Will Burrow On Handling and Production Techniques In Winemaking

26/11/2023 Manage a team of cellar hands and create work orders to accomplish daily tasks and meet goals necessary for the production of quality wines.

1) Tell us a little about your background and journey into winemaking.

I got into winemaking after going to college for Fermentation Sciences at Appalachian State University. While I was attending school, I started working at a bottle shop downtown & a tasting room not too far away, this was my first big exposure to wine because we would do tastings & we had a large variety of wines that I'd never even heard of. As soon as I started diving into all the different wines there I was hooked, I wanted to try every wine I could & learn as much as possible. It wasn't until I did a harvest through my school though that I started getting drawn towards the production side of wine. After graduating, I decided to go out to Oregon & work at a winery in the Dundee Hills AVA to get some experience, this was what solidified my path for me into making wine. Post-harvest I moved back to North Carolina & started working at a local winery called Grandfather Vineyard & Winery, which is where I am today.

2) What is your current role and what does your day look like?

I'm the head winemaker where I work and honestly, each day looks very different. Some days I'll be pulling hoses and moving wine around while others will be running bench trials, blending trials, and tasting barrels/tanks to make sure things are moving in the right direction. It changes a lot from day to day which is something I enjoy about the job, but I like to be involved in the labor aspect as much as the more technical and scientific side of winemaking.

Will Burrow

3) What inspired you to become a winemaker?

I was drawn to start making wine as I got farther along in my studies in college. Once I learned about the more technical side of winemaking, such as growing grapes and the science that went along with making wine, I found myself being drawn toward the more artful side of wine. It is such an influential beverage with vast historical and cultural significance, and I think as well as being a very cerebral beverage with a lot of science going into its production it is also something that draws people together and is very communal in a sense. The more I learn about making great wine the more excited I get to share the results of my efforts with our customers and friends, that's what inspired me and continues to inspire me.

4) What are some of the most important skills for a winemaker?

Patience is a big one, as well as time management and being very detail oriented. When things need to get done, you get them done quickly and efficiently but you also need to know when less is more and to give wines time to develop to their full potential.

Tasting Room

5) How do you think a winemaker can help drive marketing and sales personally?

Winemakers can help provide vision to the branding side of the business, they (hopefully) have a style they are going for and also care a lot about the wines they're making so they can help flesh out the spirit of the wines being sold for the consumer. They can also help to build relationships with consistent customers, such as wine club members, and engage with people to help clarify why their product is special. It can help to put a face with a bottle of wine so that people know it is more than just a convenience product, it's a work of art that is the result of many people's hard work.

Will Burrow

6) Define a good winemaker.

Someone who has a strong work ethic, and also takes pride in what they do. They need to be on the ball, and efficient with their time while exercising good judgment to ensure that all wines are handled in a careful but timely manner.

7) What is the hardest part of a winemaker's job?

Probably time management, there's always something that needs to get done and there are only so many hours in the day to get things taken care of. Obviously, as a winemaker, you make sure the job gets done regardless of how long it takes but you also want to make sure you prioritize things well.

8) What do you do when you are not working/making wine?

I enjoy cooking, playing music, and spending time outdoors. I feel like food and wine go hand and hand so I draw a lot of enjoyment from both of them! If I can go on a hike, play some music with friends, and finish the day with a bottle of wine and a good meal then I've had a full day.

Tasting Room

9) What are the current challenges winemakers are facing according to you?

It depends on where you are, we are all facing various challenges. In North Carolina, we deal with a lot of weather issues. We have a lot of late frosts, a short growing season, and some pretty unpredictable weather that can affect the fruit we grow so we have to do all we can to make sure we can negate these issues. We have to get quite creative sometimes when making wines to ensure that we have consistent quality year to year.

10) What skill or topic you are learning currently in wine and why?

Currently, I am learning more about different wines of the world, I just recently passed my WSET 3 and it has provided me a wealth of knowledge about wine styles from around the globe. I feel like it is especially important in an emerging wine region such as NC to try to understand wine styles so that I can try to figure out which direction I'd like to take our wines, it helps to know where you've been when sorting out where you're headed so to speak!

11) What is your idea of a good life?

I think a life where you're surrounded by good friends, have the time to pursue hobbies and passions and can take pride in what you're doing or have done is a good life. It doesn't take much to be happy, as long as you're growing and finding happy moments with yourself and those around you.

12) Who are your top 3 sommeliers whose work you admire?

I'm not extremely familiar with a lot of sommeliers, but Rajat Parr is one who I have a lot of respect for. He's done a lot for the industry and also produces some amazing wines from what I hear! Personally really enjoy his appreciation for wine as well as the material he's published to help educate others. Brian McClintic is another one that I like, his view on natural wines and sustainable practices is something I think is refreshing. Madeline Puckette as well! The wine folly brand seems to be lowering the barrier of entry for many people looking to learn about and enjoy wine without having to tackle a mountain of technical knowledge. At the end of the day, more people drinking and enjoying wine is a win in my book.

13) Your favorite 2-3 wine books?

Sommeliers Atlas of Taste is one I like for brushing up on regions and producers, Wine and War is one that I am currently reading though I can tell it will be a book I'll recommend to others, and The Oxford Companion to Wine is one I find myself looking through very consistently as there is no shortage of information in that one!

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