Interview with Winemaker Amy Chenoweth of Chenoweth Wines

 Was there a moment that you remember when you knew that you wanted to be a winemaker?

I have always been a huge fan of wine. I grew up in a family that always enjoyed good food and better wines. I didn’t realize that I wanted to be a “winemaker” so much as I “fell” into it. We had our winemaker leave in 2015 to pursue other opportunities and I stepped in. After working as a “cellar rat” with our winemaker, I was learning the ropes. I then went on to UC Davis to get my certificate in winemaking. 

Where did you learn to make wine?

Mostly, in the cellar then formally at UC Davis

You and your husband have been growing grapes for well-known wineries such as Patz & Hall, Kosta Browne, CIRQ and more for years. What inspired you to start Chenoweth Vineyards?

Charlie had been in Agriculture for his entire life. His favorite saying is “I grew up farming unwillingly most of my life and then I chose it as a profession”. He had his first introduction to vineyard farming with Warren Dutton at Dutton Ranch, he then went on to Sonoma Grapevines as their vineyard/ranch manager. He literally came home one day and said “We are going to start our own business” I had 2 babies at home and said “Great idea!” 

What was one of the biggest mistakes you have made in your winemaking career?

I haven’t had a “biggest mistake” yet (knock on wood) 

Who has been the most influential mentor in your career?

Cory Albury and James Hall. Cory knew I could do the work and that is why he left it in my most uncapable hands when he left as our winemaker. He is our consulting winemaker and is fabulous and patient at teaching me anything and everything.

James Hall is incredibly smart and has a knowledge base that expands beyond winemaking. He can and has answered my questions from cellar to financial. He also makes a FABULOUS wine! 

Can you share more stylistically about Chenoweth Wines for those not familiar?

We try to make our wines so that they are drinkable always. You don’t need to wait for a special occasion or eat it with food. Our wines can be opened when it is warm out, cool out, if you have soup and bread or not. We try for smooth, intense flavors in our pinots and fresh and lovely in our Chards and Rosé. 

When I visited Chenoweth Vineyards we toured your spectacular Sebastopol vineyards in an ATV and enjoyed some of the most spectacular vineyard views. How would you describe Chenoweth Vineyard’s views to those who haven’t been yet? What makes it so special? (The elevation, location to the Sonoma Coast, extensive surrounding forest….)

These tours take you from the Redwoods to the vineyards. We tour through our Home Ranch and Treehouse Vineyards. Treehouse Vineyard boasts an elevation of 750 feet and has views of Sonoma County that go from the tip of Geyserville to the valley of Rohnert Park. The best viewing areas for the Fourth of July celebrations. While touring these vineyards you learn about the history of the Chenoweth Family as well as learning more about the wines we create, while tasting these wines in the vineyards where they are grown.  

Can you share why you decided to offer Pinot Noir & Chardonnay varietals in addition to your Sparkling Wine (made with non-estate grapes yet still, equally as delicious) ?

We started with Pinot Noir. Our original plan was to do just 1 wine each year that showcased our farming and the vineyards. This was a blend of all 3 of our estate vineyards (all pinot noir). This wine was produced alone from 2010 to 2015. In 2016, as a winemaker I wanted to include vineyard designates, I wanted to showcase each vineyard individually, as they all have very unique characteristics. In 2017, we added a Chardonnay, this first vintage was a collaboration with Ted Elliott. He is our partner on our Bootleggers Hill vineyard, this vineyard is the only Estate Vineyard we have that has Chardonnay vines in it. We are going for a fresh and less oaky wine. Our sparkling and Sauvignon Blanc (Atascadero Creek) are made with fruit purchased from other properties, we do not currently farm any Sauvignon Blanc and do not have the facilities to do our own Sparkling. 

What is something you’d like to share about Sonoma West’s Wine Country that many consumers may not know?

We are the laid back, younger sister of Napa. When you visit Sonoma County you will get to meet the makers, we are more farm to table than other wine areas. West Sonoma County is even more laid back and the micro-climates are vast. You can have so many different flavors from one wine to the next and these vineyards could be next door to each other.  

As a winemaker, you taste (and spit) lots of wine, what wine do you feel bad about spitting because you LOVE it so much?

Our Treehouse vineyard-designate pinot noir is by far my favorite. This vineyard is so incredibly unique from the soils to the clones and the microclimates. This wine is bold and bright and very different from the other wines we create.  

What is your favorite after-work drink?

Tequila, soda with a lime. 😉

What is your favorite local spot in Sonoma County?

I love Healdsburg! The river is beautiful there, the restaurants are off the hook, the wines are amazing and downtown is wonderful to walk and shop, eat and drink. I also love to hike Armstrong Woods and bike the west Sonoma county trails. 

Winemaker Amy Chenoweth

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