Wednesdays with Winemakers – Elizabeth Vianna 3 min read

Why did you become a winemaker?

I fell in love with wine and became a winemaker because I am fascinated by the blend of science and art that is involved in wine production.  I love everything about the aesthetics of wine—how it ties to a particular place, time and people.  

 

If you weren’t a winemaker what would you be and why?

I would probably be playing the piano somewhere.  Music was my first great love.

 

What is your greatest strength as a winemaker?

Winemaking calls for great attention to detail and I tend to be meticulous.

 

What is your biggest weakness as a winemaker?

My biggest weakness is probably sometimes wanting control of all things and not being able to let go of things I can’t control.

What’s the one mistake you made in the cellar you would never repeat?

During my first internship I was sanitizing a tank and disconnected the wrong two hoses (hoses that had wine in them!): rookie mistake.

 

What is your proudest achievement?

Being invited to be commencement speaker at UC Davis Graduate School.  It was the greatest honor to be thought of as someone who could advise young graduates.

What was your scariest vintage to date?

2011 was probably the most challenging of my career and a reminder that Mother Nature is ultimately in control

 

What is your favorite word or saying?

“You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.” -Mae West

 

What is your most prized possession?

Life.  I don’t own a lot of stuff.

 

What’s the oddest thing about you?

I’m obsessed with movie soundtracks.

 

What song best sums you up?

“All You Need is Love” – The Beatles

 

What is your favorite memory?

The collective memory of growing up in Brazil.

 

Which of the five senses is your strongest?

Smell—now that I am more trained.  Before I discovered wine, it was probably hearing.

 

What is your biggest motivation?

To live a life of which I am proud.

 

Which bottle of wine would choose to be stranded with on a deserted island?

Really, do I have to pick one?  Probably a great bottle of Champagne.

 

What is the difference between a good and great wine?

Who you are drinking it with and where you are.

 

Name three individuals you would like to have dinner with.

Aretha Franklin, Mark Rothko, and Maya Angelou.

 

Who is your winemaking hero?

Too many to mention—but I found Didier Dagueneau to be incredibly inspiring in the way he didn’t take himself so seriously and created mesmerizing wines.

 

What does the concept of “balance” mean to you?

Seamlessness, harmony, no hard edges.

 

What is the one thing you want people to remember about your wine?

That it moved them to the core.

 

Best comment made about your wine? Was it by a consumer, trade or press?

My mother:  She says she can only drink Chimney Rock wines because they are perfect.  No surprise there.  Also,  I love what Antonio Galloni says about our wines – he once said our 2013 Stags Leap District Cabernet was ”a wine that captures the essence of this appellation.”  It resonated with my desire to make wines that tell the tale of place.

Ilona Thompson

Ilona Thompson is Editor-in-Chief at PalateXposure, a destination site for oenophiles, gourmands and luxury travelers. She also recently launched #Wine, a site dedicated to wines and spirits reviews, and #Photography, a site devoted to high-quality wine, food, and travel related photography.

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