I met Jeff and Stephanie Lippencott by chance at lunch in a hotel where we were staying. Jeff is a composer, responsible for music accompaniment to numerous top-rated television programs. Later, as I sat at the bar reading Rajat Parr's Secrets Of The Sommeliers, Jeff sat next to me, and asked what had me reading the book. I explained my passion for wine, my blog, and working to share the love. "I make wine!" he exclaimed.
Jeff enthusiastically described cultivating a small vineyard over the past decade in Southern California, from which he now produces Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, and a red blend under the One Vine Four Branches label. Stephanie recounted the depth of resources and research that have been invested in learning about winemaking. They once hired a Master Sommelier to gain entrance to and escort them through barrel rooms of the first growth chateaux of Bordeaux. Jeff is hands-on throughout the entire winemaking process of growing, harvesting, barreling, and bottling his wines, which contain only juice from his grapes. Annual yield determines whether the wines will be single varietal or blends. An early effort, the 2010 Syrah, won a gold medal in the Los Angeles Cellarmasters home winemaking competition, and a silver medal in Wine Maker Magazine's home winemakers competition. He expressed his excitement over recently receiving a shipment of new, custom-made, French Oak barrels for use with his 2015 vintage, which will be a blend appropriately entitled Maestro. While still very limited in volume, Jeff's "hobby" has grown from sharing a few bottles with friends and clients, to making sizable philanthropic gifts.
I love to meet winemakers and hear their inspiring stories, and the surprise aspect of this encounter provided an additional thrill. It was an exhilarating conversation that came about entirely by chance, even after our initial introduction. More wines available logically means there are more people making it, so remain alert to wine-minded people you run into. You never know when that person sitting nearby is a winemaker!