all month and all year for that matter. These amazing women are paving the way for future generations of female leaders and powerhouses in wine. I hope you enjoy learning about their journey and winemaking philosophy and feel as inspired as I do to go after your dreams. Check back here for updates as I continue to roll out these interviews daily on Instagram.

Let’s head on over to Sonoma to chat with Katie Madigan, Winemaker at St Francis

St Francis Winery has incredibly deep roots in Sonoma County dating back to 1971 when the first acres were planted to Chardonnay and Merlot. The founding team at St Francis established themselves early on as producers of premium, single varietal Merlot. Since then, they’ve expanded vineyard sites and grown their portfolio of wines to include Old Vine Zinfandel, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Reserve Zinfandel. Katie Madigan joined the team as an intern in 2002, and today she carries on the legacy of producing show-stopping, terroir-driven wines. You can enjoy a lovely outdoor tasting at the winery that focuses seasonal food pairings or you can pedal your way through the vineyards with a Tour de St. Francis. This winery is high on my list of “must visit” Sonoma wineries for a few reasons… These unique, tasteful experiences sound incredible, but also I love to celebrate wineries that are dedicated to organic, sustainable farming practices and St Francis is committed to this. Lastly, it’s always a pleasure to see females making wine at such a well established winery.

Katie began her career as an intern and worked her way to winemaker in 2011. In 2015 she was awarded the “Best Woman Winemaker” by the International Women’s Wine Competition #YEAHGIRL! She has merits for days including Zinfandel Producer of the Year in 2014 and 2015. We love her hands-on philosophy and passion for detail when it comes to harvest. Her energy is fierce and I’m excited to support her career through sipping and celebrating her wines.

Without further ado, our virtual interview…

Ashley: Why did you choose to become a winemaker? 

Katie: After studying Chemistry in college, I took a harvest internship in the summer of 2002 at St. Francis. I wanted to explore fermentation science more, and learn the agriculture aspect to it. I’m celebrating my 20th harvest this year, and I’m still excited, challenged & motivated by the wines we’re creating.

Ashley: What are some of the challenges you face in winemaking and how do you overcome them? What’s your favorite part of the process?

Katie: It feels like more & more of the challenges winemakers face are environmentally based. No two vintages are alike, and we can’t predict what kinds of outside factors are going to impact the vintage. All we can do is prepare, and learn. I have multiple journals full of scribbled notes going back to the beginning of my career, where I would jot down ideas & techniques from what has/has not worked and what improvements could be done if faced with a similar scenario. Because of this, my favorite part of the process is still Harvest! It’s so dynamic and exciting. Even in the difficult vintages, there is something to feel accomplished about.

Ashley: What is the most important message you want to send out to young women thinking about a future in winemaking?

Katie: Take your time, enjoy the process, and hone in on your craft & style! Having the title of Winemaker is fantastic, but I wouldn’t have the confidence or the skills that I do without all my previous experiences as an intern, in the cellar, and the other various positions I’ve held. Lectures and reading about winemaking is instrumental, but seeing/smelling/tasting it firsthand is invaluable.

Ashley: How has your job changed over the last 10 years? 

Katie: Gosh, the winemaking industry is ever-changing and that’s one thing about it I still enjoy about it. There’s not just one way to do things. The door is always open for new ideas, innovations and styles to shine through. It’s incredibly motivating to know I don’t ever have to stop learning & growing!

Katie, thank you so much for sharing your insight with us! I’m a diligent notetaker so your attention to detail with harvest notes is truly amazing! Looking forward to sipping your wines all summer long – ps the Chardonnay with a grilled cheeseburger is a spring staple at our home.

Thanks for sipping with us!

