April 23, 2014 |
Meet Jamie Dowell, Assistant Winemaker at Armanino Family Cellars
Jaime Dowell, currently the Assistant Winemaker to Jean Hoefliger, has had an adventuresome decade. After completing a degree from UCDavis in Viticulture and Enology she earned her stripes working at Artesa Winery and Cardinale in Napa Valley. Then in 2002, an opportunity came along to work in her family’s art gallery so she abandoned the wine biz to try something new. After 6 years of owning and managing the gallery, Dowell felt a hole in her life without winemaking and returned to the craft by becoming the Winemaker for a small brand in Livermore, CA while continuing to manage the art business. Within three years of this juggling act she realized that her passion for winemaking was undeniable and decided to sell the gallery in order to manage a harvest of high end Pinot Noir at Villa Maria Estate in Marlborogh, New Zealand. Upon returning to California in 2011, Dowell became the Assistant Winemaker to Randall Grahm at Bonny Doon Vineyard until she met Jean Hoefliger of Alpha Omega Winery and JH Collection where she is currently managing the day-to-day winemaking for all the projects Jean can sink his teeth into, including Armanino Family Cellars!
What is your favorite part of the winemaking process? This is a difficult question to answer, each part is so fascinating and important to a successful wine. Pre-harvest we’re spending time in the vineyards refining the wine by starting with the viticulture. Harvest time is critical to capturing what we shaped in the vineyard. Aging and blending you see a wine develop into its own personality becoming the best it can be. Bottling you say “goodbye and good luck out there in the real world” with a sense of catharsis. Really, just can’t choose!
What is your favorite Armanino Family Cellars wine? Each one is so unique and special, but I really enjoy “food wines”, so I’d have to say the Whitewing Pinot Noir from Russian River always has a fresh acidity and ethereal fruit quality that is typical of the region. This is often my choice.
What is your favorite season in the vineyard? I really like Spring the best, when the vines are just waking up. Once the shoots have progressed just enough you can get a pretty early idea of how the fruit will be for the season…its like the first sonogram for a new growing baby!
What is the biggest challenge you face as a winemaker? Time management. There are always so many plates spinning in the air for a winemaker that it’s a balancing act to decide which to-do gets priority….but with the right, hard-working team, it all gets done when it’s supposed to.
If I stopped by your place on a Tuesday night, which wine would likely be on the table? Depends on the time of year….but if it were a warm Tuesday in the summer after a long doggie walk in the late light before harvest….Sauvignon Blanc or fresh-style Chardonnay.
If you could eat one last meal at a restaurant anywhere in the world, which would it be? Hmmmmm, impossible to answer, but I recently had an amazing meal at RN74 in San Francisco. Small and low key, impeccable and unique flavors, plus the staff was extremely attentive and friendly. Can’t wait to go back!