By Justin Michaud
Allow me to introduce myself.
I have been involved in the wine industry for the past 12 years and am getting ready for my 11th vintage in Washington. The vineyards of the Santa Cruz Mountains are where I got my introduction into the industry working for a small company that was responsible for all phases of grape growing. Working at several different small sites ranging in elevation between sea level and 2,000 feet and encompassing several different varietals, soil types, and pest pressures gave me a great opportunity to see what is involved in growing and maintaining a vineyard.
After a few years in California I moved to Walla Walla Washington where I moved from working in the vineyards to working in the winery, Canoe Ridge Vineyards was my first winery job. At Canoe I was able to work with some gifted winemakers and found that I enjoyed making wine more than growing grapes and decided to continue my pursuit of learning all I could to make great wine. My next stop was at Bergevin Lane Vineyards where I was Cellar Master of a 1,000 ton custom crush facility. At BLV I was able to work more closely with the winemaker and dealt with several different vineyard sites giving me a better understanding of what and where the good fruit in the State was being grown.
In 2005 I spent a few months in New Zealand as part of the winemaking crew at Kim Crawford wines. This was an opportunity to work in another country and see some new practices and techniques used in winemaking. It was a great experience and I have been able to apply much of what I learned to my work back in the States. When I returned I began to work for Ash Hollow winery where I moved from Assistant Winemaker to Winemaker during my 5 years with them. This was another learning opportunity and I worked with one of my mentors, Steve Clifton. Steve is based out of Santa Barbra and his consulting with Ash Hollow gave me a lot of great methods for wine making that I still try to employ today.
In 2009 I joined Goose Ridge Vineyards as their Cellar Master working with Charlie Hoppes and Joe Hudon. It was a departure from what I had done in the past as we processed 5,000 tons my first vintage and almost 10,000 tons by the time I left. I moved up to become the winemaker for their second label, Stone Cap, which received some great awards and press while I was there. Kendall Mix became the winemaker for the Goose Ridge wines and it was great to work with him and see some of the things he thought were important to make great wine.
Now, I am very excited to begin working with Coyote Canyon Winery. The Estate Vineyard is growing some interesting varietals and I am looking forward to working with them all. I hope to continue showcasing the quality of the vineyard through the expression of well-balanced wines. I am especially excited to work with the Albarino and Roussanne on the white side and want to try and make them even crisper and aromatic. For the red side I am looking forward to making the Grenache and other Rhone style reds from the vineyard and am glad that I will still get a chance to work with some Cabernet Sauvignon, I feel they grow exceptionally well here.