The Social Grapes | @smashleythegrape

#WomenMakingWine 2022 part 5: Stephanie Jacobs, Winemaker Cakebread Cellars

Welcome back to my second annual series featuring women in wine who are at the top of their game. This year we have the privilege of hearing from women in various roles – from business operations to vineyard management, cellar masters to winemakers, and even CEOs/Presidents. The accomplishments of women in a male dominated industry is worth celebrating not only on International Women’s Day, but all month and all year for that matter. These amazing women are paving the way for future generations of female leaders and powerhouses in wine. I hope you enjoy learning about their journey and winemaking philosophy and feel as inspired as I do to go after your dreams. Check back here for updates as I continue to roll out these interviews daily on Instagram.

Let’s head over to Rutherford to meet with Stephanie Jacobs, Winemkaer at Cakebread Cellars

Cakebread Cellars is located in the AVA of Rutherford which is south of St Helena and north of Oakville in the heart of Napa Valley. Rutherford is known for it’s moderate -warm temps, morning fog, and ample sunlight. Vines here spend more time in the sun than any other AVA in Napa which leads to a soft, elegant style of wine. Due to it’s unique terrain and proximity to the Mayacamas and Vaca mountains, it’s famous for the “Rutherford Dust” quality in most Cabernet Sauvignons. Cakebread Cellars has deep roots in Rutherford dating back to the 70s – it’s very first release was a 1973 Chardonnay. Since then, the winery has grown to include several vineyards across Napa and even Sonoma. The property is amazing – think modern rustic elegance.

Cakebread has something for every palate: Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Rosé, and Pinot Noir. Through sustainable and organic farming, they were only the second winery in California to earn a Napa Green Certification, and they’re also certified as Fish Friendly! It’s inspiring to see these initiatives prioritized. You can truly taste the commitment to terroir and all things sustainable in every sip. I’ve enjoyed my fair share of wines from Cakebread and there are some common attributes: precision, purity, and balance. Investing in a nice bottle of wine can be risky, but with Cakebread you are guaranteed the very best. In addition to exceptional wine, I love the winery’s dedication to promote diversity and inclusion. We are beyond thrilled to celebrate the strong female energy that Stephanie Jacobs brings to the table as winemaker – she is passionate, empowered, and a true leader in wine.

Without further ado, our virtual interview…

Ashley: Do you think there’s a stereotype attached to female winemakers?
Stephanie: I truly believe that if you are passionate at what you do, there is no limit to your success. At Cakebread, I’ve been especially fortunate to grow with a family-owned company that places its core value on the individuals across our team, knowing a strong work/life balance will give us all a chance to reach our full potential. From our co-founder Dolores Cakebread to my Winemaker predecessor Julianne Laks, I’ve had examples that showed I had just as much opportunity as anyone else to make great wine here at Cakebread Cellars.

Ashley: What is one of the hardest things about winemaking year in and year out?
Stephanie: Mother Nature. Wine is a natural, agricultural product, subject to Mother Nature’s challenges. We must be nimble, flexible, and ready to adapt to the changes of each season. In the vineyard, we rely on past experiences and vintages to “predict” how the seasons will develop, but we must be prepared to pivot as challenges and weather events occur. Even my winemaking techniques can change season to season to craft the highest quality wine from each vintage.

The winery is also working hard to better adapt to these shifts due to climate change. From becoming more efficient in our use of water and energy both at the winery and in the vineyards to creating carbon farm plans and composting, sustainability has always been a core tenet of Cakebread Cellars. We were the second winery to become Napa Green certified and last year, became an applicant with the IWCA (International Wineries for Climate Action).

Ashley: How does your typical day evolve with the seasons? Do you have a favorite season?

Stephanie: Winter: Assessing wine quality from the previous harvest, checking on the wines going through malolactic, tasting through the lots and creating the blends, and starting to bottle (Rosé and Sauvignon Blanc)
Spring: Watching for budbreak in the vineyards, finalizing red blends, visiting the vineyards
Summer: Monitoring sugar levels in the grapes, sampling, continuing to bottle wines (Chardonnay & Reds), more frequent visits to the vineyards, starting harvest of our white varietals
Fall: Harvest is in full swing, early mornings at the winery, vineyard visits, continual grape sampling in the vineyards, pressing fruit, pump overs, close monitoring of fermentation, determining barrel program for white and red wines
I love the harvest season! It is so inspiring to see the fruit evolve throughout the growing season and be able to begin to envision the wines we will make. The winery is full of activity and anticipation, no matter how many harvests I have been part of, each year is new and exciting.

