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Monday, August 29, 2011

MOVERS AND SHAKERS: Nova McCune Cadamatre, Winemaker

Originally from Greer, South Carolina, Nova McCune Cadamatre moved to New York to pursue Horticulture when what began as a research paper on grapevine diseases at SUNY Morrisville turned into a love of wines and vines. 

By the fall of 2003 this passion had manifested itself as several unpaid internships at wineries in Southeast Pennsylvania including harvest work, general cellar work, pressing and cleaning. This willingness to work and learn at all levels of a winery, led to a part time job as Apprentice Winemaker to John Weygant of Stargazers Vineyard in Coatesville, PA. Under John’s tutelage she specialized in cooler climate varietals and traditional method sparkling wine which would further develop her passion for winemaking.

The following year she moved back to the Finger Lakes of New York and began working as the Winemakers Assistant at Thirsty Owl Wine Company in Ovid, NY under the guidance of winemaker, Shawn Kime. Over the next two years she attended Cornell University’s School of Ag and Life Sciences for Viticulture and Enology which formalized her training and allowed her to better understand the dynamics of winemaking. While at Cornell, she became involved with a financial study headed by Constellation Wines U.S., which ultimately led to a senior year internship with the company.

As one of the first graduates of Cornell’s Undergraduate Viticulture and Enology program in 2006, Nova and her husband bid farewell to New York and moved to California with Constellation Wines U.S. as an Assistant Winemaker at Mission Bell Winery. She was soon promoted to Winemaker and put in charge of the Sparkling Wine department which included brands such as Cook’s California Champagne, Le Domaine California Champagne, J. Roget California Champagne, Chase-Limogere, and several United Kingdom import brands including Echo-Falls and Jack Rabbit sparkling wines. She also worked on the Echo-Falls Pinot Grigio and Rose wines. While with Constellation Wines U.S., she developed and produced the Woodbridge by Robert Mondavi Brut Sparkling Wine which released in early 2010. In 2009, she moved to Northern California to work under Ed Killian as the Assistant winemaker for Souverain in the Alexander Valley. She was promoted to winemaker in 2011. 

Currently she is the Winemaker in charge of luxury wines at Asti Winery in the Alexander Valley, brand winemaker for Emma Pearl, and Associate Winemaker for Souverain. Nova is a WSET Diploma Graduate and a Second year Master of Wine student.  We are pleased to present Nova McCune Cadamatre as our latest Mover and Shaker.  Peachy Deegan interviewed Nova McCune Cadamatre for Whom You Know.

Peachy Deegan: How long have you been into wine and what first sparked your interest?
Nova McCune Cadamatre: This year will be my 9th harvest. My interest was first sparked when I was researching plant diseases in my plant pathology class at SUNY Morrisville. I was writing a paper on diseases affecting grape vines, and that led into a personal interest in grapevines and the products that are made from them: predominantly wine of course! 

How does wine vary around the different parts you have lived in in terms of content, style and consumption?
East coast and West coast winemaking vary quite a bit. On the East Coast, the style is lighter, with higher acids, lower alcohols, and it is very Old World inspired. West Coast winemaking is more fruit and oak dominant. Wines have higher alcohols, and there is a bigger emphasis on winemaker influence. It’s the quintessential New World region. In terms of consumption I feel that people in both the North East and California have wine as part of their culture, while in the South, where I grew up, wine is less established.

What internships were the most valuable to you and why?
The Longwood Gardens internship was incredibly valuable because I learned there that I didn’t want to pursue a career in public horticulture. I fully recommend that people who are going through college to work in a chosen field should get some work experience in that field before graduation. It helps confirm your path or decide a new one. I worked for several different wineries, unpaid, to learn more about the industry while working at Longwood, and that taught me how much I really wanted to be in the wine industry. 

What parts of the world have you been to to learn about wine and how have they influenced you?
As an MW student you need to look at the wine industry from a global perspective. It’s as important to know what the industry trends and traditions are in your own country as well as others, and through the MW program I’ve been able to do that. I’m very inspired by Old Worldwinemaking and using unusual varieties in my blends. That’s why there is Viognier in the Emma Pearl Chardonnay and Carignan in the Emma Pearl Merlot. I want to make wines that speak to their regions while remaining approachable for the “non-wine geek” population.

