The Tale of a Great Wine
Mark’s winemaking career took a long and somewhat circuitous path. He began making beer at home with the help of his oldest brother and father at the age of twelve, and it became a hobby ever since. His mother was half Belgian, so the family always had beer or wine on the table, and his early affinity for the companionship of food and wine has significantly impacted his winemaking philosophy.
After studying chemistry and biology at UC Riverside and UC Santa Cruz, Mark took some time out from his academic studies to work in construction. At the age of 25, he went back to school at UC Davis to study enology and viticulture, working seasonally during harvest for a number of years thereafter. In 1990, inspired by the “live off the land” suggestion of some Europeans he met while at Davis, he and his family moved to their present ranch in Carmel Valley to start an artisan goat and sheep cheese dairy. After discovering that running a dairy and cheesemaking operation was like having harvest all year, if not every day, he decided to return to winemaking.
Mark took a crush job at Bernardus Winery under Don Blackburn in the fall of 1994, and ended up staying until the spring of 2005. First working in the cellar, then as Enologist, he eventually became Winemaker in January of 1999. He basically held every production job available at this 50,000 case winery. Mark notes that this was truly his real winemaking education: it taught him not only about winemaking, but also about the extreme importance and impact of farming. He candidly observes that wine is very easy to botch up in the winery, but it can never be better than the raw materials. Respect for this concept became the guiding force in his approach to the production of fine wine.