Ashley: Were you inspired by other female winemakers when you began your career in making wine?
Stephanie: Definitely. I’ve been fortunate in my career to have strong female winemakers as role models and mentors, who set the expectation that achieving success in the wine industry was something anyone could accomplish if they worked hard and had passion for it. Over the last 10-15 years, I’ve seen more women in the industry, not just as winemakers but also in executive leadership roles. At Cakebread alone, we have had women across our executive team from CFO, VP of Hospitality & DTC to VP of Sales and Marketing.

Ashley: In winemaking, is one thing more important than the other in terms of tradition vs innovation?
Stephanie: I think both are equally important. As a family-owned company, Cakebread prides itself on its long-standing tradition and commitment to consistent, high-quality wines and warm hospitality that the winery was founded on by Jack and Dolores Cakebread in 1973. At the same time, innovation is key and allows us to adapt. Our team continues to evolve its winemaking practices and leverage new technology to further quality and sustainability, from vineyard to cellar.

Stephanie, thank you for taking the time to share your insight with us and walking us through the seasons. We enjoyed learning that Cakebread has so many amazing women in leadership roles! The Social Grapes appreciates the inspired initiatives going on at Cakebread and we look forward to continuing our support for you and the team.

Thanks for sipping with us,

The Social Grapes | @smashleythegrape

#WomenMakingWine 2022 part 4: Remi Cohen, CEO of Domaine Carneros

Welcome back to my second annual series featuring women in wine who are at the top of their game. This year we have the privilege of hearing from women in various roles – from business operations to vineyard management, cellar masters to winemakers, and even CEOs/Presidents. The accomplishments of women in a male dominated industry is worth celebrating not only on International Women’s Day, but all month and all year for that matter. These amazing women are paving the way for future generations of female leaders and powerhouses in wine. I hope you enjoy learning about their journey and winemaking philosophy and feel as inspired as I do to go after your dreams. Check back here for updates as I continue to roll out these interviews daily on Instagram.

Follow me to Napa Valley to chat with Remi Cohen, CEO of Domaine Carneros

To know me is to know this: I love sparkling wine and I love Napa Valley. Our next feature is absolutely a perfect fit for this series because we’re heading to Domaine Carneros in Napa Valley to chat with Remi Cohen, CEO. Carneros is located at the intersection of Napa and Sonoma Valley around the southern foothills of the Mayacamas Mountains. It’s close in proximity to San Pablo bay, so these two attributes give Carneros a much cooler and wetter climate than other AVAs around Napa Valley. As many of you know Pinot and Chardonnay thrive in cool climates, making this a mecca for traditional method sparkling wine. The family behind Champagne Taittinger established Domaine Carneros back in 1987. You can expect elegant, balanced sparkling wine and Pinot Noir with grower quality that can age beautifully and drink exceptionally today.

Domaine Carneros is one of the first wineries I visited when my love for wine really started taking off. The estate will take your breath away as will the wines and hospitality. I strongly believe that every enthusiast should subscribe to a sparkling wine club, and this is an excellent option! The Social Grapes invests in more than just wine… we fall for the stories behind the bottles, sense of community, and positive impact. It was a pleasure to learn that Remi is cultivating an inclusive culture at Domaine Carneros while encouraging women to excel in their wine careers and delivering some of the coolest guest experiences. Read below about an opportunity to saber at the winery aka the best way to open a bottle. I hope this inspires you to choose Domaine Carneros Brut Rosé or just about anything from this portfolio of wines, honestly you can’t go wrong here.

Without further ado…

Ashley: Can you describe Domaine Carneros for us without describing the wine?

Remi: Domaine Carneros is an idyllic landmark chateau with breathtakingly beautiful views nestled among the rolling vineyards of the Carneros region of Napa Valley. Founded by the Taittinger family behind Champagne Taittinger, Domaine Carneros evokes the elegance and tradition of Champagne with the spirit of California and prides itself on estate vineyards, progressive sustainability initiatives, and a history of women in leadership.

