This week our newest employee at Jackson Family Wines, Micah Harvey had the opportunity to sit to down and meet with one of our most tenured employees, Kendall-Jackson’s Winemaster Randy Ullom.
Their meeting lead to an unexpected adventure down the California coast; we’ll let Micah tell you the rest:
Micah Harvey here, the newest Digital Communications Manager at Jackson Family Wines. I’ve always wanted to learn more about the winemaking process; from growing the grapes all the way to enjoying the first sip. What better person to learn from than Kendall-Jackson’s Winemaster?
I met with Randy on a beautiful Tuesday afternoon at Partake — Kendall-Jackson’s eatery and wine lounge offering an exploration of food and wine at the table in the center of Healdsburg, CA — to see if he could help me begin to understand all the complexities that go into making Kendall-Jackson’s delicious wine.
I have to admit that I was a little intimidated to meet Randy at first, being that he is so knowledgeable about wine and I’m new to the process. That nervousness evaporated immediately after meeting him. He welcomed me with a warm smile and wanted to get to know me as a person before we dove into the nitty gritty of all things wine. He made me feel very welcome. He was genuinely happy to take the time to teach someone like myself about everything he does to ensure Kendall-Jackson’s wine continues to raise the bar of excellence year-after-year.
Here’s a snippet of our conversation:
Micah: How did you become involved in the winemaking process?
Randy: “Well I’ve always had an affinity for wine and my father actually introduced me to the winemaking process. He used to try to make his own wine at home so that really sparked my passion at a young age. But it wasn’t until I moved to Chile, while I was on sabbatical from college, that I began to really take my passion to the next level. I realized very early on that I had an exceptional palate and was exposed to a wine culture in South America that didn’t yet exist in California.
When I returned home, I entered Ohio State University to study crop production with a specialty in Viticulture and Enology. After six years as a vineyard manager and winemaker in Ohio and upstate New York, I moved to California and became the associate winemaker at De Loach Vineyards in Sonoma County. Two years later, Jess Jackson hired me as winemaker for some of our smaller and international vineyards and in 1997, I become the winemaster for Kendall-Jackson.”
Micah: What excites you most about your work?
Randy: “Oh so many things! All of it — I love the entire process: meeting people, being out in the field, the evolution of the grape and getting to share my knowledge and passion with people like you. But nothing makes me happier than seeing someone’s face after they’ve taken their first sip; seeing them smile as they have that full sensory experience — that’s what it’s all about for me.”
Micah: I sure would love to go out into the field with you sometime to get a better sense of how you do what you do so well.
Randy: “Sure thing, why don’t you come with us this Thursday? We’re headed down to Santa Barbara and Monterey Counties to evaluate this season’s bloom.”
Little did I know that Randy would actually take me up on my request. I was so excited I immediately agreed and started prepping my camera!