Director of winemaking Jean-Francois was introduced to Horacio Enriquez while looking for extra help in the vineyard. After just a few years, he transitioned into the position of cellar master where he has been ever since. Now entering his 21st harvest with Pepper Bridge Winery, Horacio is stepping up to Production Winemaker!
With years of collecting wine samples, topping barrels, racking, bottling, blending, and organizing, Horacio completely knows the ins and outs of the winery.
While some of you have met Horacio, he usually avoids the spotlight, so we want to take this opportunity to help you get to know him. In between harvest preparations, Wine Club Manager Katie Vipond sat down with Horacio to ask him a few questions.
Interview with Horacio Enriquez, 8/3/2021
Katie Vipond: How old were you when you started in the wine industry?
Horacio Enriquez: Just 20 years old
KV: What got you into the wine industry?
HE: JF did. We met through my brother, who was working for him. JF was looking for someone to work in the vineyard for him, so I worked in the vineyard first, then JF brought me into the cellar.
KV: What has been your favorite vintage and why?
HE: I like all the vintages–they all teach you something different. I like the lab work–looking at the numbers each year is always interesting–titratable acidity, PH, brix, all of that.
KV: Do you have a favorite time of year at the winery?
HE: Harvest – you can see the whole process from harvesting the fruit to barreling down.
KV: What is the hardest part of a harvest?
HE: Always being on call–you can’t really go out of town, because you have to be around in case the wine needs you.
KV: At what point did you decide that you wanted to make this a career?
HE: When I got the cellar master job. I liked the work and got to see the evolution of the wines. It was too cool to leave.
KV: What wine changed your life?
HE: You know, I didn’t used to drink wine hardly at all. When I started working in the winery, I had to get used to drinking wine. But now I just really like Pepper Bridge Winery and Amavi Cellars wine a lot. I like other things but I definitely have a cellar palate – making me the perfect person to monitor consistency of our wines!
KV: What was one of the most challenging vintages?
HE: It was recently. In 2019 we had to bring in all the fruit pretty much at the same time because it was going to freeze. It was a quick harvest but the days were really long.
KV: You were the Cellar Master here for a long time and I don’t think most people know exactly what that role entails. Could you tell us about what you did in that role here?
HE: It covers a lot. Collecting samples, topping barrels, cleaning tanks and drains– and everything else, bottling, blending, helping with tasting, really anticipating the next move. The Cellar Master works really closely with the Production Winemaker and Director of Winemaking. It takes a lot of work from everyone to keep things going.
KV: When you taste wine, how do you think about it? Some people taste in shapes, colors, some people focus on tannin, smell, flavors…
HE: I really like to pay attention to the smell, it brings in the emotional part and draws the wine into your mouth. The smell is really the beginning of the wine. Sometimes you don’t like the way a wine smells but it tastes great! Sometimes it’s the other way around. If you don’t try it you will never know. But when the smell and taste match up, that’s a really great wine for me.
KV: What is your favorite food & wine combo?
HE: Cheese. Or steak. Or mushroom dishes. I just like food. I’ll eat whatever anyone cooks for me.
Horacio is currently enjoying our 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon for its rich tannins and pairing with delicious summer dishes.
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