MEET OUR WINEMAKERS

Ashley Herzberg, Winemaker

Ashley Herzberg came to love wine early in her life. Her parents had a role in this, instilling in her the importance of cooking and eating together as a family and having wine on the table at mealtime. Despite this exposure, however, Ashley initially intended to attend medical school after earning her university degree in chemical engineering at the University of Nevada, Reno. Four years of working in a hospital convinced her that medicine was not her calling, and modified her career goal by turning to the wine industry. Her background in science and engineering came in handy when she accepted a job as a laboratory technician at Owl Ridge Wine Services in Sebastopol.

At Owl Creek, Ashley quickly moved up from Lab Technician to Lab Manager, benefiting from valuable mentoring by some of the top Pinot Noir vintners in California such as Merry Edwards, Anthony Austin, and Scot Covington. Because it is a custom-crush facility with over 40 clients at the time, Owl Creek provided her with the opportunity to gain the perspective and knowledge that would prove invaluable as she moved on in her career.

By mid-2007, Ashley found herself at Mauritson Wines as Enologist and soon was named Assistant Winemaker. She is now the Winemaker for Amista Winery, and Consulting Winemaker at John Tyler/Bacigalupi Vineyards, and Saini Vineyards, all of which are in Sonoma County. Ashley is involved in crafting a number of varietals, including Chardonnay, Syrah, Zinfandel, and Cabernet Sauvignon.

 

Leo Hansen, Consulting Winemaker

All winemakers are shaped by their experiences, and the paths that have led them to their love of the grape. My personal journey has certainly shaped my sommelier’s palate, my gentle approach to winemaking, and the restrained, food-friendly style of my wines. I was born and raised in Denmark, and as the son of a chef and hotelier, food and wine have always been a passionate part of my life. I grew up in the service industry, and started working in my father’s kitchen at the age of 12. When I was older, I earned a degree in business sales and marketing, but food and wine were in my blood, and I soon began studying at the Kolding Hotel and Restaurant School. During my four-year apprenticeship there, I was very fortunate to work alongside Orla Farmann, the national champion for the Danish Sommelier World Cup Team. Orla helped me develop my palate, and further deepened my love of wine.

Over the next several years, my love of wine took me many places, from Alsace, Loire, Champagne and Burgundy to Spain and Italy. Those travels culminated in my certification as a European sommelier, and in 1997, I became the wine director at Kong Hans, Copenhagen’s first one-star Michelin guide restaurant. In time, my work at Kong Hans took me to California to scout out new wines for our list. I felt an immediate connection with California’s vibrant winemaking scene—both the quality of its wines and the freedom given to its winemakers.

In 1999, I moved to California to immerse myself in winemaking firsthand, and spent the next several years working days in wineries and nights as a sommelier. (My grape-stained fingers were part of the inspiration for the sommelier’s print.) At the same time, I complemented my practical experience by studying chemistry, viticulture and winemaking. My journey led me to Stuhlmuller Vineyards an acclaimed, family-run winery in the Alexander Valley, where I ultimately became winemaker in 2004—the same year I founded Leo Steen Wines.

Since then, I have worked to hone my craft, always with an eye towards that place where style and vineyard authenticity naturally meet. My classically trained European palate is a part of that equation. So is my appreciation for the charm and character of great California winemaking. As a result, I have developed a gentle approach that focuses more on natural yeasts, lower alcohols and less new oak. The winemaker in me thinks about the vineyards I am privileged to work with, and what I love about them. While my sommelier side reminds me that great wine finds is most elegant expression served alongside good food in the company of family and friends. I hope you find both sides of this philosophy realized in my wines.