gmhTODAY 22 gmhToday Oct Nov 2018 - Page 94

The Vine Sarah's Vineyard Written By Bev Stenehjem Celebrating 40 Years In late 2000, I was looking for a winery for a weekend retreat and as a hobby business. That’s when I met Marilyn ’Sarah’ Otteman, the founder of Sarah’s Vineyard, who was ready to retire after an illustrious 22-year career in the wine business. Marilyn was a charming and eccentric spiritualist with a different approach to selling her place. After meeting a few times I made an offer, and the next day—nothing. Or the next. Marilyn had a large teepee on the property, and spent three days and nights on a vision quest to decide if I was the right person to pass the torch to. In the end, she had a dream of the Lady of the Lake giving the sword to King Arthur; and thus I was allowed to take over.” At the time, I wasn’t aware of how famous Marilyn had been in the industry. Though her production was small, she was selling wine into the best restaurants all over the country. This is the fortieth anniversary year for Sarah’s Vineyard and we have a lot of awesome credentials in the wine industry; from being served in the White House to notable gourmet festivals over the years, and a long list of high scores from popular wine publications. I think I’ve done well to maintain and grow the reputation and I look forward to the next ten years. Tim Slater, Owner How did you get started in wine? I got the wine bug in 1985 during a leisure arts class I took in college. I thought the wine world was for snobs and rich people but I also wanted to improve myself so I gave it a try. Fortunately the instructor for the class was very laid back and approachable, and gave the perfect introduction to tasting wine, which I can still remember well: ’Take a sip, swish it around your mouth, swallow it – and then your tongue will throw a party for your mouth.’ It was true! We would try twelve or more different wines a week, and there was always a focus on tasting every bit of the wine—educating the senses. The instructor got me to think of wine beyond the simple good-bad judgement, and think of each wine more as an experience. I took that class every quarter for two years and became very good at sensory analysis; and was offered a job at a local winery in Santa Ynez Valley. I decided to stick with engineering and instead, became a workaholic ’Mr. Engineer.’ It was about 15 years later, when I was laid off from my last hightech job, that I dropped into the wine world and started to take winemaking seriously. This is my new life. With a history of being a successful “micro-machining” engineer you are a self-described mad-scientist. How does that help you in the vineyard and in making wine? First of all, I should point out that as a Mad Scientist I’m madcrazy; not mad-angry. This is an important distinction! I tend to have a different outlook than most people. In the wine world, the scientific aspects of winemaking seem trivial to me; and most of my efforts are spent working on what an individual wine should taste like, or what I can do to make it better. I want my wines to be perfect—even if nobody notices it. What are your biggest challenges to making wine? It was a difficult adjustment to learn about farming, coming out of the computer chip industry where everything including the air you breathe is tightly regulated. Nature follows its own course and there’s not much you can do about it. It’s a constant worry. We’re always looking at the weather and wondering what we’re going to do if the weather doesn’t cooperate. Have you ever noticed that look of peaceful calm that farmers have? They’re just worn out from the constant worry.” 94 GILROY • MORGAN HILL • SAN MARTIN OCTOBER/NOVEMBER 2018 gmhtoday.com The Vine Sarah's Vineyard Written By Bev Stenehjem I Celebrating 40 Years n late 2000, I was looking for a winery for a week- end retreat and as a hobby business. That’s when I met Marilyn ’Sarah’ Otteman, the founder of Sarah’s Vineyard, who was ready to retire after an illustrious 22-year career in the wine business. Marilyn was a charming and eccentric spiritualist with a different approach to selling her place. After meeting a few times I made an offer, and the next day—nothing. Or the next. Marilyn had a large teepee on the property, and spent three days and nights on a vision quest to decide if I was the right person to pass the torch to. 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