Wine Women – Sierra Zeiter, Oak Farm Vineyards
Sierra Zeiter immediately impressed us with her passion and strong instincts. We were a little surprised to hear that she told her parents she wanted to be a winemaker long before she was of drinking age! (She does not come from a wine business family!) But she knew it was the career path that she wanted to pursue. As the conversation evolved, we learned Sierra’s always had strong intuition and direction which have served her exceptionally well.
Tune in to learn about Sierra’s award-winning wines and background. She was born and raised in Stockton, California. She graduated from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, majoring in Wine and Viticulture with a concentration in Enology. Of course, she made the usual winemaker stops along her career path to intern and work as an assistant winemaker.
Best of all, she had the smarts to jump on board with Oak Farm Vineyards in Lodi, California, and learn from a generous mentor who eventually turned over all winemaking duties to her – all while in her early 20’s!
Oak Farm Vineyards is a family owned and operated estate winery that was originally home to William DeVries and his wife Cornelia Crowe, which William purchased in 1860. At the time, the Lodi area was called “Elkhorn Township.” DeVries was a wheat farmer, raised cattle, and even became a Justice of the Peace.
The beautiful colonial style home (shown on the website) was built by William in 1876. The property has been largely renovated with great attention to its heritage. The ranch was known throughout the San Joaquin Valley as one of the most magnificent and beautiful pieces of property within the state. DeVries was an enthusiastic lover of trees, particularly of oaks, and on the home ranch, he never allowed a tree to be cut unless it was a menace. Today, many of the property’s enormous oaks still stand, along with the DeVries family burial plot.
Fast forward a few decades: The Panella family arrived in the region in 1936 and began an agricultural journey that ultimately culminated with the purchase of Oak Farm in 2004. As a third generation California Farmer, Dan Panella reveled in undertaking the task of replanting the property’s 60 acres of vineyards in 2012 to fulfill the vast potential of Lodi. Dan leads a talented team of agricultural specialists to build a diverse portfolio of wines made from estate fruit and selectively sourced grapes.
As we heard this historic story, Sierra tasted us through her Oak Farm Vineyards 2019 Rosé, Silvaspoons Vineyards, a project she shepherded through from inception to winning Best in Class at the 2020 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition. Not a bad start (wink, wink) for her first solo line extension project!
The Oak Farm Vineyards 2018 Zinfandel, Mohr-Fry Ranches – Block 417 Vineyard, made from vines planted back in 1945, was another stunner in Sierra’s portfolio. With only 467 cases made, it’s sure to go fast!
Listen in to learn about Sierra’s journey and her success as Winemaker at Oak Farm Vineyards in Lodi.