17 episodes

The Stories Behind Wine podcast series features the people, places, and history that influence the world of wine. Produced by Napa Valley Wine Academy, America’s premier wine school and a WSET and Riedel Global Wine Educator of the Year.

The Stories Behind Wine Napa Valley Wine Academy

    • Food
    • 4.5, 35 Ratings

The Stories Behind Wine podcast series features the people, places, and history that influence the world of wine. Produced by Napa Valley Wine Academy, America’s premier wine school and a WSET and Riedel Global Wine Educator of the Year.

    Episode 17 – Rodrigo Soto – Journey to Biodynamics

    Episode 17 – Rodrigo Soto – Journey to Biodynamics

    In Episode 17, we sit down with winemaker Rodrigo Soto,

    In this episode, Christian Oggenfuss has the opportunity to sit down and reconnect with Rodrigo Soto a native of Chile and a passionate proponent of organic and biodynamic viticulture. Christian explores Rodrigo’s early years in Chile and how a chance meeting at a dinner party propelled him to introduce biodynamics in Chile and become one of the most respected Chilean winemakers. Today he is general manager for one of the most well known winery groups in the US, this is Rodrigo’s story.

    00:44 Rodrigo Soto: My name is Rodrigo Soto. I come from Chile. What I do in the wine business, currently, I'm the GM for Quintessa and I oversee the Huneeus Estates in Napa, and in the Sonoma Coast.

    00:57 Christian Oggenfuss: Great. So tell me, Rodrigo... Thanks for coming on the show, first of all, and I will let all our listeners know that we have worked together and we go way back, so I'm really looking forward to sitting down and talking to you. Tell me a little bit about your journey in the wine business. I know you're from Chile. When did you know that wine was something that you were maybe even just considering exploring?

    01:20 Rodrigo Soto: Well, first of all, thank you for having me, Chris. And just to go directly into the subject, Chile has a very rich culture in wine, in different aspects. Wine was always at the table in my house, regular wine, nothing fancy, nothing special, but was part of the diet all the time. At a very early age, I thought that... I was trying to become as independent as possible in terms of certain times of the year. My family used to have a beautiful house in a vacational town in the south of Chile, in Pucon, which is a lake district, very nice, but it was very expensive to go out. So I thought, "Well, I need to figure this out because I don't wanna be asking my parents all the time for permission, and also for cash." I was 15 when I started working as a waiter in a friend's restaurant. And going through that process, which I think is... I highly recommend it. Everybody should work in a restaurant at any stage in their life, because I think it's one of the most challenging professions around. And I'm sure everybody is gonna relate to that, about multitasking, physical work, concentration and being a host. The hosting part is not given. I mean, you have to learn it and train it in order to do it right, and sometimes you have very difficult clients as well.

    02:42 Rodrigo Soto: And going through that experience, which was in my summer time, when I was in high school, another time, was legal to be underage and working because it was kind of a temporary job, I always was asked about recommendations for wine. And as I knew wine, I felt that I can recommend, but it was a very unprofessional way of doing it, in my perspective. So that was at the time that I bought my first wine guide, and I start documenting myself about wine in a little more formal way. And at the time, Chile has only four or five main producers. There's not much to recommend that... We're talking about mid-90s. So it was quite easy to learn, and there was stronger wines, more tannic. And this was a steakhouse, so definitely, it didn't take me long, but that was my first connection.

    03:30 Rodrigo Soto: The other part was that I always saw myself working in an outdoor space. I never thought that I will be confined to an office. So that was a very strong part of the decision-making process for which career I will be studying. And I always thought that I would like to be outside, so agronomy, at the time, suits very well, what I was thinking. And that's what I apply,

    • 54 min
    Episode 16 – Vanessa Conlin – Journey to MW

    Episode 16 – Vanessa Conlin – Journey to MW

    In Episode 16, we sit down with Vanessa Conlin, MW.

    A note from Jonathan Cristaldi, editor of Napa Valley Wine Academy’s “Pouring Points” blog. 

    About a month ago, Christian Oggensfuss sat down with Vanessa Conlin, the Head of Wine at Wine Access to record this podcast. Since the recording, Conlin received the biggest news of her life—she had become a Master of Wine, one of just 467 in the world, and one of only 138 women to ever earn the credential. 

    Next to the Court of Master Sommeliers, becoming a full-fledged Master of the Institute of Masters of Wine can only be equated to reaching a state of Wine Nirvana—it is among the most scared, highest accolades achievable in wine, on par with becoming a Master Sommelier, and kind of like winning a James Beard Award for a wine writer, but separated by rather intense degrees of difficulty that really have to do with each individual’s drive and ability to truly master their craft.

    For close to three years, I served as editor-in-chief at Wine Access and I remember when Vanessa joined the team. She brought an immediate flair for fashion, a penchant for inspired conversation, and a keen, insider’s perspective on California wine—and wines from around the world. Her many experiences have introduced her to a host of elite wine world vintners and winemakers, and every step of her incredible journey has brought her to one of the greatest jobs in the wine industry. At Wine Access she heads a team dedicated to the careful curation of exceptional wines for consumers, all in the name of collecting and enjoying. 

