Firmly at the helm of one of California’s great producers of Pinot Noir, Katey Larwood crafts some outstanding wines for Goldeneye Winery located in Philo, California in the heart of the Anderson Valley. Taking over for superstar winemaker, Michael Fay more than a year ago, Katey Larwood has worked harvests across the globe and began studying wine while attending school in Santa Barbara. Katey talks about her background in wine and how she came to work for Goldeneye. She talks about her outstanding new wines and I think you will very much enjoy hearing her story in wine. Here is my exclusive interview with Katey Larwood, Winemaker at Goldeneye Winery.
WWB: How did you first become interested in wine and start volunteering at Brander Winery in the Santa Ynez Valley?
KL: In 2009, I took a wine appreciation course at Santa Barbara City College, thinking it was going to be a fun way to spend Wednesday mornings. The professor was an incredibly passionate, sincere, and knowledgeable person about wine, who also worked for a distributor representing the region. One Saturday in September, he took the willing students to a downtown Santa Barbara winery to participate in a day of harvest. I remember seeing the first bin of grapes dumped into the hopper and onto the sorting table, the people quickly reaching for leaves – laughing and talking loudly over the sound of the forklift beeping. I remember seeing the press rotating, making a loud hissing sound as it would inflate and deflate. The excitement and energy of that first winery visit was a powerful moment for me. I began volunteering at that same winery whenever I had a spare moment, sorting fruit, cleaning floors, and hosing off bins and equipment. I loved every second of it. Once all the fruit was in and the semester was coming to an end, I decided that making wine was something that I not only wanted to do, but something I needed to do. I called San Francisco State University and told them I wasn’t coming for winter quarter, and enrolled in a botany and chemistry course in Santa Barbara. The next harvest, I worked for Brander Winery and officially moved up from harvest volunteer to harvest intern. In only a year, my whole life had transformed, and everything revolved around wine and winemaking.
WWB: Can you talk about some of the experience gained by learning about harvests in winemaking while abroad in New Zealand, France and Australia?
KL: The vintages I did abroad were indispensable in furthering my understanding not only of the craft of winemaking and grape growing but in appreciating the global history and cultural significance of wine. Since wine is so intrinsically connected to place and people, each region and winery I was in had its unique identity, and it was during my travels that I gained not only tactile skills in winemaking but a greater understanding and love for wine and the people who make it. It was in the moments around the lunch and dinner table, picking fruit in the vineyards, and staying up late into the night processing fruit, that I began to get to know the people whose life’s work is making wine. I was able to see each region’s uniqueness and develop an understanding of the larger connection of wine, traversing culture, language, and identity.
WWB: How did you decide to come to Goldeneye in 2016? What are some of the challenges of blending the individual lots at Goldeneye?
KL: After working in the Finger Lakes for a few years, I decided that it was time to come home to my native California, but there was one caveat – I wanted to work in Anderson Valley. I fell under the spell of the Anderson Valley early on in my explorations of wine, and it is a place I have grown to love deeply. The wines from our region are some of the most unique and fascinating in the world. When I saw that Goldeneye was in need of an assistant winemaker, I was elated. I’d been a huge fan of Goldeneye for years, and it was always a must-visit destination of mine when visiting Anderson Valley. I think one of our biggest challenges also falls under the ‘good problem to have’ category. Because we work in small lots, and do upwards of 200 individual fermentations each vintage, when it comes time to blend, the possibilities are nearly endless, and at times can seem quite daunting. But because we constantly taste and track each lot during its life in barrel, we have a remarkable understanding of each wine and use this knowledge come blending time.
WWB: Your 2015 Goldeneye ‘Gowan Creek’ Pinot Noir (WWB, 94) is a head-turning wine that shows incredible tension and richness. This amazing Pinot Noir landed at #36 on my Washington Wine Blog 2018 Top 100 Wines. Can you talk about crafting this beautiful wine and the aromas and flavor profiles of wines from this special vineyard in the Anderson Valley?
KL: Thank you so much! The Gowan Creek Vineyard produces wines of unabashed richness and fervor. The deep blue and black cherry fruit is pronounced, but the lively acidity and complex herbal components bring an elegance to the wine. The vineyard itself is teaming with Pennyroyal, an herb native to Anderson Valley, which is a cross between spearmint and anise. This herb is highlighted in the wine, giving it a sophisticated spice and licorice character.
The 2015 Gowan Creek Vineyard is one of our favorite wines since it embodies the vineyard completely. The wine is a combination of several different blocks spanning the 30-acre site, highlighting the difference in terroir throughout the vineyard.
WWB: When you are not enjoying great Anderson Valley Pinot Noir, what are some of your favorite wines and producers in the world of wine?
KL: When not drinking Anderson Valley Pinot Noir, I really enjoy German and New York Riesling (Keller, Wittmann, Kuhling-Gillot, Red Newt Cellars, Ravines Wine Cellars), Chablis (Ch. Grenouilles, William Fevre), Beaujolais (Marcel Lapierre, Jean Foillard), Loire (Catherine & Pierre Breton) and Champagne (Pierre Jouet, Paul Dethune, Louis Roederer, Ruinart, Piper Heidsieck).