Kathy Joseph, Winemaker at Fiddlehead Cellars Kathy Joseph established Fiddlehead Cellars in 1989 to capture the pure essence of two distinguished varieties – Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir. Her quest was simple. Besides a lesser important desire to satisfy her own palate, her intent was to incorporate European beauty into these domestically grown varietals by working with grapes grown in the right place and wines managed with respect in the cellar. Both varietals are celebrated for their successful old world pedigree; both have the potential to convey sensory elegance; both have proven to gratify a broad range of discriminating palates.
Today, Kathy is recognized as a pioneer among women winemakers as she enthusiastically and passionately creates stylistic Sauvignon Blanc and silky, textural Pinot Noir. At Fiddlehead, she annually produces about 5,000 cases of wine, with personal interest in each grape cluster, each barrel of wine and every bottle that finds its way to your table.
Sonja Magdevski, Winemaker at Casa Dumetz Wines I approach my work with a lifetime of exquisite flavors, travels and experiences. A journalist by training and now a winemaker by passion, I am regularly inspired to never quit searching for that moment – the instant where it all makes sense. The two professions continue to challenge me to craft timeless stories that are better when shared with others. Winemaking and writing are similar pursuits for me – the story is in the grapes, the harvest, the people, and the season. Each year is a fresh renewal. My goal is to create vibrant, balanced and pleasurable wines using three main ingredients: premium Santa Barbara County fruit, dedication and hard work.
My undergraduate work is in Political Science from the University of Michigan and my graduate work is in Journalism from Michigan State University. I received a Fulbright Scholarship to The Republic of Macedonia in 1998-1999 to study ethnic issues. The pursuit was to better understand potential paths toward peace. I do that now, perhaps more effectively, through wine. My wine education and training are primarily on the job, in the vineyard and the cellar, and through the viticulture and enology classes provided at Allan Hancock College in Santa Maria, California. I started making wine as a garagiste in 2004 and moved to commercial production in 2008. My mentors and inspirations in Santa Barbara County are too many to list here. You’d be reading names for days. Thankfully this list keeps growing each year. It is simply a wonderful place to make wine with extraordinary fruit.
Erika Maldonado. Winemaker at Runway Vineyards Erika is the heart of Runway Vineyards. Her father always told her to find her passion, stay focused, work hard and always stay authentic to herself in every aspect of business and life. Her mother emphasized personal responsibility and the respect for hard work. She naturally has a knack for entertaining which has led to the success that is Runway Vineyards today. Her engaging personality is a true reflection of Runway wines and the entire Runway family.
At a young age Erika discovered her love of flavors. Her great-grandmother taught her to cook authentic Mexican food, and how to welcome family, friends and neighbors to the home. She began her studies at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, where she majored in Agribusiness, and told her father she “fell in love with wine”. In 2008 Erika co-founded Runway Vineyards and the Runway brand with a vision of making the finest, small production, handcrafted wine in the renowned Santa Maria Valley.
She embraces her Mexican culture in her American home and winery. Anyone who visits Runway Vineyards is immediately welcomed with a glass of Runway and a meal prepared by her and made of the freshest ingredients from her family’s farm.
Denise Shurtlett, Winemake at Cambria As the daughter of a banker, Denise Shurtleff grew up all over California. “We moved a lot.” After high school she went to California State Polytechnic University, San Luis Obispo, where she received her Bachelor of Science degree in Dietetics and Food Administration. After college Denise spent 16 years with Corbett Canyon Vineyards where she was Winemaker and Winery Manager. Denise joined Cambria in September 1999 as Assistant Winemaker before becoming head Winemaker in 2003.
Denise’s goal is to create wines that reflect Santa Barbara County and, more importantly, the Santa Maria Bench. “Our terroir at Cambria is strong and specific. Bench Break Vineyard Chardonnay displays a distinct personality with pineapple and exotic fruit nuances. Bench Break Pinot Noir presents luscious cherry, raspberry and strawberry characteristics that are indicative of the Santa Maria Bench.”
Tara Gomez, Winemaker for Kita Wines Born and raised in Santa Barbara County, Kitá Winemaker Tara Gomez has long been fascinated by the science and aromas of winemaking since she was a child. With the help of a scholarship from her tribe, the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians, Tara attended California State University, Fresno where she studied Enology. She graduated as one of two women with a Bachelor of Science in Enology in 1998.
During her 18 years in the wine industry, Tara has been able to fine tune her balanced winemaking style with positions in San Luis Obispo County, Santa Barbara County and in Spain. Tara enjoys visiting Europe and traveling through numerous wine regions in Spain, France and Germany. Tara is constantly in search of learning as much as possible about Old World winemaking and implementing in into her own unique style.
In 2010, the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians purchased the Camp 4 Vineyard and Tara’s dream of giving back to her tribe came true when she was hired as Winemaker for Kitá Wines. Her passion for winemaking can be seen in both the vineyard and the winery. Tara’s Chumash culture is evident in her dedication to giving back to the land through sustainable farming of the vineyard, with a solid understanding of the terroir and growing conditions which allow her to shepherd the grapes into lower alcohol, balanced wines creating a very distinct elegant style.
Laura Roach, Assistant Winemaker for Sanford Winery & Vineyards Laura’s winemaking career began at Schramsberg Vineyards of Napa Valley, CA in 2008 as a Laboratory Intern. In 2010, she gained her Bachelors of Science in Viticulture and Enology at the University of California, Davis and was awarded the Confrérie des Chevaliers du Tastevin Scholarship to work abroad in Burgundy, France at Domaine de la Vougeraie. After France, Laura continued to work harvest internships abroad, in Stellenbosch and Paarl, South Africa and at home with Dalla Valle Vineyards of Oakville, CA. Through this exposure, Laura gained an appreciation for “terroir” and a passion for producing quality wines.
This passion led Laura to Sanford Winery in 2012, where she started as the Enologist and was later promoted to Assistant Winemaker. In 2013, Laura assisted Winemaker, Steve Fennell, in launching the sparkling wine program – a project that the whole team is excited about! Today, she works alongside Steve making Sanford Winery’s acclaimed estate-grown Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs from the historic vineyards of Sanford & Benedict and La Rinconada.