Ashley: Were you inspired by other successful women in the wine industry when you began?

Remi: Coincidentally, I met Eileen Crane, Domaine Carneros’s former CEO and founding winemaker, in 2001 at the beginning of my career and found her to be very inspirational. Eileen is a pioneer for women in the wine industry. There were very few women winemakers in California when she was appointed to the role of founding winemaker for Domaine Carneros. At the time, Eileen already had a decade of experience working with sparkling wines, first as assistant winemaker at Domaine Chandon and then establishing Gloria Ferrer. She was perfectly suited for the position at Domaine Carneros and having been inspired by champagne to pursue a career in sparkling wine, it was a dream for her to be able to work with the family behind the prestigious Champagne Taittinger and progressive of the family to choose her.

I have admired the work of many women in the industry and in fact felt that the generation before me, Eileen’s generation, had largely done the work to prove that women can be among the best winemakers, vineyard managers, and industry executives. It wasn’t until later in my career that I realized that there is still a significant disparity in the quantity and compensation of women in senior winemaking and executive roles and that more progress is needed. 

Ashley: How can women support other women in the wine industry?

Remi: I think the most impactful way to support other women in the industry is to mentor women who are looking to advance in their careers. In general, creating a network of successful women in your life is an excellent foundation.

Ashley: How has the industry evolved over the last 10 years?

Remi: A lot of progress has been made in recent years bringing awareness to the lack of diversity in leadership positions in the industry, but more work needs to be done. As an example, it is interesting that there has been an approximately equal number of men and women enrolled in the viticulture and enology program since I was at UC Davis twenty years ago. Now, some enology programs have even more women enrolled than men so it demonstrates that women are interested and getting involved in the wine industry more than ever before.

However, a significant disparity still occurs in senior winemaking and senior management positions. In fact, a survey in October 2020 by Wine Business Monthly showed that 49% of assistant winemakers were women, whereas only 29% of winemaking directors are women. Even worse, only about 20% of winery general managers and CEO’s are women. Other studies have shown this to be even less.

It will require effort from the industry to encourage more women to advance to more senior positions within their companies and to be considered for top positions during the hiring process. This will involve companies institutionalizing diversity and inclusion along with mentorship opportunities. The industry’s work needs to extend beyond gender parity and work towards overall diversity and inclusion.

Ashley: As CEO, what do you see as the most important part of running your business?

Remi: I’ve worked in many different roles in the wine industry, starting as a viticulturist in the vineyard and then working in nearly every department before moving into general management. When I started as CEO at Domaine Carneros, I dived into human resources and talent management, emphasizing the importance of the people and the culture at the winery. About a decade ago, the winery embraced Zingerman’s style of management which entails open book management where all employees have visibility into the company’s finances and encourages a culture of employee engagement and advancement. To build upon these tenets, we have launched a mentorship program where employees have an opportunity to be mentored by members of our management team. We provide opportunities and programs for career advancement, learning skills in and outside of core responsibilities, and internal promotions. We have recently launched the Le Rêve Scholarship program with both the University of California at Davis and the Culinary Institute of America, providing support for diverse students focusing their trajectory on promoting diversity and sustainability while attending the wine graduate programs at these partner institutions. 

Ashley: What goals are you still working towards in your career and for the brand?

Remi: At Domaine Carneros, we strive to provide the most memorable sparkling wine experience. We are always looking at ways to create more meaningful and memorable experiences for our hospitality offerings. Some recent examples include that our Bubbles & Bites tasting menu now changes seasonally, highlighting flavors of cuisines from around the globe to illustrate just how versatile sparkling wine can be. We’ve also introduced an exciting experiential tasting called The Art of Sabrage.  It includes a tasting of four wines, an abundance of local cheeses & charcuterie, and is topped off with a sabering demonstration!  Everyone is in celebration mode, so we’ve also developed a concierge-style custom tasting called Your Ultimate Carneros to help plan the perfect wedding proposal, birthday, anniversary, or anything that needs a special touch. You can see we are always creatively updating our guest experience which is something I have enjoyed working on with our team. For me personally, it is rewarding to be at a time in my career where I can give back to the community by mentoring others and developing scholarship and philanthropy programs with the team at Domaine Carneros.

