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 .”
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GILROY • MORGAN HILL • SAN MARTIN OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 2018 gmhtoday . com
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