    Her story begins in Manhattan when she sang opera and performed on Broadway and in this podcast, culminates just weeks before she was named a Master of Wine. Have a listen.


    02:00 Vanessa Conlin: So my name is Vanessa Conlin, I'm the head of wine for a company called Wine Access. So we are based here in California, but we are a national, e-com, direct-to-consumer wine retailer. Been around for over 20 years, and I've been with them for about three. And yeah, I love it, it's the best job in the world.

    02:17 Christian Oggenfuss: That's great. That's great. So, really interested in hearing about how you got into the wine business and how it all started. Rewind us a little bit back to the early, early years. Where did you grow up and what did life look like in the early years?

    02:31 Vanessa Conlin: Well, I did not grow up with wine. So, I actually... I come from a family of classical musicians. My dad is a symphony and a opera conductor, and my mother was an opera singer and now she does fundraising for arts organizations. But I spent my whole childhood sitting in rehearsals with the orchestra and I love music, not just classical, all kinds of music, and still do. But I just, I grew up thinking, "This is my path," and I never really considered anything else. My parents love wine now and they would have it maybe once every couple of months when they had people over for a dinner party, but it was not a part of my life at all in my formative years. I studied music, I have a Master's Degree in opera as a singer, I went to Manhattan School of Music and Boston University for grad school and after that, I went back to New York.

    03:19 Vanessa Conlin: I was kind of a starving artist for a while, ended up traveling a lot actually for opera, had the opportunity to travel to Europe, and that's really probably the first time I really started getting interested in wine. And then I spent some time in a show on Broadway, I was in Baz Luhrmann's La Bohème on Broadway; and that was a nice, steady gig, a Broadway show where you've got like your solid eight shows a we...

    • 34 min
    Episode 15 - Paul Mabray - Wine Industry's Digital Godfather

    Episode 15 - Paul Mabray - Wine Industry's Digital Godfather

    In Episode 15, we sit down with Paul Mabray, the digital godfather to the wine industry.  We discuss his career and metamorphosis from young beer salesman to one of the leading proponents of the transformation of the wine industry from one that has historically been technology adverse to an industry that needs to embrace the power of digital and social marketing and new routes to the consumer.

    • 41 min
    Episode 14 - Dr. Paulo Lopes - Myths and Truths of Cork

    Episode 14 - Dr. Paulo Lopes - Myths and Truths of Cork

    In Episode 14, we sit down with Dr. Paulo Lopes, a Portugues scientist and one the foremost experts on cork closures. We explore his journey from being a forest engineer to studying with some of the most influential wine minds at the University of Bordeaux, leading to his Masters and Ph.D. He has conducted some groundbreaking research that has dispelled some of the myths and long-held beliefs of the role of corks in the aging of wine.

    • 37 min
    Episode 13 – Dan Dawson, Recovering Wine Shop Owner

    Episode 13 – Dan Dawson, Recovering Wine Shop Owner

    In episode 13 of our ongoing podcast series, The Stories Behind Wine we speak to recovering wine shop owner, founder of Dawson Wine Advisors, and Napa native Dan Dawson. Dan's story starts with waiting tables, traveling to the midwest to sell Vouvray, to becoming the French Laundry's first sommelier, and founding Napa's most respected wine shops, and ultimately abandoning retail to stake his claim in the digital wine recommendation space. 

    Daniel Dawson: Wine Critic, Founder,President of Dan Dawson’s Wine Advisor

    • 41 min
    Episode 12 – Lisa Strid, Winemaker

    Episode 12 – Lisa Strid, Winemaker

    In episode 12 of our ongoing podcast series, The Stories Behind Wine we speak to winemakerLisa Strid. How did Lisa Strid, a Wyoming native, go from working for a wine industry behemoth to making wine in the high desert of Arizona? Find out on our next Stories Behind Wine podcast as we take you to one of America’s unexpected wine regions.

    • 40 min

Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5
35 Ratings

35 Ratings

WineladyK ,

My new “Must Listen”

Just listened for the first time. Myths and Truths about Cork. Great podcast! Engaging, informative, well produced. Perfect for wine pros or anyone who enjoys a nice glass of wine. Can’t wait for the next episode. 🍷

NapaNoms ,

Love this podcast!

I am new to podcasts, but I love love love this one!! I have just finished all of the interviews and cannot wait for more!! If you are at all interested in the wine industry, this podcast is interesting, clear, and well executed. Five stars!

Ty ,

Recommended for Wine Lovers

This podcast is a welcome addition to other wine related podcasts. I am a happy subscriber. I look forward to each new episode and love to hear the stories behind the people and wines in such a personal, conversational manner. Thank you, Napa Valley WIne Academy!

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