Meet Blake Wood
A Napa native, Blake is a licensed Pest Control Advisor and earned his B.S. in AG Business and Wine and Viticulture from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo. As a Viticulturist and Vineyard Manager, Blake has collaborated with numerous winemaking teams to develop many of the top wines produced in Napa Valley, farming the vines responsible for more than thirty 100-point scores.
"Farming is a labor of love. Mountain vineyards, being more challenging to navigate, take it up a notch. The rugged terrain and varied aspects make the site entirely unique. Terraces often curve around the face of a hillside, creating different ripening environments within the same row. Farming practices are highly targeted to the vine level. In the presence of the enormous oaks and furs, the madrones and manzanitas that closely surround the vineyard blocks, you can't help but feel a bit of reverence for the mountain. It's fun to later appreciate the wines that are so reflective of this special place."
How did you get started in viticulture?
Growing up in Napa, I was very aware of the wine business and its importance within this community. While attending Cal Poly, I took an internship in the cellar. I discovered so much passion and history there. I learned to appreciate the artistic element of winemaking that, in some ways, hasn’t changed at all in thousands of years and, in other ways, is highly technical and evolved. From the vineyard to the cellar, and of course, the hospitality team, inviting guests to experience what we’ve all worked so diligently to create, it was very special to me. The following summer, I returned for an internship to work in the vineyards. Immediately I was hooked.
Growing from an internship in the vineyards to the Director of Vineyard Operations is an incredible journey and notable accomplishment. Was this something you had planned to achieve?
In a way, yes. Initially, I was interested in the business side. While working in vineyards, I discovered my passion for wine growing. Wine is an art and a craft, as well as a culture. I enjoy exploring these elements, working with my team, and tending these vineyards to create wines people love.
How did you begin working with your mentors?
When I graduated from college, I was looking for an opportunity that provided certain things I knew would keep me motivated: quality materials, high table stakes, and good people. I found a position with a premium viticultural consulting company working with a fantastic list of clients hyper-focused on quality. It was here that I worked beside two amazing viticulturists who cared deeply for their clients. The level of passion, knowledge, and humanity in their day-to-day operations shaped how I approach my relationships today.
How did starting your professional career with a role in a consulting firm impact your journey?
The consulting framework meant I had access to many vineyards and management teams. It was fantastic exposure. I had the good fortune to access many iconic individuals, really top names in Napa Valley wine. The value was immeasurable. In sports, you practice repetitions to improve. In farming, you don’t have that luxury. You see one harvest a year. Over your career, you’re only getting 30, maybe 40 vintages. A person can pass on years of accumulated learnings in a simple conversation. Wine is amazing this way. It is exciting to be a link in a chain that extends as far back as recorded history.
What excites you about working on Mount Veeder?
Farming is a labor of love. Mountain vineyards, being more challenging to navigate, take it up a notch. We have treasured plantings from the 90s up there, old soldiers, and wonderful vines, but you can't help but wonder what the potential is of the young vines we have recently planted across the three vineyards. We saw a tiny bit of fruit last year, and I have high hopes for this vintage and those to come from this next generation of vines.
How does the landscape of Mount Veeder Winery differ from the other vineyards you manage?
The rugged terrain and varied aspects make the site entirely unique. Terraces often curve around the face of a hillside, creating different ripening environments within the same row. Farming practices are highly targeted to the vine level.
What makes the wines of Mount Veeder special to you?
We talk a lot about site-specific wines in our trade. In the presence of the enormous oaks and firs, the madrones and manzanitas that closely surround the vineyard blocks, you can't help but feel a bit of reverence for the mountain. It's fun to later appreciate the wines that are so reflective of this special place.
Final question: You’ve had a fantastic day and it’s dinner time. What’s on your table?
A home-cooked meal with a Napa Cab surrounded by family and friends. I’m blessed to end most days this way.