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Vanessa Wong

Winemaker

Vanessa was planting a vineyard on the Sonoma Coast when she heard about these guys up north who had just planted 15 clones of Pinot noir in terra incognita. She visited in the fall of 2000 and took a shine to the beauty of the place and the quality of the young vine fruit she tasted while she walked the vineyard with Nick. He must not have been too shabby, either, as Vanessa joined Peay Vineyards in the spring before their first vintage in 2001 and they were married the following year.

Prior to coming to Peay, Vanessa worked at Peter Michael Winery as winemaker and assistant winemaker from 1996-2000. She also spent time working in France at Château Lafite-Rothschild in Pauillac and Domaine Jean Gros in Vosne-Romanée.

A native of San Francisco, Vanessa was initiated into the wine business by working in wine retail and catering at the ripe old age of 14. This early exposure to the world of wine and its distinctive yet universal appeal sparked her fascination with winemaking. This led her to pursue a degree in viticulture and enology at UC Davis, much to the chagrin of her parents who thought she was taking pre-med classes to become a doctor! Vanessa expanded on her studies at U.C. Davis by working at various wineries in the Napa Valley and spending one year in France to study enology and do research at the l’Institut d’Œnologie in Bordeaux. Upon completion of her studies, she traveled between Europe and Australia to explore the diversity of winemaking.

Together with Andy and Nick Peay, Vanessa shares the vision of making distinctive, harmonious wines that capture their estate vineyard’s timeless, unique expression of place.

Want to know more?
Guild of Sommelier's Podcast — A Conversation About Chardonnay

"As a winemaker, my job is to coax out and accentuate the defining characteristics of the grapes to produce wines of distinction."

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Winemaking Philosophy

Many people visit our hilltop vineyard and immediately fall in love with the beauty of the spot. I did, too, when I came to see it for the first time. But I viewed it with a regard not just for the physical wonder of the place, but for the magnificent vineyard potential I immediately perceived when I walked the slopes of each vineyard block. I had known for some time that the Sonoma Coast was the new, sought-after frontier, viticulturally, with its unique maritime climate and complex topography that lends the crucial elements for growing grapes for quality wine: long temperate days, cool nights, and mild autumns that offer slow but continuous ripening seasons.

As a wine maker, my job is to coax out and accentuate the defining characteristics of the grapes to produce wines of distinction. As a result, what happens before the grapes arrive at the winery vastly affects my ability to achieve my goals. For me, the most important aspect of making quality wine is growing grapes in an ideal site. Factors such as average temperature, overall heat days (days with temperature above a certain level), soil health and drainage, sun exposure (aspect), and others should be considered for the type of variety you are growing to achieve your wine quality and style objectives.

The winegrowing timeline is long, however, and we are at a little blip at the beginning of the timeline.  Some winegrowers have generations of knowledge already internalized.  Learning things in winemaking is a slow process because you only get one shot with a certain lot of wine each year and then it takes multiple years to evaluate the result.  To make subtle and complex wines, I must observe closely and respond to the differences in vintages and the grapes with nuance, constantly fine tuning rather than swinging from one style or trend to the next.  This is especially true when it comes to the vineyard.  Though we farm organically, we approach blocks differently and pick them differently, learning which blocks benefit the most from waiting or not waiting to pick and how they react to environmental factors compared to one another.  It’s kinda like treating your kids differently because you know that their temperaments are different.  You start off treating them all more or less the same (mainly to eliminate the variables) but through time and experience you learn that they do not need the same treatment to thrive equally or bring out the best in them.  And once the grapes have reached their greatest potential, my job is to reveal and retain these flavors in the wine. So, I employ wine making practices that are minimally manipulative to the grapes during processing and also to the wine during its vinification and barrel aging.

With our vineyard on the Sonoma Coast, we accomplished the crucial step of securing an ideal location. I am able to work with Nick to grow balanced vines that produce fruit of the highest quality. And I believe in our wines you will witness my belief in attentive, gentle wine making.

This is my mark. This is our mark. I think you will enjoy it.

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Winegrower

UC Davis-trained and veteran Santa Cruz mountains winemaker, Nick Peay, is the vineyard manager and works side-by-side with our full-time crew of 8 workers.

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Sales, Marketing, Etc.

Over a bottle of Syrah and a rack of lamb, Nick convinced Andy to pursue a life in wine. They had spent the spring of 1995 listening to old jazz records and brewing beer.

 

Want Some Wine?

Our wines are made from grapes grown on our 53-acre hilltop vineyard located above a river in the far northwestern corner of the West Sonoma Coast, 4 miles from the Pacific Ocean. We grow Pinot Noir, Syrah, Chardonnay, Viognier, Roussanne and Marsanne. You can browse our current offerings in our online Wine Shop.

Shop

Want Some Wine?

Our wines are made from grapes grown on our 53-acre hilltop vineyard located above a river in the far northwestern corner of the West Sonoma Coast, 4 miles from the Pacific Ocean. We grow Pinot Noir, Syrah, Chardonnay, Viognier, Roussanne and Marsanne. You can browse our current offerings in our online Wine Shop.

Shop