Fast forward to today, and Brent is now the Winemaker at Gary Farrell Winery, having been promoted from Associate Winemaker. His journey in winemaking began as a harvest intern at Robert Mondavi Winery, and he has since dedicated his life to perfecting the winemaking process, from grape to bottle.
Brent's philosophy on winemaking revolves around respecting the unique nature of each vineyard, and allowing the grapes to express themselves in their own unique way. He believes in the importance of being hands-on in the winery, paying attention to small details, and working together as a team to create something truly special.
We sat down with Brent to learn more about his journey and his winemaking philosophy.
Q: Brent, can you tell us about your first interaction with wine? What was going through your mind at that moment?
Brent: Well, it was a magical experience, I must say. I was 28 years old, and living in Santa Fe, New Mexico at the time. I was working with an arborist, and we talked a lot about the land as it was a part of our daily work. This led to discussions about agriculture and what grew well in different parts of the country. We ended up working in some fairly remote areas out in the high desert, and would often end up cooking over an open fire at the end of a long day, sometimes camping out and staying the night so we could finish our work the next morning. One particular evening, he pulled out a bottle of something – it was a Merlot of some sort if I remember correctly. We had the wine outside under the stars, and I remember being in awe of how well it tasted with the food – there was something special about the fire, the outdoors, the moment – and at that point I realized how special a bottle of wine can be.
Q: That sounds like a truly magical experience. When did you realize that you wanted to become a winemaker?
Brent: I never really set out to become a winemaker, but it was always at the back of my mind. I was mostly interested in the actual process and everything that went into it. I had always worked with my hands in previous jobs, and was interested in learning and being a part of everything that went into taking grapes and creating wine. And then I had my aha moment at Robert Mondavi Winery when I was working as a harvest intern.
Q: That’s amazing. What was your first job in the industry like?
Brent: My first job in the industry was as a harvest intern at Robert Mondavi Winery in Oakville. I came to Napa Valley looking for work after becoming interested in wine in New Mexico. The person I was working with at the time encouraged me to travel to California and start knocking on doors to try and find a seasonal position. After the first vintage there, I knew that it was something I wanted to do long term. There was a lot of technical work with machines, processes in the lab, and general hands-on labor that everyone was a part of. At this time I realized the importance of teamwork, and loved getting to know and work with people from different parts of the country and the world. It was an exceptionally immersive experience, and I’ll always be grateful for what I learned during my first experience there. It was a lot of hard work, but it was also incredibly rewarding to see the fruit of our labor and to know that we were a part of creating something special.