Lauren Kopit Combines Her Two Loves: Art and Science

3/25/2019

Lauren Kopit at Sterling Vineyards header

 

Breakthru Beverage is proud to present our “Women in Wine” series — an ongoing effort to highlight the women shaping today’s evolving global wine industry. From winemakers to sustainability specialists to executives, these are the women among the vines to watch in 2018 and beyond.

Founded in 1964, Sterling Vineyards is one of the landmark wineries in Napa Valley. Featuring stunning architecture, diverse vineyards and highly acclaimed wines that express true varietal character. Winemaker Lauren Kopit works closely with GM & Senior Winemaker Harry Hansen to build on this tradition of excellence, bringing a passion borne of both the art and craft inherent in superior winemaking. 

We spoke to Lauren about mentors in the industry, working with tenured teammates at Sterling and her favorite thing about winemaking.
 

How did you get into the wine industry?


Lauren Kopit: Totally by accident! I was studying microbiology at UC Davis, heading toward graduation with no firm idea of what I really wanted to do with my life. I applied for harvest jobs at the university’s career fair, not knowing then just how relevant my degree truly is for a career in winemaking.

Harvest sounded like something worth exploring, so I gave it a try. As I came over from UC Davis to Napa for a harvest interview, I could feel myself falling more in love with every mile I drove into Napa Valley. After that first harvest, I was hooked! Like most who come into wineries, I wanted to learn as much as I could and gain hands-on experience.

Some four harvests at four wineries in three regions around the world later, I found Sterling Vineyards, and here I found my home in winemaking. 

Tell us about your winemaking philosophy.


Lauren Kopit quote 1I believe that great wine comes from great grapes. We are so fortunate at Sterling Vineyards to farm some of the best vineyards in Napa Valley, and my joy is bringing the fruit into the winery and transforming the grapes ever so gently into wine.

I try to respect and highlight the qualities and personalities of the fruit and make wines that are going to make lasting memories.

How are you keeping with the tradition and heritage of Sterling while also bringing your own experiences into your role?


Sterling Vineyards has produced Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Chardonnay every vintage consecutively since our first vintage in 1969. In addition, Sterling was the first winery in Napa Valley to offer a vintage-dated Merlot.

Being able to craft amazing wines with a heritage like that is a great opportunity, and a great responsibility. I continue to learn from employees who have been with Sterling for over 20, even 30 years. That’s a testament to Sterling and part of what makes the winery so very special.

My combined love of art and science helps to take our shared dreams and make them a reality, whether it is in the vineyard, during fermentation, or during blending. And I have to admit, a serious passion for Cabernet Sauvignon keeps me going day after day, no matter what challenges come up.

Who are your female role models or mentors? 


There are so many amazing women winemakers crushing it in the business these days, from Cathy Corison to Genevieve Janssens at Mondavi, to our own Margo Van Staaveren, who has been part of the magic at Chateau St. Jean for nearly four decades. It’s quite nice to be able to say that it’s hard to pick just one!

My ultimate female role model is my mom, Jeanine McTasney. One of the most generous, considerate, and loving women I’ve ever met, she is always striving to be the best version of herself. From running her own business while raising two daughters, to her current work with restorative tattooing, she handles any stress and challenge with grit, determination, and grace. She’s a true role model and a wonderful mentor.

What is one of the most difficult things in winemaking? 


For me, one of the most difficult things is absolutely my work in the vineyards. Picking the exact right moment to harvest the fruit is such a beautiful, nuanced decision, without there ever being a 100% right answer.

The true art of evaluating vine balance, flavor ripeness, and tannin development is my favorite challenge, and I’ve been so lucky to be able to dive even deeper into this in the most recent vintage. 

Conversely, what’s one of your most favorite things in winemaking?


I love being able to share my passion with other people. From hosting groups at the winery, to travelling in the market, to recruiting students for harvest every year, I am fortunate to have opportunities to represent Sterling Vineyards and the beautiful wines that we make.

Engaging with people, both in and out of the industry, is a joy, and being able to explain the intricacies of what I do in approachable language is so much fun for me. Plus, everyone likes wine (and Sterling!), so people are always excited to see me! 

What can we expect to see from you and Sterling in the future?Lauren Kopit quote 2


We have a serious passion for showcasing the amazing vineyards we farm. We hope to continue introducing Single Vineyard expressions of Cabernet Sauvignon, and to keep spreading the joy of good wine wherever we go. And we like to think, that we do it with a certain sense of Sterling Style. 
 
Read Next Article See all Group news