I may not fit the profile of the typical up-and-coming winemaker…
…But I hope that my story will inspire others who dream of trying something different.
I’ve been in love with wine country ever since I moved to California at the age of 22. Over the years, my wife Linda and I have been avid tasters and frequent winery visitors. In the back of my mind, I was always keenly interested in winemaking, but I never had the courage to give it a shot.
Then, in 2013, my friend John Thompson and I had the unique opportunity to learn winemaking by jumping right into it. We had invited Roger King, of King Andrews Vineyards in the Suisun Valley, to a round of golf. By the end of the game, Roger had agreed to mentor us through our first vintage.
With great trepidation, we vinified a red blend of Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon. I took charge of the chemistry and math side of things while John—an accomplished jazz musician—covered the artistry. To my surprise, this first foray made it to the “Best in Show” round at the Marin County Fair and instilled in me the confidence to try winemaking on my own. With each subsequent year, my humble efforts accumulated more ribbons and accolades.
By 2016, I had earned my winemaking certificate from UC Davis. At Davis, to my surprise, I found that I could call upon skills I’d learned in my previous career to tackle problems that might occur in the cellar. In my profession as a chief financial officer, I became accustomed to resolving murky problems and coming to firm decisions under uncertain conditions. Winemaking, it turned out, called upon these skills. It’s a pursuit that requires the ability to adapt on the fly.
In 2020, after years of making wine in every square inch I could find available at home, I decided to go pro. My ever-patient wife, Linda, finally drew the line the day I moved my barrels into the dining room. I’m now fully licensed and working from my own small winery space right here in Marin County. Linda, my vice president of distribution, will be transitioning from giving my wine away to friends to selling it to the neighborhood.
I couldn’t have come this far without the help of allies—first and foremost Linda, who has been a part of this venture since the beginning.
I’m also indebted to our friends. After Linda and I worked ourselves to the bone one particularly cold, wet, and late night a few years back, we hit upon the idea of turning the annual rite of sorting fruit into a social occasion. We now have gathered around us a dedicated and delightful group of supporters who join us each harvest season for work, lunch, wine, and laughs.
I was 58 years old when I started making wine back in 2013. Now, eight years later, I’m starting a whole new chapter of my life, and I’d like to invite you to join me on this adventure.
– Drew Dowsett