Emme Wines an energetic spark in Sebastopol

Rosalind Reynolds says wine is the middle ground between science and art.|

With a science background in plant genetics and biology, winemaker Rosalind Reynolds said one of the most difficult parts of winemaking is deciding whether to lead with her head or her heart.

“Sometimes I look at a wine’s lab numbers and they tell me one thing. Then I taste and smell the wine and it tells me something different,” said Reynolds, founder of Emme Wines in Sebastopol. “It can be really hard for me to say ‘screw the numbers’ and go with my intuition. But that is a big part of winemaking — both science and instinct play equally strong parts.”

Finding a mentor

Reynolds, who launched Emme Wines in 2018, is also assistant winemaker at Pax Wines in Sebastopol, which serves as the production facility for her own brand.

A Pennsylvania native, Reynolds was planning to attend medical school after completing her undergraduate degree, but a six-month internship in the research lab at Gallo in Modesto changed her mind.

After harvest hopping for five years, including a stint with winemaker Pax Mahle at Windgap Wines in 2016, Reynolds reached out to Mahle in 2018 looking for a full-time job and the opportunity to start her own label. She was hired.

“I’d hate to call Pax a father figure, but he does have some big dad energy,” Reynolds said. “I get a lot of mentorship vibes from him and the other winemakers who share the space, which is really great.”

While harvest can be a balancing act between Pax and her own brand, she said the biggest challenge comes from finding time for the daily duties of owning a wine brand, like sales, taxes and answering emails.

“The things I’m not good at become extra difficult to keep up with during harvest,” she said. “But I think that’s the nature of the beast for all winemakers, whether we work just for our own wine label or for a larger brand as well.”

Connecting with growers

At Emme Wines, who is named after her grandmother, Reynolds focuses on what she calls “old-school California varieties,” like carignane, colombard, merlot and zinfandel, as well as uncommon grapes like abouriou, valdiguie and “muscat vert” (moscato giallo). She produces about 10 single-varietal bottlings per year, as well as a field blend and co-fermented petillant-naturel with syrah and Jonathan apple juice (sourced from Tilted Shed Ciderworks).

While sourcing fruit from organic, sustainable vineyards is a priority to Reynolds, forging a personal connection with her growers is just as imperative.

“I want to know how well we connect with each other on what we’re both trying to accomplish,” Reynolds said. “What are they like as people and what do they care about? Do they want to sit down and talk with me about their vineyard? Are they interested in my wines? How much someone cares is really important to me.”

Two of her favorite growers are Pamela and Tom Ricetti of Ricetti Vineyards in Redwood Valley, who farm old-vine carignane, grenache and other varieties.

“They’re almost like grandparents,” Reynolds said. “Pamela needs to make sure she likes you before she sells you fruit. I’m particular in the same way. Now I sleep over at their house before early-morning picks, and they always send me home with food! They’re such great people.”

Thriving on her feet

While Reynolds was initially drawn to winemaking through her love of science, she said she thrives in the physical environment, where she can be active and on her feet all day.

“I’m a really physical person and spend all my spare time rock climbing, mountain biking and hiking,” she said. “I love the physical aspect of winemaking — digging out tanks, driving the forklift, lifting things and carrying things. Being able to do science in conjunction with running around all day is the perfect job for me.”

For more information or to purchase Emme Wines, visit emmewines.com.

You can reach Staff Writer Sarah Doyle at 707-521-5478 or sarah.doyle@pressdemocrat.com.

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