A few of us from the ILTG team attended a unique wine tasting that was showcased wines made of unusual varietals grown in California. Many of the winemakers and wineries were ‘independent’, small production, and artisanal. To be frank, not everything ‘artisanal’ is good. But, there were a few standouts such as Kristie Tacey, founder of Tessier Winery.
She’s funky, fun and a talented winemaker. She’s also a former research scientist who studied protein pathways. She moved to the San Francisco Bay Area from her native Michigan to pursue a career in biotechnology, which included working on the Human Genome Project. Then, she got into wine!
Take us back to your earliest experience with wine, where were you, who did you drink it with, what was going on?
My first impactful experience with wine was about twenty years ago, when I first moved to California. I went wine-tasting in Sonoma with my best friend, and my cousin, who is also a winemaker. I was fresh out of college in Michigan and was way into botany and soil science, so this really resonated with me. It was mind-blowing learning that the vines planted around the estate were used to make the wines I was drinking. Pinot Noir will always be my first love, it entranced and intriguing me with complexity and then learning about all the clonal selections- I was hooked!
You’re a winemaker and winery owner – that sounds exhausting! Why do it?
Because I love what I do! I work with the best growers/vineyard managers who provide me with beautiful, high-quality fruit from some really cool and unique sites here in Northern California. Also, there’s nothing quite like Harvest. That time of year is so exciting and invigorating (and exhausting), it really fuels the fire for the long hours.
Then, bringing my wines to the people, experiencing it paired with delicious foods and special occasions is very rewarding. I also have a great wine club, my Tessier Research Club. It’s a cool group of people who are so excited about my new vintages, and come out to my events, their support is really touching. I love it all!
What’s the toughest part of being an owner of a winery?
Being one person and trying to do everything is a constant challenge. There are many jobs in addition to physically making the wine. There’s marketing and PR, and making sure you’re active on social media, and wine dinners, and events, and then the whole cash-flow side of things. I wear many hats. I need a clone.
Ok, let’s talk wine! You source grapes from vineyards that are organic and/or use sustainable farming practices. Why is this important to you?
Great wines come from high-quality grapes. All of the vineyards I work with are at the least sustainably farmed and tending towards organic. I care about healthy soils, vines and fruit, and choose to work with people who feel the same way.
These are the components of delicious wines and respectful for our planet, too. We have to always be thinking of the future of winemaking and the health of our grape-growing sites.
Love that you’re thinking about the land and how to keep it healthy for the next generation. What are your top 3 favorite wine regions and why?
Loire Valley – This is where my family name comes from and the focus is on Pinot Noir, Gamay Noir and Cabernet Franc; all of my favorites. I love exploring from all of the regions, but probably enjoy Saumur the most for its versatility. I really feel at home here, it’s magical.
Beaujolais – I have a Gamay Noir obsession! I recently visited the Morgon region and was blown away by the hilly terrain with tiny vines. I think Gamay is so sexy and expressive and so fun to explore the different Crus of Beaujolais.
Savoie – I love these alpine wines! They are so refreshing and clean (again they have Gamay Noir!). Many of the varietals are not grown in CA, some of my favorites are white varieties are Gringet and Jacquere. They make crisp wines of delicacy and depth and it’s hard not to drink the entire bottle by yourself!
Let’s play a quick game, we’ll give you 3 celebrities and you tell us which wines from Tessier Winery match their personality.
2017 Alegria Vineyard Russian River Valley Cabernet Franc. This wine has a lot of depth, layers and purity, just like Bon Iver.
(Editor’s note, check out Cab Francs from France: From the Garden of France comes Cabernet Franc)
2017 Goldbud Vineyard El Dorado Mourvedre. This wine has lots of bass and spice, just like The Rock.
2018 Barsotti Vineyard El Dorado Gamay Noir. This is my most natty styled wine, but is very lively and wants change.
You can explore Tessier Winery and all that is wonderful about this Kristie at: https://www.tessierwinery.com