Foppiano Vineyards’ New Winemaker ~ Natalie West

How is great wine made? In the vineyards.

How is a great winemaker made? In the same vineyards?

As of June this year, Natalie West has become Foppiano Vineyards’ winemaker.

Natalie’s addition to the Foppiano team is a major component to the on-going renaissance currently underway at the Healdsburg winery. With 112 years under their belt, Foppiano enjoys a very colorful history. As with all Italian winemaking families, they’ve got a cast of characters on board who are unique, enjoyable, and talented in each one’s own right.

Along their time-line, there are milestones, and Natalie’s become their newest notch.

She comes to Foppiano with an impressive winemaking background. Having earned her Bachelor of Science degree from UC Davis in viticulture and enology, she’s also worked for several prestigious wineries:

  • Ferrari-Carano Vineyards and Winery
  • J Vineyard and Winery
  • Clos La Chance Winery
  • Peterson Winery
  • Montana Wines (New Zealand)

Natalie’s going to be working very closely with Paul Foppiano, the winery’s Director of Viticulture. Paul’s also ecstatic to be working hand-in-hand with Natalie.

As I’ve conducted the Petite Sirah Symposiums for the family (for a six year run), I’ve learned that Paul Foppiano is highly regarded within the wine grape growing community by other grape growers. To have this energetic pair in the vineyards is going to infuse the winery with great heart and soul, as the family prepares for their next 100 years.

What Natalie’s bringing to the Foppiano family is her distinct advantage of having been raised in Dry Creek Valley, where her parents have owned and operated a 10-acre, head pruned, old vine Zinfandel vineyard all of her life. Natalie essentially grew up with Paul Foppiano and Susan Foppiano-Valera’s two sons, Joe and Jim.

Natalie speaks of suckering vines by the time she was a pre-teenager (as were Paul, Joe, and Jim), because – like the Foppianos – she enjoyed being in the vineyards with her family, and it’s also part-and-parcel of the farm ethic that kids are involved. (There’s no sitting in front of the boob tube when there’s vineyard work to be done… Ask any farmer.)

Natalie admits that when she went to UCD, she was definitely trying to go in another direction, moving away from the vines of her youth, so she thought becoming an MD was her path. Once embroiled in her studies, though, viticulture and enology evolved into her true passion.

My daughter Lyla also went to school with Natalie. When I told Lyla about Natalie, she said, “I remember Natalie. She was chosen in my class as the one ‘most likely to succeed.'” (Who doesn’t remember that hardworking person?)

She began her winemaking career outside of her family vineyard by helping Fred Peterson for two harvests. When her father realized she was headed for a winemaking career, he planted Petite Sirah and Grenache as “Pet” projects. This gave Natalie the perfect elements needed as Foppiano’s winemaker. Natalie understands that great wines begin in the vineyards, while the rest of us know that so – too – are great winemakers.

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