One of the great young talents in Sonoma, Katy Wilson is the mastermind behind LaRue Wines, makers of outstanding and terroir-driven Pinot Noirs. Her wines have the beautiful salinity that you expect from the Sonoma Coast AVA. Katy has traveled the globe to learn about wines with previous stints in both Australia and New Zealand before coming to Sonoma. She is as enchanted with the ocean influence in these wines as I am. I think you will very much enjoy hearing her story in wine. Here is my exclusive interview with Katy Wilson, founder and winemaker of LaRue WInes.
WWB: Who were your initial inspirations in wine?
KW: My path to wine was not your average story. I grew up on a walnut orchard and had a tremendous interest in agriculture. It was through agriculture that I became interested in wine and inspired to become a winemaker. To me, growing grapes and making wine is unlike any other area of agriculture. I continue to be amazed with how every year and every wine is unique and that there is always something new to learn.
WWB: How did you decide to make wine sourced from the Sonoma Coast AVA?
KW: I spent time making wine in Napa, Australia and New Zealand before I landed on the Sonoma Coast. The Sonoma Coast is such a great area for producing Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, and this area in particular really suits my signature style of winemaking, which lends itself to a largely hands-off approach. All of the vineyards that I work with are within about seven miles from the Pacific Ocean, and you certainly get the ocean influence in these vineyards and in my wines. We constantly have fog rolling in and out of the vineyards, which allows for slower ripening and also allows the grapes to better retain acid through the ripening. The result is bright and crisp wines with great aroma and freshness.
WWB: Can you talk about some of the challenges with being a business owner as well as a winemaker?
KW: I think that one of my biggest challenges is balancing my time. Along with owning and making LaRue Wines, I also make wine for Anaba Wines, Claypool Cellars, Reeve Wines, and Smith Story Wine Cellars. It’s a constant juggling act that definitely keeps me on my toes! And I wouldn’t have it any other way.
WWB: Your 2015 LaRue ‘Sonoma Coast’ Pinot Noir (WWB, 92) shows tremendous range and poise from this warm vintage in Sonoma. Can you talk about how you craft this outstanding Pinot Noir?
KW: The 2015 harvest was a very early one. I picked my first vineyard on August 20th and my last vineyard on September 3rd. This was also a vintage with very high acidity and I was able to pick at low brix. This wine is a blend of the Thorn Ridge Vineyard and the Rice-Spivak Vineyard and it is also a mix of different clones from these vineyards. I think that the complexity of the vineyards and clones gives layers to this wine. I also age this wine for 20 months in barrel, which allows the oak to better integrate and become seamless with the wine. My aim is to take what each year gives me and try to do my best to showcase the vineyard and the vintage.
WWB: When you are not enjoying wines from the Sonoma Coast AVA, what are some of your favorite wines of the world?
KW: I love Champagne! I guess who doesn’t, right? I also love exploring Burgundy and Chablis when I am able. I guess it’s apparent that my palate favors Pinot Noir and Chardonnay! I think that it is so interesting how every region and every wine has such a different expression and as a winemaker, I’m an eternal student of thevine. I love trying as many wines, styles and regions as is possible!