Who do you most admire in the alcohol industry and why?
There are so many people who inspire me everyday in the industry. It’s really hard to pick just one person. I know so many winemakers, writers, vineyard managers, teachers and consumers that are passionate about the industry and are working to make as many people as possible as passionate about wine as they are. This is one industry that does not want for amazing and incredible people.

When you are not drinking what you've made, what do you like to drink and what about it entices you to drink it?
I love Champagne! I really love the balance required and texture of the bubbles. The mix of chalky minerals, zesty fruit, and yeasty notes just make for one really fantastic drink. It goes with so many types of foods as well.

What or who has had the most influence on your pursuit of excellence?
My family has had the most influence on my pursuit of excellence. My mother always used to quote my grandfather by saying “If something is worth doing, it’s worth doing well!” That along with “Live every day as it’s your last” is my life motto. My husband has also played a huge role in my career by supporting every crazy idea I’ve had as well as adding a few of his own. I could not have accomplished all that I have with out the unfailing support of my family.

What are you proudest of and why?
I’m most proud of all that I’ve been able to accomplish so far in my career at such a young age. In the last 5 years, I’ve graduated from Cornell, moved across the country, been the lead winemaker on two very different brands, launched several new products nationally, and managed to keep furthering my education through the WSET and the MW program. Looking back, I don’t know how it all happened but I’m very proud that I’ve been able to meet every opportunity head on.

What would you like to do professionally that you have not yet had the opportunity to do?
I’d love to work some harvests in other countries. In Europe, I want to work a harvest in Champagne, Mosel, and Burgundy and in the Southern Hemisphere, Central Otago or Marlborough, NZ and spend some time in Clare Valley, Australia. I don’t know if they will all happen but I think that any of them would be really great!

What honors and awards have you received in your profession?
No major awards or honors however the Emma Pearl wines have been very highly rated by major wine publications such as Wine Spectator and of course websites such as yours!

What is your favorite place to be in Manhattan?
Rockefeller Plaza right before Christmas. I love the city during the holidays. It seems everyone is more friendly and excited during that time of year, and even though there are tons of tourists at Rockefeller Plaza during that time of year, it all seems very magical. I’m going back for Thanksgiving this year and I’m super excited about it!

What is your favorite shop in Manhattan?
Tiffany’s! Hey, a girl can dream can’t she? 

What is your favorite drink?
My favorite non-alcoholic drink is soda water and lime. It’s so refreshing, no calories, and it’s got bubbles! What’s not to like?

What is your favorite Manhattan book?
The Devil Wears Prada. Katie is in fashion in NYC and I always think of how hard she’s worked to get where she is when I read that book. Plus it’s a great book!

If you could have anything in Manhattan named after you what would it be and why?
I still love gardens and gardening so I’d love to have a section of the Conservatory Gardens in Central Park named for me and planted with roses with unique shades of color like green, orange, and purple!

What has been your best Manhattan athletic experience?
Running to catch the train in Grand Central Station. Does that count?

What is your favorite thing to do in Manhattan that you can do nowhere else?
Visit the Museum of Natural History! The rocks and gems section is my favorite. I’m really interested in geology and how certain types of rocks and gems are formed. I love that the subway stop has tiled mosaics of animals just for the museum as well. 

What do you personally do or what have you done to give back to the world?
I raise money for Diabetes research through bike rides put on by the American Diabetes Association. It runs in my family and is highly prevalent in the South so it’s very important to me. The next one is in 2012 here in Napa! 

What do you think is most underrated and overrated here?
Relaxing in NY is very underrated. It’s so much fun to grab a Nathan’s hot dog or two from a corner vendor, sit on a bench and just people watch for a while. Overrated? Driving in the city. No one should ever have to do that!

Other than Movers and Shakers of course, what is your favorite Whom You Know column and what do you like about it?
I like the Champagne Wishes column because that’s where you gave glowing reviews to my Emma Pearl Wines!!

Have you drank The Peachy Deegan yet and if not, why not? 
I have not tried it because they don’t have it on the West coast yet…

What else should Whom You Know readers know about you?
I have my own blog at that covers all things wine related. 

How would you like to be contacted by Whom You Know readers?
Readers can follow me on Twitter @NovaCadamatre

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