With Stuart Spencer, winemaker at St. Amant Winery, Lodi, CA
By Jonathan Cristaldi
Stuart took over the winemaking duties at St. Amant, his family’s winery, in 2006, but having grown up with a family farm and winery, he has a long history with grapes and wine. Back in 1999, Stuart went to work for the Lodi Winegrape Commission where he continues to serve as the Program Manager, helping to develop many of the innovative programs that have raised worldwide awareness of Lodi’s innovation in winemaking and winegrowing.
Today, there are over 25,000 acres that adhere to the Lodi Rules Sustainable Winegrowing Program (roughly 20-20% of the entire winegrowing area in Lodi). And, Lodi is home to major wineries, like Robert Mondavi Woodbridge, Turner Road Vintners, Sutter Home Winery and more, while many leading California wineries outside the area buy Lodi grapes, including E.& J. Gallo, Constellation, Fetzer Vineyards and Beringer among others.
Additionally, Stuart is currently President of TAPAS (Tempranillo Advocates, Producers and Amigos Society) a trade association dedicated to the promotion of American grown Iberian varieties.
Interesting fact: Stuart graduated from UCSB where he was member of their swim team.
CCA: 1. As a child, you collected _________?
STUART SPENCER: I'm not a collector - even today. Plus, my next-door neighbor was an only
child, and he had all the cool toys. So we just played with his stuff.
2. Name a book that has had the most impact on your life.
No single book that I can recall has had a significant impact on me. Lately, one of the more
interesting books I've read is “John Adams.” It was amazing how a few committed and principled
individuals changed the course of history.
3. Recall the biggest and best mistake you ever made and what you learned from it.
I generally try to forget my mistakes. No sense in dwelling on them. But just last month while
unloading a truckload of grapes I managed to run the forklift into a customer's car. What did I
learn? Look around before jumping in the forklift, and next time, rather than assuming “I’ve got
this,” I will ask the customer to move their car.
4. Cabin in the woods or penthouse in the city and why?
Neither, I'm a beach and ocean guy.
5. What do you think about a future with driverless cars?
Having seen one of my colleagues driving, I think driverless cars are probably a good thing.
6. In 10 years how do you predict technology will change winemaking?
Marketing and communications tools (internet, social media, etc.) are bringing the world closer
and closer together making it easier for small guys to tell their story and find an audience/
customers for their wines.
Viticulture - through science and technology we're attaining a greater understanding of how
vines grow, and how best to maximize quality and yield. In Lodi, we're not necessarily bound by
traditions so we're free to experiment with trellising, rootstocks, clones, etc.
Winemaking - there are more and more tools to "fix" wines resulting in overall higher quality
across the board. These might not always be the most interesting wines, but technology is
helping produce sound quality wines at all price points and bringing more and more consumers
to wine. Personally, we're gravitating towards less technology in our winemaking and focusing
more on executing in the vineyard and in the winery at harvest. We don't want to have to fix
wines, but rely on meticulous viticulture and a deep understanding of all our vineyard sites to
produce the best wines year in and year out.
7. Bacon or sausage?
8. Most memorable bottle of wine you made?
Our non-vintage Tawny Port. It's made from 100% Bastardo in the maderized way. It's left
completely untouched for 8-10 years before we bottle it. No one in California is making anything
quite like it.
9. If you weren't a winemaker, what career path might you have followed?
Competitive Swim Coach.
10. Name one thing every person should try at least once.
Picking grapes for a day. Not just a couple boxes, but a full day in the sun, bees, spiders, bugs
All the Swirl is a collections of thoughts and opinions assembled by the staff and industry friends of Charles Communications Associates, a marketing communications firm with its headquarters in San Francisco, California. We invite you to explore more about our company and clients by visiting www.charlescomm.com.