Since being named winemaker in 2008, Don Schroeder has helped to cement Sea Smoke’s reputation as one of California’s grand cru-caliber wine estates, and the source for some of its most iconic Pinot Noirs, Chardonnays and sparkling wines. In the winery, Don applies a small-lot, vineyard-focused approach to winemaking, keeping each block and clonal combination separate throughout fermentation and aging. Don then oversees the winery’s complex evaluation process, assessing and grading every single barrel of wine for 10 stylistic hallmarks before blending Sea Smoke’s acclaimed wines.
Don began his winemaking career in 2000, when he helped his parents to establish their own wine brand in Santa Barbara County, including planting a vineyard in the Santa Rita Hills and serving as winemaker. Don gained additional experience as the cellarmaster for Babcock Vineyards, the assistant winemaker for Rideau Vineyards, and as the enologist at Lucas and Lewellen. In 2003, Don joined Sea Smoke and rapidly moved up the ranks from cellarmaster to assistant winemaker to winemaker.
In 2008, the same year he was appointed winemaker, Sea Smoke made its debut vintage of ‘Sea Spray’ Sparkling Wine. “As an estate dedicated to growing some of the world’s finest Pinot Noir, making a Blanc de Noirs in the style of the great Grower Champagnes was a natural next step in our evolution,” says Don. Since then, Sea Smoke has been zeroing in on the ideal blocks of Pinot Noir for Sea Spray, and tailoring the farming techniques for these blocks. To create sophisticated sparkling wines with terroir-inspired elegance, Don generally ages Sea Spray for 12 months in large-format, neutral French oak demi-muids and foudres before the wine spends 36 months en tirage and an additional 10 months under cork. To preserve its vineyard-driven freshness and finesse, as well as its tantalizing aromas and sophisticated minerality, Sea Spray is bottled without dosage.
Don is a panelist for the Bubbles and Bites Seminar on Saturday, March 2, from 9:30am - 11:30am.