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January 4, 2018

New Year, Same Amazing Winemaker

2018 marks winemaker, Shawna Miller’s seventh year at Luna Vineyards. She began her winemaking odyssey in an unconventional manner by earning a degree in forestry from Virginia Tech. This nature lover became intrigued by enology, which led her to pursue an Extension Winemaking Certificate from the University of California, Davis.

For Shawna, a career in winemaking was a natural professional progression because her background in agriculture prepared her for some of the unglamorous aspects of the field, including the long, dirty harvest days in the cellar. She relishes the challenges associated with the harvest season.

Food and wine are important to Shawna as a means of connecting with family and friends. The wines she is crafting at Luna Vineyards are made in the true Italian spirit, namely, wines that are made to be part of delicious meals and great company at the table. In this tradition, the varietals she loves to work with most include Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay, Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Petite Syrah.

I love my job because:

It’s the best job in the world.  I am able to taste amazing wines regularly and spend a good amount of my days hiking around in pristine and breathtaking vineyards in Napa Valley.

I got the passion to become a winemaker from:

A fun loving professor took groups of students on amazing backpacking trips during our breaks.  He would bring his favorite bottles to share with us in breathtaking scenery.  My two passions combined and heading to the west coast to pursue winemaking & vineyard management seemed like the perfect thing to do.

My favorite wine is:

Too many to decide.  I love any if I perceive they were made with passion and love.

Favorite wine to wind down with:

Whatever my husband brings me at night!

If I could drink it with anyone I would drink it with, where and why:

I suppose that defaults to my husband if he’s bringing me wine!  He is also a winemaker and we often have hours of conversation regarding winemaking/vineyard philosophies as a result of trying an interesting bottle at night.  Bouncing ideas off each other is a great way to critically think about wines.

You’d be surprised to know that:

One of my favorite ways to drink wine is out of a coffee mug while camping or similar rustic setting.

My favorite vintage is and why:

2013 & 2016 – both are strong, elegant and have the tannin structure to age for many years to show true Napa quality and expression. They’re also the vintages of my kids so I can’t pick just one!

What I’m excited about this year’s vintage is:

Trying new vineyard lots I’ve never made before to see if they turn out as expected.

One thing I hope to accomplish in my life is / my biggest accomplishment is:

My biggest career accomplishment has been growing and continually improving the Estate Luna Black Label program during the past few years.  It’s been a very satisfying and tasty experience to make something fun and different.

During harvest, a day in my life is like:

Leave at 5:30 to walk & sample vineyards.  Enjoy the morning air and vistas. Stop for multiple coffees around the beautiful valley.  Arrive back to winery late morning to taste fermentations and make winemaking plan.   Sort and assess grapes being sorted to crush.  Taste everything again and look at analysis.  Make more plans.  Eat pizza delivered to winery.   Go home, play with kids up way past their bed-time so I can see them.  Sleep and repeat.

Favorite grape to work with is:

My favorite grape to work with is Sangiovese because it is usually the first red grape of the season.  The clusters are big and the berries are fresh.  Each individual vineyard shows extremely differently during fermentation and makes their development interesting to watch.

Biggest obstacle I’ve ever experienced in wine-making:

Mandatory fire evacuation!

Interview courtesy of WhichWinery.com 

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