Meet Our Vintners: Four of Napa Valley’s ‘Young Guns’

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Alan Viader, Director of Operations & Winemaking, Viader Vineyards & Winery

How did you get started in the wine business?

I grew up in the wine industry and helped my mother, Delia Viader, with our first harvest in 1989 when I was 9 years old. I grabbed a shovel and jumped into a fermentation tank to dig out the grape skins. I would always help out during weekends and summer vacations. I took the responsibility seriously, helping in the cellar and vineyards with pruning, suckering, clearing rocks and using jackhammers to plant vines.

Name a Napa Valley vintner who has influenced you and briefly explain why.

I’ve worked closely with many great winemakers over the years, and one that I respect and value highly is Genevieve Janssens from Robert Mondavi. She challenged and helped train my palate, and more importantly she pushed me in ways that helped build my confidence very early on in my winemaking career.

What are the most rewarding aspects of your work?

Creating something that other people enjoy is highly rewarding. It’s touching that they value my wines enough to make them a part of their celebrations.

 

Laura Barrett, Winemaker, Clif Family Winery

Name a Napa Valley vintner who has influenced you and briefly explain why.

It would have to be my mentor Mia Klein. I worked under her at Fisher Vineyards for almost five years. Mia taught me patience in the vineyard and in the cellar.

What are the most rewarding aspects of your work?

Watching people enjoy a wine that I’ve made. I remember a cold, rainy day in early March last year when I walked through the tasting room at Clif Family and there were five or six tables drinking of our newly released rosé. It made me so happy.

What are the greatest challenges?

The greatest challenge in winemaking is our dependence on Mother Nature, who can be so unpredictable.

What are you doing at your winery to help preserve and enhance Napa Valley for the future? (e.g., sustainable practices, family succession plan, community service, etc.)

Our estate vineyards and farm are both CCOF certified organic and we make every effort to source grapes from organically farmed vineyards. We reuse, recycle and compost everything (even our Clif Bar wrappers). Each month we host Sip and Support events where we give back proceeds to a local organization. We close the winery, office and tasting room one day each year for our staff to participate in community service. The list goes on and on.

 

Trevor Durling, General Manager & Chief Winemaker, Beaulieu Vineyard

Which wine was your "a-ha!" wine – the one that made you love wine or inspired you to get into the industry?

Early in my winemaking career, I recall trying the Beaulieu Vineyard 1968 Georges de Latour Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon with a family friend, and it not only left an indelible impression on me, but it shaped the path in which I wanted to take my career and the wines I wanted to create.

What do you think makes Napa Valley unique compared to other wine regions?

The number one differentiating factor is the weather because it’s among the best in the world! Napa Valley isn’t big; however, the terroir and soil profiles are so varied. The west has more iron and foliage on the mountains while the east is more volcanic with magnesium in the ground.

What are you doing at your winery to help preserve and enhance Napa Valley for the future? (e.g., sustainable practices, family succession plan, community service, etc.)

At BV, we’re making a significant effort to honor and highlight the past, while thinking about what’s next for the brand. In terms of sustainable practices, we’re making sure we know where our waste goes, having a better understanding of water conservation, and holding ourselves to a certain standard to improve our water and energy usage annually. Our goal is to approach zero waste.

 

Ari Spoto, Consulting Winemaker, Spoto Family Wines

What are the most rewarding aspects of your work?

There are not many professions where you get to wake up every day and taste the fruits of your labor… literally! This job is rewarding in the sense where you get to see how your hard work pays off and make something that most people enjoy.

What are the greatest challenges?

Punch downs, tank digs and pulling hoses around the winery.

What are you doing at your winery to help preserve and enhance Napa Valley for the future? (e.g., sustainable practices, family succession plan, community service, etc.)

Spoto Family Wines is a family business and has become multi-generational. My grandfather started making wine over 50 years ago and has passed along the tradition to my father. I was lucky enough to have interest in the industry and hope that one day my children can carry on the tradition.

If you weren't a Napa Valley vintner, what would you be doing?

Traveling the world as a poor hippie.

What advice would you offer someone trying to get into the Napa Valley wine industry?

Start wherever you can and move up from there. It’s hard to get started, but once you establish yourself, you’ll be very pleased with your hard work.

 

Meet more Napa Valley vintners at https://napavintners.com/vintners/.