Remi, thank you so much for taking the time share your insight and story with us. I think we can all agree, across any industry, it’s incredibly motivating to see a woman as CEO. Here’s to those who have come before us and those who are sending the ladder down from the top, here’s to you!

Thanks for sipping with us,

The Social Grapes | @smashleythegrape

#WomenMakingWine 2022, part 3: Gretchen Voelcker, winemkaer at Luna Hart and Piazza Family Wines

Vineyards at Piazza Family Wines, Ballard Canyon

Welcome back to my second annual series featuring women in wine who are at the top of their game. This year we have the privilege of hearing from women in various roles – from business operations to vineyard management, cellar masters to winemakers, and even CEOs/Presidents. The accomplishments of women in a male dominated industry is worth celebrating not only on International Women’s Day, but all month and all year for that matter. These amazing women are paving the way for future generations of female leaders and powerhouses in wine. I hope you enjoy learning about their journey and winemaking philosophy and feel as inspired as I do to go after your dreams. Check back here for updates as I continue to roll out these interviews daily on Instagram.

Next up, traveling to my happy place: Santa Ynez Valley to chat with Gretchen Voelcker, Winemaker at Piazza Family Wines and Luna Hart

Piazza Family Wines is located in the heart of Santa Barbara wine country in the rural AVA of Ballard Canyon, which is just a few minutes away from downtown Solvang in Santa Ynez Valley. The Ballard Canyon side is planted to more Rhone varietals and Syrah while Sta Rita Hills to the west is widely planted to Pinot and Chardonnay. What more could a wine lover need? We visited Piazza Family Wines this past fall and were introduced to the female winemaking team, vineyard views, and portfolio of wines. Our daughter was about 16 months old and she was thrilled to see women working hard outdoors and operating harvest machinery… I think she caught the wine bug.

This is the strong female energy that we love to celebrate in wine, and the inspiration for this #WomenMakingWine annual project. Winemaker Gretchen Voelcker is talented and innovative with the resume to back it up. Who here has tasted a skin contact Sauvignon Blanc or Graciano that undergoes carbonic fermentation? Gretchen has elevated the taste profile of these wines by taking a really cool approach. Fun fact: Graciano is a red wine grape from Northern Spain. If you enjoy Dolcetto, Beaujolais, or Garnacha give this one a try. Think violets, mulberry, pepper and cherry cola with savory undertones, medium tannin, medium body and high acidity. What I love most about Piazza and Luna Hart (Gretchen’s line of wines) is the focus on sustainable, organic, and/or biodynamic farming. I mentioned this a couple days ago and I’ll say it again, this approach really celebrates terroir and captures a true sense of place. I cannot wait to taste more from both labels – we enjoyed Gretchen’s wines so much that we joined the wine club which offers allocations from both Piazza and Luna Hart. Piazza Family Wines include Pinot Noir, Syrah, Chardonnay, and my beloved Graciano. Luna Hart offers Syrah, Syrah rosé, Sauv Blanc, Grüner Veltliner, and an amazing Cab Franc. We enjoyed this virtual interview with Gretchen and know you will too! I cannot rave enough about the wines she’s making – honestly, some of the best bottles we own.

Ashley: How did you get started in your winemaking career?

Originally from outside of Philadelphia, growing up, wine was not on my radar what so ever, but we moved to Brussels when I was in high school for my mother’s job. While there, my parents started getting into wine tasting and started to share that experience with me. In the beginning, it wasn’t wine itself that intrigued me, but the idea of creative science. Being a very left-brained, math and science type of girl, I have always searched for creativity within myself. I did not study winemaking in school but instead studied business and then plant sciences. After graduating, however, I remembered the intrigue of the industry and decided to give it a go. I have really built my career from apprenticing throughout the years and being fortunate enough to always work with small brands with a high degree of transparency.

