Winemaker, Stag's Leap Wine Cellars
Nicki Pruss was on a very different career path when she was sidetracked by a fascination with wine. After graduating from the University of California in Santa Barbara, the native Californian moved to Chicago. There she graduated Cum Laude from the Scholl College of Podiatric Medicine and completed her podiatric surgery residency at Columbus Hospital. She returned home to California as a licensed podiatrist, but in 1995 a 5-month bicycle tour through France, Belgium and Germany changed everything.
She had long been an enthusiastic amateur beer‐maker, but during this European trip she realized that the career she really wanted was in wine. Upon her return to California, Nicki began studying viticulture and winery technology at Napa Valley College and fermenting any grapes she could get her hands on. Professionally, she began as an intern at Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars in 1998 and since that time moved up the winemaking ranks from Lab Technician, to Enologist, to Assistant Winemaker and Associate Winemaker. She was officially named Winemaker in 2005.
Throughout her tenure at Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars, she has continued to attend seminars and extension courses at the University of California at Davis and through the Napa Valley Grape Growers, ASEV and the Napa Valley Vintners. Much of her practical winemaking and grape-growing education has occurred on the job, working with and learning from the founder of Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars, Renzo Cotarella, Danny Schuster, Jim Lincoln, Michael Silacci and other noted industry professionals. “Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars has been the training ground for many people from around the world,” says Nicki, “and it has been an honor for me to be one of its ‘students.’”
Nicki’s contributions at Stagʹs Leap Wine Cellars have been numerous. She’s been intimately involved with the ARCADIA VINEYARD Chardonnay program since its inception in 1998, helped revitalize the winery’s Sauvignon Blanc program with a style that has been widely successful, and was instrumental in the creation of the ARTEMIS Cabernet program. In addition to crafting the winery’s three Estate Cabernet Sauvignons (FAY, S.L.V., CASK 23) each year, Nicki creates estate red wines that highlight select parcels that are bottled exclusively for the Wine Club. To Nicki, these specialty wines are a way to take club members “on a walk through the vineyard with the winemaker” to experience the unique characteristics that define the winery’s world-class vineyards.
Country born: United States
Education: Certificate in Viticulture and Winery Technology from Napa Valley College, a B.A. in Biological Sciences from UC Santa Barbara, and a Doctor of Podiatric Medicine – Cum Laude from the Scholl College of Podiatric Medicine, Chicago, IL. I am a member of the American Society of Enology and Viticulture, the California Enological Research Association, and the Napa Valley Wine Technical Group. I am also a past Board member of the NVWTG
Years in the wine industry: 10-15 years
Site trumps clone, Mother Nature bats last and I am a grape herder. I keep that in mind while at the same time weaving together the technical aspects of science, the artistry of wine and my gut feeling. I enjoy the creative challenge of working with nature to produce world-class wines with balance,elegance and restraint.