Geyser Peak Winery
What brings home the bacon: Assistant Winemaker, Geyser Peak Winery
Resides: Healdsburg, CA
Favorite Music/Band: Dave Matthews
Favorite Food(s): Cheese, Thai, Indian and Spanish
Favorite Drink(s): Red Burgundy, Rhones, Sonoma zinfandel, tangerine juice
Favorite winery/wine producer/region: Chambolle Musigny or Chateau Chante Perdrix in Chateauneuf du Pape. Ridge Vineyards is up there too.
Wine X: Explain what you do in 250 words or less:
Ondine: I assist in coordinating and producing Geyser Peak and Canyon Road wines. My duties include all aspects of production, from conceptualizing new products to seeking new grape sources to daily monitoring and tasting of all fermentations, to making blending and aging
decisions. A large part of my job is coordinating movement of wines around our facility and maintaining the integrity of the blends. There's considerable overlap of responsibility in a winery of our size, so no two days are ever the same.
Wine X: What inspired you to work in the wine industry?
Ondine: The practically perfect blend of science, creativity and communication. I'm strongly analytical but my softer (dare I say feminine?) side favors the arts, so I knew I'd never be happy as a research chemist or working in biotech. The opportunity to meet consumers who enjoy my wine is also highly appealing.
Wine X: Do you feel being a woman in the industry is a blessing or a curse? Hinders or helps you?
Ondine: I definitely don't think it ever helps to be a woman in this industry. And at times it seems to be a handicap because people judge you immediately by your sex. Within the industry there's still a lot of sexism. I frequently get asked which tasting room I work in, and when my husband helps me with events most people talk exclusively to him, even when he tells them I'm the winemaker. But I've had the good fortune to work for three modern, gracious wineries, all of which treated me as an individual and not as a "woman."
Wine X: What's your favorite thing about working in the industry?
Ondine: Being so closely tied to the earth and seasons. The annual cycle of dormancy, growth, maturity, harvest and production is so tangibly satisfying. It's humbling and desperately romantic in a traditional sense.
Wine X: What's the worst thing about working in the industry?
Ondine: It's a tie between being told, "You're too pretty to be a winemaker," and being asked, "Did you study this or marry into it?" Men never get these.
Wine X: How often do you have a glass of wine?
Ondine: Five or six days a week.
Wine X: If you could drink one wine (or type of wine) for the rest of your life, what would it be and why?
Ondine: It would have to be red Burgundy. When I find a good producer I'm positively rapt. It's true that bad Burgundy is among the worst of wines, but good and especially great Burgundies are unparalleled (at least to my taste). Burgundy is also a treasure trove of small producers, so the variety of styles and appellations from Dijon to Macon is more than enough to keep my palate satisfied.
Wine X: What was your most embarrassing moment with wine?
Ondine: My very first job was with Cline Cellars in Sonoma. At the time Cline was a small, struggling winery trying to jump into the big time. We had several gorgeous old oak uprights for aging red wine and all were fitted with ancient butterfly valves. With these types of valves it's necessary to push a button down and turn the valve at the same time. Every week I had to pull samples from these tanks to run malolactic analysis. I always had trouble with the valves because they were so tight, but I was finally getting the hang of it. On this particular day I had collected all but one sample and was feeling rather confident in my new familiarity with the valves. The final tank, a zinfandel known as Big Break, had a particularly stubborn valve. I pressed down on the button and yanked the valve open where it firmly locked into place at a 45-degree angle. A delicious blast of zinfandel blew my sample-collecting beaker at least 20 feet across the room and soaked me from head to toe. As I struggled to try to close the valve the spray continued to soak me and because my hands were so slippery with wine I couldn't get the valve closed. I finally gave up and yelled for help. I lost at least 40 gallons of stellar zin. It took more than a week to get the red stains out of my skin.
Wine X: How long does an open bottle last in your house?
Ondine: That depends on what it is. Sauvignon blanc lasts an hour. Zinfandel about two. Cabernet lasts a few days. Port a week or more.