I recently had the opportunity to talk to Winemaker Ashley Holland from Brashley Vineyards. Brashley Vineyards is fantastic new vineyard in Anderson Valley. If you’re interested in learning more about Anderson valley vineyards, you can read about my favorites below:
Anderson Valley’s Top 10 wineries you must experience
As someone who is fascinated by the behind the scenes of the winemaking process, I simply love having the opportunity to learn more about different winemakers creative process and how they got to where they are. Follow along to see my interview with Ashley Holland.
Was there a moment that you remember when you knew that you
wanted to be a winemaker?
In 2007 I moved from Colorado, where I was working in wine sales, to California.
In the vintage of 2008 I tried my hand at garagiste winemaking by making some Merlot & Zinfandel. I also volunteered my weekends and any spare time to being Carol Shelton’s shadow, with 1k questions, to make sure I was truly interested in wine production. Also, I grew up on the back of a horse, and have the most found memories of what it felt like to walk into the horse barn. I found that very same feeling walking into a winery. From there I quit a proper paying career in wine sales and education to move across the world for the next 5 years working 2-3 harvests per year to learn the craft of winemaking.
What was your first wine job?
My first wine job was in off premise sales for E & J Gallo Winery in Denver Colorado. Every day I would pack my sales bag with my follow up sheet, bottle duster, and a pager to sell the entirety of the Gallo portfolio. Everyone starts in sales at Gallo, even Gina Gallo! This experience was invaluable as I got to interact with multiple wine buyers and customers.
Where did you study winemaking, or where were you taught?
I graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Animal Science, and am amazed how much of the science translates over to enology. I completed a Davis certificate in winemaking too. For me, the greatest lessons have come from my harvest positions, as wells as, living in New Zealand for 5 years working as the production winemaker for Two Rivers.
As a winemaker you taste (and spit) lots of wine, what wine do you feel bad about spitting because you love it so much?
Champagne and Chablis. Two of my very favorite wines.
What was one of the biggest mistakes you have made in your
Not securing a hose enough to a tank I was pumping over when I went to help someone who was struggling with a must hose. I bent down to help my friend haul a huge must (the crushed up fruit befor fermentation) hose to a better spot on the catwalk. My pumpover was still going while I was helping my friend….well the hose bucked itself out of the tank and started spraying sticky juice everywhere. I was getting soaked and witnessing a wild hose spinning in the air out of control. I had to do my best to keep my wits about me and reach out and grab it mid air then wrangle it back into the tank. The winemaker at the facility told me I was ‘head winemaker’ for the day.
Who has been the most influential mentor in your career?
Bob Cabral has been such an amazing mentor to me. I joke he is the only person that could offer me a job stateside, I was living in NZ for 5 years and had no plans to rush back to the US, and I would pack my bags yesterday to get back to the US to work with him.
As winemaking is such a series of long lessons, I knew working alongside a mentor like Bob, that had the long lesson outcome experience, would help shorten my own learning curve.
Leaving New Zealand to come work with Bob at Three Sticks is one of the best decisions I have ever made.
It was painful at times, he pushed, prodded, raised the bar when I had finally just reached it. As a good mentor does!
I have had some of my biggest successes working with him.
He helped me actualize my own potential. I am forever thankful to Bob.
What is something you’d like to share about Anderson Valley Wines
that many consumers may not know, or have a misconception about?
Anderson Valley is such a unique place due to the climatic conditions. The wines are so very distinctive due to this. Anderson Valley is the true end of the Pacific Northwest. When you pick up a glass of AV Pinot Noir you will have a few adjectives for aromas before you get to fruit. California has gorgeous fruit forward wines, I find that AV wines are in a category of their own as they have fruit and so much more. The wines age incredibly well given their tannin structure and high acidity. Cool fact: AV is so clean and clear that on a night without fog it is a 2 on the Bortle scale! Imagine begin a grape growing in that?
What is your favorite after work drink?
Typically Champagne year round. Depends on the time of year really.
Summer : Gin & Tonic
Fall: Daquiri – Classic
What is your favorite local spot in Philo/Boonville? What about in
Sonoma County where you live?
Disco Ranch! This oasis of wine, epicurean pantry items, tapas, and owner Wendy Lamer are a must frequent in Anderson Valley. She has an amazing selection of local wineries, that do not have tasting rooms, as well as a great collection of imports. Her superpower is warm hospitality and a knack for learning your palate preferences then making some outstanding personal recommendations.
Tell us something that would surprise people about you?
I rode horses in college NCAA on a full ride scholarship.