Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Nicole Salengo

Winemaker, Berryessa Gap Vineyards
Winters, CA

Nicole Salengo hails from Rutland, Vermont. Surprisingly a mere 20 miles from the small town where my husband was raised. We met through Slow Food Yolo and have remained friends over the years. I think we always bond over our connection and strange longing to be back in New England, despite how much we enjoy a California winter.

Nicole is driven to succeed in the wine industry. She is competitive, critical of herself and unyielding, always striving to do better. When we first met, she was working at a small winery in Davis. Over the years she has worked harvests in Napa and New Zealand, consulted for wineries around California, and completed the prestigious UC Davis Extension Winemaking Certificate program. She is now the winemaker for Berryessa Gap Vineyards in Winters, CA, a quintessentially Yolo spot that represents a lot of what I love about this county: down to earth wine and a relaxed and beautiful environment to enjoy it.

Nicole would probably describe herself as a tomboy but she always looks pulled together, polished and makes me think I need to do more pushups. In addition to working long hours at the winery, she plays on coed soccer teams and does Bikram yoga on a regular basis.

Nicole seems most at home in the winery, so I decided it would be the best place to take pictures. She hosted a night of barrel tastings way back in June for a few friends but morning sickness and a new job prevented me from posting until now. 

How did you find yourself working in the wine industry?

I would say it was a process of elimination. I did not initially go to school for winemaking. After college on the East Coast and studying things that I decided that I did not want to have as a career, I moved to California and found myself working in a lab learning more chemistry. At that job I realized I wanted to work in a less sterile environment so I started working in a wine shop, and finally from there decided to combine the science and the wine.

Do you have a mentor?

I have a lot of mentors and they change all the time. I am very competitive so I find people who are on a similar path but a little older generally as mentors.

What is it like being part of a small tight knit community like Winters?

It is awesome. The community is very unique. I think I ended up there because it is a lot like the town I lived in and graduated high school from in Upstate New York. Everyone knows each other but everyone is private. People respect one another. So many talented and interesting people live there.

Most recent amazing wine discovery?

I have been tasting some super Tuscans that are amazing.
I really enjoy trying new wines. When tasting casually, I have to remind myself not to look for flaws, but just to enjoy it which isn't always easy.

Describe your cooking style?

Ha! Right now not much! I get a CSA so early in the week I throw all the vegetables in the oven and roast them. That is my cooking style!

Favorite shoes?

Probably steel toed boots.

How does being from New England influence the way that you live?

I think we have an appreciation for age and things that tell a story. I also know that being outside so much and appreciating nature was a huge part of my childhood and still is today.

Favorite childhood food memory?

I love Thanksgiving meals with the family. A lot of people, a lot of food, all day. Holidays with my family were all about food and Thanksgiving was the biggest.

What was dinner like around the table as a kid?

We sat down every night and ate together.  Looking back the food was pretty gross: gravy on everything, cottage cheese with every meal, your greens came from a can, but I ate it and loved it! It was real East Coast food. After dinner we would sit around as a family and watch the news and Jeopardy. I still love Jeopardy because of that!

No comments:

Post a Comment