“Once you learn to interpret wine, only then can you find the story in it,” explains Sofia Rovirosa. Her love affair with wine was found on a circuitous route starting in New Mexico and currently in Napa, CA via Alaska. Today Rovirosa is a winemaker at home with her husband Jesse Creitz, while she also works for one of the most prestigious, forward thinking, and disruptive winemakers in Napa, Steve Matthiasson at his winery Matthiasson Vineyard. The 2017 James Beard Award Candidate is a great mentor. During the day she spends almost every working minute as Matthiasson’s renaissance woman doing everything from working physically on the farm to hosting wine tastings to completing paperwork in the back office. It’s been an adjustment from her most recent position at The French Laundry, Thomas Keller’s three-Michelin-star restaurant. Her love for the service industry remains, but she is exploring it in another way.
The most meaningful part of her job is when she’s out in the vineyards working with the vines, dusty and dirt covered. She’s giddy with adoration for her work and describes the agricultural labor with the glow of a lovestruck teenager. She finds her role a welcomed change. She’s an efficient docent of the land who spends long days partaking in repetitive actions at a slow pace. There’s a thrill in switching her brain to a lower gear and challenging herself with the physically exhausting farm work she’s grown to love.
In the past year, her passion for wine spread beyond her work into all facets of her life. She and her husband Jesse are
making merlot at their house from grapes that they personally handpicked. Hand sorting the grapes and stomping on them by foot, the art of home winemaking is filled with old world nostalgia when compared to the largely industrialized world of commercial wine today. At home Rovirosa discovered an even more intimate understanding of winemaking. After the merlot ages in barrel and is bottled, their plan is to use it as thank you gifts and send them to their wedding guests.
The English major can’t help but draw parallels between writing and winemaking. She believes that as crafts, they are very similar; framing and structure draw an audience. There is no perfect formula and so much possible variation. Some readers prefer thrillers while others love poetry. Drinkers are just as vast in interests and preference can drastically change based on mood. In a good book, an author builds characters with little details to create connections with readers. This is ever true of the winemaker’s journey as well. Choices are based on how to frame the wine, which grapes will give it character, and the winemaker chooses how to guide it to fruition in bottle. The winemaker tells this story through their treatment of the land. Like any true artist, the winemaker is not immune to self-doubt and constant improvement. Rovirosa notes that understanding the complexities of wine is a life long study and the trick is to make mistakes, learn from them, and then do it all again. Wine is yet another great book ready to be consumed. Robert Louis Stevenson said it best, “wine is bottled poetry.”
Written by Caroline Miguelez
Feature photo by Veronica Tucci