Director of Operations at Robert Sinskey Vineyards July 18, 2016

Director of Operations at Robert Sinskey Vineyards

Shadow: Jennifer Gallagher
Job: Director of Operations at Robert SInskey Vineyards

Whether to sip on a bold red cabernet, watch a golden sunset, or take a walk among the grapevines, California's Napa Valley Wine Country is one of the great destinations for people all over the world. My latest journey offered me a peek into the world of wine when I was able to shadow Jennifer Gallagher, Director of Operations at Robert Sinskey Vineyards.

As a young college student Jen worked at a small wine shop and learned about the wine industry. Over the years Jen has taken that early passion for wine and grown it into a rich knowledge. It developed when she used the money saved up from working at the wine shop to travel Europe. While traveling she was able to visit and discover the very vines from the wine she had fallen in love with in the States.

"I made a deal with myself. If I didn’t find the perfect job and a great place to live I would just go home. Luckily, I found both.” ~ Jennifer Gallagher

Coming back to America, Jen had a short stint in the corporate world before attending nursing school. After 6 years of working as a neonatal nurse she had an opportunity come up for her to go into the restaurant business with her Chef brother. By getting involved she was able to offer her business skills and wine expertise to compliment him as well as the dishes. After 5 years of running the restaurant, Jennifer came to Napa Valley on vacation in 2004 and never left.

She wandered on to Robert Sinskey Vineyards, which has an edible landscape with extensive culinary gardens, and fruit orchards that cover the winery grounds. There are beehives that dot the backside of the vineyard as they pollinate the orchards and provide the sweetest honey. An experimental truffle orchard with English Oaks and Filberts is also planted on the land to provide the freshest produce to be prepared in the vineyard kitchen and paired with the most elegant wines

While experiencing the great wine, amazing food and important sense of family, Jen found a new home at Robert Sinskey Vineyards. She provided a perfect balance to the culinary driven place that specializes in wines that are lower in alcohol, higher in acid, and much more food friendly than your typical Napa Valley wines. Jen shared the belief of wine being a craft that begins with the care of the soil and ends with an open bottle of wine on the table.

Like a fine wine, as my time grew longer with Jennifer I was able to understand the importance of taking your work seriously but not yourself too seriously. I loved watching the way she blended her passions to provide perfect ingredients to a job well done. I was lucky enough to see the fruition of her hard work as she directed the operations of the vineyard and made sure everything ran as smooth as the wine.

Learned Lessons:

  1. Wine making is 12 months of solid production.
    • You’re either picking fruit and making wine or storing wine or racking or bottling.
  2. Harvesting is the first step in the wine making process
    • The moment the grapes are picked determines the acidity, sweetness, and flavor of the wine.
  3. After the grapes are harvested, they are ready to be de-stemmed and crushed.
    • Specialized presses stomp or trod the grapes into what is called must.
  4. After crushing and pressing, fermentation comes into play.
    • Fermentation continues until the sugar is converted into alcohol and dry wine is produced. The less time it ferments, the sweeter it tastes. Fermentation can take anywhere from 10 days to one month or more.
  5. Once fermentation is complete, wine is transferred into a barrel.
    • The oak of the barrel effects how the wine is going to taste.
  6. After aging, wines are bottled and ready to be enjoyed.

Tips of the Trade:

“We take wine making seriously, but we try not to take ourselves very seriously.” ~ Jennifer Gallagher

“Our mantra is fine wines, organic vines.” ~ Jennifer Gallagher

“We consider ourselves stewards of the land by making sure we leave it in better condition than we found it.” ~ Jennifer Gallagher

“We try to make the fruit as expressive of the land as can be with as little manipulation as possible.” ~ Jennifer Gallagher