Gretchen: What goals in winemaking are you still working to achieve?

Again, being that creative scientist, I am constantly seeking to experiment (of course nothing is new in wine, but new to me) with new ideas or play with new varietal. But at the heart of my style, I am working to make minimally manipulated wines that showcase balance, vintage and varietal typicity. Although I am lucky enough to work with all sustainable, organic and biodynamic vineyards, I also am constantly aiming to bring more sustainability into my wines and business.

Ashley: Do you think there’s a stereotype attached to female winemakers?

Gretchen: Not particularly. Having built my career in Santa Barbara after the women pioneers before me have laid the foundation, I have been so fortunate to not have a history of gender hardship. Santa Barbara is such a wonderful winemaking community and I have been lifted up by both men and women in my career and have never felt as though there is a particular stereotype.

Ashley: What is one of the hardest things about winemaking year in and year out?

Gretchen: The biggest challenge for me which I predict will only become more of a challenge, is to be able to make minimally manipulated wines as climate change continues to develop. As it is, working with Mother Nature keeps you on your toes. Every year I am dealt a completely new deck of cards and it is imperative that I can stay adaptable to that.

A lot of wines have a long list of hidden ingredients used in making the wines and most wines have at least a few undisclosed ingredients; my wines have only had a small amount of sulfur added to keep the wines healthy and tasty. By using less modern tools, I am aiming to give a more natural and timeless expression of the vineyards that I work with. The grapes are all hand harvested and when I choose to harvest, I seek find a balance of good acidity and flavor. In vintages like 2020, where we were faced with a lot of heat spikes in Santa Barbara, which I am presume will begin to become more common, it it a lot more difficult to find that balance in the fruit.

Ashley: Were you inspired by other female winemakers when you began your career in making wine?

Gretchen: From early on I was lucky to be surrounded by women in the industry. My very first harvest was at Rideau, founded by a woman of color, Iris Rideau, working under a young female winemaker, Amanda Baird, who showed me that it was possible to become a head winemaker in her late 20s. At that time, we also shared our facility with the all-star Kita Wines team, Tara Gomez and Tymari Lore, working around the clock to build their new brand. Of course, Tymari, my bff, continues to inspire me every day with her wine knowledge but also leadership. After that, I worked with Rideau’s next female winemaker, Adrienne St. John, who was my direct mentor. She taught me the importance of chemistry and sound fundamentals in maintaining a healthy winery. Needless to say, I was off to an empowering start! 💪

Ashley: In winemaking, is one more important than the other in terms of tradition vs innovation?

Gretchen: As I mentioned before, I think that winemaking has been around for so long that aside from new technological innovation, we are never re-inventing the wheel. A lot of the trendy new wines are made in the most archaic ways. I suppose then I put more value in tradition although for me it is often a personal experience of innovation, if that makes any sense.

Ashley: What is an favorite/unexpected yet incredible food pairing for any of your wines?

Gretchen: So many great ones to choose from! I love the Grüner with Sushi, spicy food and my favorite farmers’ market creation, chorizo and saffron mussels. The partially-skin fermented Sauvignon Blanc is absolutely a match made with salmon dishes. 

Gretchen, thank you so much for taking the time to share your expertise and passion for wine with us! We look forward to visiting the winery and following your career. We’re already big fans and love supporting your work.

Thanks for sipping with us!
The Social Grapes | @smashleythegrape

#WomenMakingWine 2022 part 2: Amandine Brillanceau, Cellar Master at Louis Jadot

Welcome back to my second annual series featuring women in wine who are at the top of their game. This year we have the privilege of hearing from women in various roles – from business operations to vineyard management, cellar masters to winemakers, and even CEOs/Presidents. The accomplishments of women in a male dominated industry is worth celebrating not only on International Women’s Day, but all month and all year for that matter. These amazing women are paving the way for future generations of female leaders and powerhouses in wine. I hope you enjoy learning about their journey and winemaking philosophy and feel as inspired as I do to go after your dreams. Check back here for updates as I continue to roll out these interviews daily on Instagram.

