Finding A Winemaker Who Respects Your Approach

When looking for a winemaker, one Sonoma County vintner said it’s crucial to make sure the professional you choose for the job agrees with your approach, and vice versa.

And sometimes, when looking for the right candidate who will handle the most essential task for any winery, you know them when you see them and trust your gut, explained Arthur Murray, owner of Flambeaux Winery.

He said he needed just one interview to find their trusted winemaker, Ryan Prichard.

“It was pure serendipity that led us to find Flambeaux’s winemaker — it was truly blind luck,” Murray said. “We have a mutual friend who connected us with Ryan. He came to the property, we are of similar age and mindset and I liked him a lot. I interviewed one person — once — and he was definitely the right person for the job!”

Prichard grew up  in Berkeley, California and went to Cornell University, where he took a senior elective class on wine appreciation. Years later, he gave up his career in technology and turned to winemaking as his new full-time career, lending his talents to Williams Selyem, Copain Custom Crush, Medlock Ames and Three Sticks.

“He crushed it with the first vintage and completely understands our estate property, as well as the other vineyards from which we source grapes,” Murray said. “While he looks at science, and data and lab analysis of course, Ryan definitely has great instincts and knows how to follow his gut. 

“The profile and style is to let the grape be what it wants to be. He uses the right tools, the best oak barrels and a heck a lot of attention as we are very hands on with our wines. Ryan is a winemaker that does not force a wine to be something that it does not want to be.”

Murray said it was important for a vintner to know what their personal winemaking philosophy is, as it can help maintain continuity when, inevitably, one’s winemaker passes the torch.

“We don’t expect Ryan to ever leave Flambeaux — we are one of his original projects,” Murray said. “Of course, generations from now there will be a new winemaker. If another winemaker were to make our wines, and they followed our approach, I would anticipate that the wines would be consistent. 

“There is also a natural consistency, as we grow our own grapes, and source from the same vineyards year after year.”

Photo: Flambeaux Winery

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