Artisan Wine Maker Nicole Abiouness Located in Napa California. Not long after graduating from college I realized that food and wine was my passion- and, more importantly, that I had to leave Virginia to find it. So in the fall of 1995 I packed up my belongings and moved to Napa Valley where I was accepted at The Culinary Institute of America. After signing up for all the wine courses they had, I eventually landed in the cellar at Swanson Vineyards. It was here amongst the grape sampling, juice pumping, barrel filling, even tank shoveling, that I fell in love with the entire winemaking process- and I wanted to learn more and more.
Just as the harvest was coming to an end and I was beginning to feel at home in California, I had the opportunity to travel to the Barossa Valley, Australia for the harvest of 1996. Working at Yalumba Winery I got my first real experience ‘down under’ my hard hat crushing over 23,ooo tons. As if that wasn’t enough for one year , I decided to work the fall harvest at Chateau La Tour Blanche in Sauternes, France. They not only allowed me to work in the cellar making that delicious sweet dessert wine, but also help out in the vineyards and get a one year degree in viticulture and oenology at their school. So that brought me to the fall of 1997. Since I was still in France and had grown to LOVE those incredible Pinots I thought, “Why not Burgundy”? And so I did. A small house in Pommard called Domaine Comte Armand took me in and we made Clos des Epeneaux in the traditional ‘stomp on the cap’ way.
Once that was over I came back to California and in the fall of 1998 accepted a cellar rat position at Chappellet Winery. From there, John Kongsgaard hired me at Luna Vineyards where I stayed on board long enough to work my way up to Cellar Master. It was there, in 1999, that I acquired my first batch of Sangiovese grapes and attempted winemaking on my own.