Napa Valley Wine Tour – Meet the Winemaker at Spelletich Family Winery

Napa Valley winemaker and her dog greet guests on a Green Dream Tour.

Barb and Molly, the Spelletich mascot

At this boutique winery guests get a rare treat—a chance to taste wines in the company of the winemaker, Barb Spelletich. We spoke with her to learn about her long career in the business and her passion for winemaking.

What led you into winemaking?

My first job was as a retailer in Seattle. Then I started working for a distributor, then for Chateau Ste. Michelle Winery. That led me to open my own distributorship – Zephyr Imports.  I traveled to Europe frequently, purchasing from small family wineries.

Why did you and your husband Tim decide to strike out on your own?

We first produced wine by renting equipment and facilities from Hanns Kornell (a sparkling wine maker in the Napa Valley). But it became expensive and wasn’t sustainable. In 1994 we said let’s buy our own equipment and do it ourselves. Now, in addition to our own label, we offer custom crush services for other winemakers to help them get started.

What’s it like working with family?

I have a partner I can always count on, and I like that. But come on, I live with Tim and work with him. It’s a pain in the butt sometimes. I’m happy that it’s loud in the winery and I can say things and he can’t hear me.

Are there a lot of women winemakers?

Women are still in the minority compared to guys. But I’m seeing more and more women and I’m happy about that.

What makes Spelletich wines different?

The constants in my wine are that the grapes are ripe but not overripe. And I never overoak. I always want my wines to smell and taste like the fruit. My thing is to have balanced wine. I don’t like my chardonnay too soft. It’s more refreshing to have acidity and it goes better with food.

Lots of Napa wineries have their own vineyards and use only their own grapes. I want diversity in my grapes and I also like to have price variation in my wines. Sometimes people in the industry are very hoity-toity about wine, but not a lot of consumers are interested in really expensive wines. They want reasonably priced wines for every day. That’s part of my thinking.

How do you advise guests to approach winetasting?

I like to be adventurous and I want the public to be as well. I tell people, judge for yourself and trust your own palate. A wine writer or blogger is just one person’s opinion.

If you taste a wine you don’t like, it only means you didn’t like that bottle that time. Pepsi and Coke are always the same. But every single bottle of wine (even the same year and same varietal) will be different.

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