Steven Urberg was studying to be a research chemist when he realized what he’d have to show for it.
“Twelve milligrams on the side of a flask,” he joked, “and you’re not allowed to taste it either.”
Urberg is behind our wine-of-the-week winner — the Gloria Ferrer, NV Carneros Brut Rosé at $29.
The director of winemaking said his goal is to craft a house style of brut rosé that’s bright and delicate.
“Often when you see pink, you expect a heavier texture,” Urberg said. “But this one is striving to be bright and elegant with more delicacy.”
This NV brut rosé is pretty, with rose petal and mineral aromas. On the palate it has flavors of tangy red fruit — strawberry, cherry, raspberry and a hint of pomegranate — coupled with bright mineral. It all rides on crisp acidity. The sparkler has a nice mousse, well-crafted elegance from start to finish.”
Urberg, 46, is an accidental winemaker of sorts. He was studying chemistry at UC Berkeley in the 1990s and he would scoot up to Wine Country to taste on weekends. On one of those excursions he heard about UC Davis and its winemaking program.
“I thought, wait a minute, I could get paid for making wine?” Urberg said. “Had I gone to graduate school on the East Coast (changing careers) probably wouldn’t have happened.”
Urberg earned a master’s degree in chemistry from UC Berkeley in 1995 and then worked in the cellar at Napa’s Hess Collection for about eight months to test the waters. He followed that up by studying enology and viticulture at UC Davis in 1996 and 1997.
The winemaker said his greatest strength is longevity. He’s been at Gloria Ferrer for 17 harvests.
“I’ve had the opportunity to work with the same vineyards, to taste the fruit juice, base wines and finished produced wines and see how they age,” Urberg said.
Becoming a winemaker brings Urberg full circle.
“We had family friends making wine in their basement,” he said. “They had mail-order cans of concentrate. The wine wasn’t good but it got me interested.”
Today he’s happy to have found a house of bubbly where he can focus on sparklers and pinots.
“I’ve always had an affinity for sparklers and pinots because they’re not about power or intensity,” Urberg said. “They’re about balance and elegance.”