MEET OUR VICE PRESIDENT OF WINEMAKING,
ASHLEY HEISEY

 

WHEN AND WHY DID YOU JOIN LONG MEADOW RANCH?

Back in 2002, I enjoyed a beautiful bottle of 1997 LMR Cabernet Sauvignon in the hills high above Calistoga. Intuitively, I knew that evening, that wine and that label resonated reverence for land stewardship, endurance, and sustainability. Not one to act on intuition alone, I dug deeper for the facts on the Long Meadow Ranch website. Taking a chance, I wrote an email to Cathy Corison, LMR’s winemaker at the time, expressing interest in making wine for Long Meadow Ranch at any point in the future. The very next year, Cathy returned to Corison Winery, opening up the opportunity for me to join the winemaking team here.

WHAT DO YOU MOST ENJOY ABOUT WINEMAKING AT LONG MEADOW RANCH?

Long Meadow Ranch winemaking strives to improve, tool by tool, decision by decision, and in its ability to achieve a reliable and worthy style expression for each wine. One of the best tools I have is our estate grown fruit.

AS HEAD OF WINEMAKING AT LMR, WHAT IS YOUR PARTICULAR VISION?

We are winegrowers, so I strive to capture the full potential of the beautifully grown grapes. I focus on maintaining a full toolkit to care for the wines. This means minimal intervention and only using the right tool at the right time to the right extent. No shooting in the dark. The wines should grade us and I hope each wine would give the winemaking team an “A” for understanding what it was meant to become.

TALK ABOUT THE PERIOD IN 2003 WHEN YOU WORKED WITH CATHY CORISON. WHAT IMPACT DID THAT HAVE ON YOU?

Ted Hall had an unusual vision for protecting the continuity of our style. He hired me to shadow Cathy for her final vintage and then take the helm in 2004. I thoroughly enjoyed the collaborative exchange over the destemmer, adjacent to the press, and with samples pulled to evaluate elevage. Cathy was an articulate and devoted teacher as I shadowed and tried to capture what had come before.

HOW HAS YOUR WINEMAKING EVOLVED SINCE YOU STARTED WORKING WITH LONG MEADOW RANCH?

Perspective should evolve. If you ask a winemaker how they think about something, it better have evolved. Primarily, I have become a student of the vineyard block. I am disciplined about not changing what is not broken. I am equally disciplined and perpetually curious about implementing change when appropriate.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE BLOCK OR VINEYARD AT LMR?

Like children or flavors of ice cream, it is impossible to decide upon a favorite.

WHAT CAN YOU SHARE ABOUT THE BALANCE OF INNOVATION AND CONSISTENCY IN YOUR WINEMAKING PROCESS? ARE YOU EXPERIMENTING WITH ANY “NEW” METHODS/STYLES/BLENDS?

It’s important to remember what we learned before. One of my mottos is “only new mistakes”. However, change is inevitable and full of positive discoveries. Fortunately, the culture allows us to take risks along the way.

WHAT DO YOU FIND MOST REWARDING ABOUT YOUR JOB?

Working with extraordinarily talented and committed winemakers. I offer continuity, prioritization and technical support, but the real work is done in the vineyard, by the winemakers, and by the yeasts. Most rewarding? Fermentation and being part of a strong team.

WHO DO YOU CONSIDER YOUR WINEMAKING MENTORS?

Genevieve Janssens, Dirk Hampson, Cathy Corison and my current LMR winemaker peers.

ARE THERE ANY SPECIFIC WINE/WINERIES/WINEMAKERS THAT INFLUENCE YOU MORE THAN OTHERS IN YOUR APPROACH?

I am inspired by wineries with long histories like Jean Louis Chave with 16 generations of winemakers from the same family and Haut Brion with 500 years of written winemaking history. I am motivated to participate in legacy. It’s important to build teams, structures, and approaches that will work for a very long time. It’s equally important to tack intelligently with good timing.

ARE THERE ANY SET WINEMAKING GOALS YOU ARE WORKING TO ACHIEVE RIGHT NOW?

Continuing to produce moderate alcohol wines in a full range of styles from our various estates.