Winemaker, Silver Oak
I began working in the vineyards of Knights Valley for John Rolleri in 1971. In 1975, I enrolled at UC Davis and completed my Bachelors and Masters degrees under grape geneticist Harold Olmo. I moved to Anderson Valley in 1978, where I worked as vineyard manager and assistant winemaker at Navarro Vineyards. In 1981, I decided to fulfill my dream to work in Bordeaux. When my first opportunity didn’t pan out as expected, I stayed in France, traveling to many wine regions and working in seven different chateaux throughout the Bordeaux region during the 1981 harvest. I became fluent in the language and learned the business and social customs. In France, you don’t do business until you share a meal. That made a big impression on me.
A chance meeting with Christian Moueix led to a one-year internship at the Chateau Petrus in Pomerol, and there I was befriended by winemaker Jean-Claude Berrouet, cellarmaster Jean Veyssiere and his son Francois. They taught me about wine as a part of culture and how history, quality and tradition are intertwined with the practical aspects of winemaking. After the 1982 vintage, Christian Moueix put me in charge of his new winery in Napa Valley, Dominus Estate.
I worked at Dominus from 1982 to 1994, rising to general manager, when a quirky newspaper ad placed by Justin Meyer of Silver Oak Cellars caught my attention. Justin was looking to name his succesor. We hit it off immediately, and although I wasn’t sure about leaving Dominus, Justin wouldn’t take no for an answer. I worked side by side with Justin until his retirement in 2001. Justin instilled in me both pride in what Silver Oak had accomplished and the humility to realize that there is always room to improve. He constantly searched for ways to raise quality, and that’s become one of our core values at Silver Oak.
Country born: United States
Education: Bachelor of Science, Plant Science Major, UC Davis graduation with Highest Honors, 1976 Master of Science in Horticulture, UC Davis, 1981
Mentors: John Rolleri, Chateau Montelena;
Dr. Harold Olmo, UC Davis;
Ted Bennett, Navarro Vineyards;
Christiane Moueix, Jean-Claude Berrouet, Michel Gillet, Jean and Francois Veyssiere, Ets JP Moueix;
Justin Meyer, Silver Oak Cellars
Years in the wine industry: 30+ years
Honors / Awards:
Citation for Outstanding Performance, Plant Science Major, 1976
Department Citation for Outstanding Undergraduate Accomplishment in Viticulture and Enology, 1976
Board Member, American Society of Enology
President, Napa Valley Wine Technical Group
To me, wine has always been more than something to drink. My family’s love and appreciation of good food, the time I’ve spent in France and the many mentors I've had along the way have led me to an appreciation of the role wine plays in daily life, as well as history and culture. To me, creating wine is one of the ways people preserve civilization.