Next up, featuring Amandine Brillanceau, Cellar Master at Louis Jadot

Amandine is from Deux Sevres which is just south of the Loire Valley in France, so it’s no surprise that she has *cultivated* an impressive wine resume. She studied at the Agronomic School in Bordeaux and earned degrees in both Agronomy and Oenology. Her passion for wine grew through travel and interning alongside inspired French winemakers. Amandine’s experience in winemaking spans across several renowned regions including New Zealand, Australia, Oregon, and South Africa. She’s combined her passion and experience to grow into the role of Cellar Master in two prominent French regions: Rhone Valley from 2014 to 2017 and Burgundy where she now works at Louis Jadot.

Located in Beaune, Louis Jadot has incredibly deep roots in Bourgogne dating back to 1859. I like to refer to Louis Jadot as “America’s Sweetheart” because the wines are well-known here in the US and loved by so many for its tradition and quality. Louis Jadot is one of the most celebrated exporters of French wine and marketed as America’s #1 French wine for good reason. These red and white Burgundies are not only accessible, they are approachable and affordable. Louis Jadot’s portfolio includes everything:  inexpensive Burgundy and Beaujolais, wines from Chablis and Côte de Beaune, as well as grand cru wines from France’s top vineyards.

When I think about the rich history of Louis Jadot an instant sense of tradition comes to mind. The thing that really impresses me as a consumer/wine student/creator is how the Louis Jadot brand and Domaine has not only grown and evolved with the times, but how they’ve done so while upholding the region’s deep tradition and values. To me, that is just really cool. The wines are a benchmark for Burgundy and they’re delivering a product that appeals to novice and expert level enthusiasts. I personally loved learning that Louis Jadot has a female Cellar Master and one with such an exciting background and fresh perspective. It all makes sense now!

Without further ado, our virtual interview:

Ashley: Can you provide some insight into your day-to-day operations as Cellar Master?

Amandine: Cellar team management (7 people). Planning work and adjustment, tasks follow-up. Daily tastings enabling to organize the cellar work, traceability, various projects monitoring etc …

Ashley: You have experience in both new and old-world wine regions, how has this contributed to your success in Burgundy?

Amandine: Adaptation ability due to the fact that I worked in very different winery profiles (different material/tools, different company and organization profiles).

Openness and curiosity allowing me each time to tackle different challenges.

Ashley: What do you find to be the most interesting part of your job? What are some challenges you’ve overcome?

Amandine: Never bored! The wine world has no limit, it is always moving ! My biggest challenge was to enter Louis Jadot. Burgundy was a dream and every work experience was slowly helping me to get closer to Burgundy. Leading a team was also a new challenge I had to take up, because it was a first experience to me. Showing my skills and my competence to my team enabled me with time to get closer to them.

Ashley: Of the wines in your portfolio, can you share a favorite (and unexpected) food pairing?

Pernand-Vergelesses Les Combottes paired with a wok full of Asian flavours: the Combottes vineyard produces a very aromatic Chardonnay wine, with intense flavours. It is the best companion to sweat-and-sour notes, it’s nice tension enhances such dishes.

Ashley: In winemaking, is one more important than the other in terms of tradition vs innovation?

Amandine: Tradition is a key value in Burgundy – it represents a bridge between Burgundy history and today’s winemaking science. It is crucial to me in order to build a harmonious whole. Therefore, it is a never ending process swinging between past acquired experiences and today’s knowledge. Always innovating and constantly searching for perfection.

Amandine, thank you for taking the time to share your experience and insight with us. Cellar Masters wear a bunch of different hats. From managing inventory to knowing the ins and outs of harvest and more. It’s inspiring to see you manage a wide range of responsibilities for such a prominent French producer. 

Thanks for sipping with us,

The Social Grapes | @smashleythegrape