From the time Vanessa was eight years old, she was fascinated by the romantic idea of being a winemaker. Eager to learn as much as possible, Vanessa has spent time working in the vineyard, cellar, laboratory, and tasting room. While her practical experience may have humbled her childhood romantic notions associated with winemaking, her passion for wine has not waned.
After graduating from UC Berkeley in Molecular and Cell Biology, she traveled around California, New Zealand, and Australia, supplementing her time working harvests with time in restaurants and wine sales. In 2014, she became the Enologist for Groth Vineyards & Winery in Napa before becoming Assistant Winemaker for Decoy, part of the Duckhorn Portfolio. After a decade in the wine industry, wanting to strengthen her practical experience with academic knowledge, Vanessa earned her master’s degree in Viticulture and Enology in Italy, where she also worked in Piemonte and Chianti, before joining Knapp as their winemaker in 2021.
Vanessa has admired the Finger Lakes for its winemaking for a long time and is thrilled to be a part of the community. As a native Californian, she is learning the meaning of ‘seasons’ and loving it (so far!). She looks forward to exploring all the gorges with her dog, Ham, who considers himself to be the Official Greeter in the tasting room at Knapp.
Knapp is excited to have Vanessa join us and bring her breadth of knowledge with her. Knapp’s owner Cole Wilson said, “I feel incredibly lucky to have convinced Vanessa to become our Winemaker. She brings the wealth of knowledge and expertise of a classically trained winemaker, with the enthusiasm, curiosity, and gumption to “paint outside the lines”. I truly believe that she will be, not only one of the best winemakers in the Finger Lakes, but one of the best in the country and eventually the world.”
When we asked Vanessa to describe her winemaking style she said, “Many winemakers focus on developing the aromatics or textural components in their wines, which is undoubtedly important. But I believe an overlooked quality in wines is its hedonistic value. A wine can check all the boxes for technicality, but still needs to be compelling and delicious.”
What kind of wines will she be making for Knapp?
“I was attracted to winemaking initially because it is the perfect intersection of science, history, and art. I think the best wines are made when you figure out the strengths of the region, vineyard, and varietal, and tailor your winemaking to allow those characteristics to shine. I am so grateful that Knapp has such incredible vineyards, and I look forward to learning about them and developing them to make focused, beautiful wines that allow the best qualities of the Finger Lakes to shine through.”