1. As a third generation winemaker from Slovenia, how did you land in Napa?
My Dad came to the US and started a life here, so I was raised in Sonoma. Growing up we spent a lot of time going to Slovenia to visit our grandparents and family. My grandfather had a vineyard and they made wine and sold grapes to a cooperative. We spent time cleaning giant oak casks that we had to climb inside, picking grapes, spraying and tying vines. I was always interested in winemaking as it was part of our heritage, but I felt deep connection to the process one spring when I was visiting my family and we were training the vines, it all just made sense, I came back to the States and never looked back, I have been working in wine ever since.
2. What was your first big winemaking gig in Napa? (Cue working with a billionaire.)
I worked for a specialty custom crush in Napa where we primarily serviced very high-end clients. I met Jonathan Maltus there, and I began to help them, I ended up becoming their US winemaker and reported to Neil Whyte, who was the winemaker for Maltus in France. I helped them for 3 or 4 years and learned a lot. I also worked with other high-end winemakers and I think that prepared me for my role as Director of Winemaking at Naked.
3. So what’s it like working with a billionaire?
I learned that they don’t compromise, and they take things to a level beyond what I thought was possible.
4. What’s the most outrageous thing that ever happened during your time there?
I don’t know about outrageous, but I will say that I felt incredible pride being a part of that program as we did exactly what we said we did, best fruit, best practices, no compromise and we made amazing wines
5. What was the best life lesson you learned?
I am naive, I always felt that I can do it as good or better than any other winemaker. I wanted to work with the best fruit I could find, and explore my creative expression of the craft.