Wednesday, July 14, 2010

California Women in Wine - Niner Wine Estates winemaker Amanda Cramer named Winemaker of the Year

Niner Wine Estates’ winemaker, Amanda Cramer, recently won the esteemed Andre Tchelistcheff “Winemaker of the Year” award at the recent San Francisco International Wine Competition. In addition her wines won two double-gold medals including best Bordeaux blend.

In 1997 Amanda left a teaching position in Washington DC to pursue her love of wine. Her background in mathematics and chemistry were important in her pursuit of winemaking. Once, when asked about her life changing experience into the field of winemaking, she said, “I fell in love with the very idea of winemaking – the interconnection between agriculture, chemistry and artistry. And the fact that winegrowing regions are the most beautiful places in the world is certainly a plus!”

She studied enology and viticulture at UC Davis before receiving hands-on experience during harvests in Napa Valley, South Australia and Chile. Soon thereafter, she returned to California to work as Assistant Winemaker at Paradigm Winery under the tutelage of famed winemaker Heidi Barrett. There she polished her skills with Bordeaux varietals. In 2004 she moved to Paso Robles and joining the Niner Wine Estates team. “Given the opportunity to help build a winery from the ground up in this attractive region was something I simply couldn’t pass up,” she says.

Cramer’s worldly experience proved extremely useful when it came time to design Niner’s state-of-the-art production facility. “During my career, I’ve worked at numerous wineries, which all really vary in design,” she says. “My goal was to take the best of what I’ve seen and create a production facility that is very user-friendly.” Features include an indoor crush pad, gravity-driven fruit delivery, stainless steel fermentation tanks that are accessed from a suspended mezzanine.
“I’ve always loved the combination of agriculture, chemistry, and artistry that winemaking represents,” says the former high school math teacher. At the end of the day, however, Cramer believes that quality winemaking begins in the vineyard. “The agricultural aspect is the most important,” she says, pointing out that 2010 will be Niner Wine Estates’ first all estate-produced vintage. “As Winemaker, the most important decision I make is the harvest date.”

That’s not to say that the rest comes easily, especially when your goal is to create balanced, food-friendly wines. Fortunately, Amanda Cramer’s winemaking prowess has helped her do just that. At the 2010 San Francisco International Wine Competition, Cramer’s wines earned top honors as she was deemed Winemaker of the Year.

Her awards at the San Francisco International Wine Competition include:
  • Double Gold Medal and Best Bordeaux Blend: Niner Wine Estates, 2007 Premium Bordeaux Blend, Paso Robles $58
  • Double Gold Medal: Niner Wine Estates, 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon, Bootjack Ranch, Paso Robles $28
  • Gold Medal: Niner Wine Estates, 2007 Merlot, Bootjack Ranch, Paso Robles $24
  • Bronze Medal: Niner Wine Estates, 2008 Sauvignon Blanc, Bootjack Ranch, Paso Robles $17
  • Bronze Medal: Niner Wine Estates, 2007 Sangiovese, Bootjack Ranch, Paso Robles $24
Niner Wine Estates is the visionary initiative of Richard Niner, who believes that a blend of exceptional people, vineyards, tools, and ideas is the key to creating world-class wines and providing a one-of-a-kind experience in the heart of Paso Robles wine country. Since its founding in 2001, the Niner Wine Estates roster of award-winning wines has grown to include Rhône, Italian and Bordeaux varietals, including their flagship Bordeaux blend, Fog Catcher. An independent, family-owned company, Niner Wine Estates is dedicated to making exceptional wines using the best of traditional winemaking methods and cutting-edge technologies. Winemaker Amanda Cramer shepherds estate-grown fruit from Bootjack Ranch and Heart Hill Vineyard into wines that express terroir and elegance.

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