I’ve always loved horses. I had been very involved in Pony Club as a girl, focusing mainly on three day eventing, which is the combination of dressage, show jumping and cross country jumping. I fell in love with that challenging sport. Once married, I began a journey to find a horse of my own.
I was working as the assistant winemaker at Paradigm winery under Heidi Barrett at that time. I wanted a horse that I could take to shows, specifically three day eventing. So the search was on for an athletic, intelligent horse that I could train up. At the time, Ren Harris, the owner for Paradigm Winery, was trying to find a creative way to give me a bonus. He asked me if I would be willing to name the horse I found “Paradigm” in exchange for her purchase price.
I found a young, beautiful chestnut mare at the end of her short racing career. She proved to be the most challenging and dynamic horse I have ever worked with – she has taught me more about horses than I had ever hoped to know. She has taken me down a path of training that has broadened my ideas about horses and my relationship with them as well.
Before I owned a red mare I was unaware of the reputation that they have. Now, it seems that everyone knew about their vivacious and saucy nature except me! I love her personality and energy and life. She is constantly teaching me that I don’t have all the answers and that we have to work together as a team to be successful. This is a life lesson that I will carry with me always. Naming my wine brand Red Mare is a bit of homage to Ren Harris and Paradigm Winery.
- Anne Vawter, Winemaker/Owner
Q: How did a dairy farmer’s daughter from Washington State become a consulting winemaker in Napa with her own brand?
A: It’s a long story, but mainly it has to do with three pivotal elements: my father, Bruce McKendry, UC Davis, and Heidi Barrett. Heidi is really the only reason that I have a consulting career.
Q: How did your dad, a dairy farmer from Washington State, influence your career choice?
A: My dad was the one who really introduced me to wine. I was baptized in to wine by tasting Leonetti, L’Ecole No. 41, and other wines from the Walla Walla Valley in Washington. I was on track to become a dentist when my dad (purely with selfish motives) informed me of UC Davis’s winemaking program. It was an easy decision.
Q: What did you learn from getting your Bachelors of Science in Enology and Viticulture from UC Davis that got you where you are?
A: Everything! UC Davis really taught me critical thinking skills, and gave me the scientific base that I need to problem solve and develop a sound winemaking and viticultural philosophy. It also introduced me to a lot of wonderful friends and colleagues. In fact, one of my friends from Davis is the reason why I got my job at Paradigm Winery. I was working at St. Supery when she called me to see if I would be interested in her position as Assistant Winemaker at Paradigm.
Q: When did you first start working with Heidi?
A: I met Heidi when I started working for her at Paradigm Winery in Oakville, CA. I loved working with her, tasting with her, blending with her and chatting with her. I have really tried to adopt her style because I love the simplicity and honesty that she brings to winemaking. Even now I ask myself, “What would Heidi do?” when I run into a fork in the road.
Q: What was your favorite experience working with Heidi?
A: My favorite times when I was working as her assistant were on days when we blended. It was such a pleasure to watch her expertly blend an array of different wines to become one beautiful, complete wine. She is an inspiration - blending is still my favorite part of winemaking.
Q: How did Heidi have such a big influence on your career as a consulting winemaker?
A: When I was considering moving on from Paradigm Winery I asked Heidi if the consulting track was a good one for me. She was very encouraging and supportive. Every client that I have today, including the relationships that I have with my investors for Red Mare, is because of Heidi. I am so honored to have her as a mentor and friend, and I'm a huge fan of her own label called La Sirena.
Q: Who are you consulting for now?
A: I make wine for: Ziata Wines, Oakville Ranch Vineyards, Teaderman Vineyards and of course, Red Mare Wines!
Q: What wine varietals are you currently making?
A: Mostly Cabernet Sauvignon but I also make Cabernet Franc, Pinot Noir, Petite Sirah, Sauvignon Blanc, and Chardonnay.
Q: How did you design the label for Red Mare Wines?
A: My sister Karen Minton is a very talented artist. I had a clear idea of what I wanted the label to look like. I love those old paintings of fox hunting scenes. The inspiration for our red mare is based on a beautiful painting called: Lord Rivers Groom Leading Chestnut Hunter at Coursing Party in Hampshire 1807 by Jacques Laurent Agasse. Karen did an amazing job at capturing the inner tension and movement of the red mare depicted in the painting for the image on our label.
Q: You keep busy, but you obviously have more than wine in your life. What else?
A: [Laughter] Oh yes. Besides my consulting business and my own wine brand, I also manage and live at Blossom Creek Farm, a horse ranch in Calistoga, CA where my red mare, Paradigm, and my mustang, Johnny Cash, live along with 14 chickens, a cat, a dog, and a bee hive. But most importantly, I have two beautiful daughters (18 months and 3 years) with my super, amazing supportive husband Cameron Vawter (Director of Wine & Grape Production at Dana Estates in Rutherford, CA). Oh yes, I keep busy, but when we have free time, my husband and I love to go rock climbing in the Sierras or sailing on the San Francisco Bay.
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