Master of Wine (MW) is a qualification (not an academic degree) issued by The Institute of Masters of Wine in the United Kingdom. The MW qualification is generally regarded in the wine industry as one of the highest standards of professional knowledge. Join us to meet each Master of Wine in our monthly Masters of Wine interview. Nova Cadamatre was the first female winemaker in the US to achieve the title of Master of Wine and one of only a few American winemakers to do so. As one of the first graduates of Cornell’s Viticulture and Enology program in 2006, Nova relocated to California to assume a number of winemaking roles with many iconic wineries including Beringer, Chateau St. Jean, Chateau Souverain, and at Robert Mondavi Winery.
Dear Nova, thanks for joining our Master of Wine series. Let’s start by congratulating you on such a great achievement; The first female winemaker in the USA, who received the ‘’Master of Wine’’ title. Can you tell us what this title means to you and how this affects other female winemakers who want to become a Master of Wine?
Thank you! To me, the title means more about my ability to push through challenges and accomplish amazing things than it does about my general wine knowledge. It took me 8 years to accomplish and was the most challenging thing I’ve done in my life. I hope that it inspires other women (and winemakers in general) to pursue it.
Did you always dream about pursuing a career as a winemaker?
Ha! No. I wasn’t even aware this was a career option until I was halfway through college. I changed my major to viticulture once I started getting interested in vineyards after a conversation with my then-boyfriend, now husband. He said “We should start a vineyard. My family in Italy did it. It can’t be that hard.” Turns out it was really hard but we are on our way with Trestle Thirty One and Snowshell Vineyards in NY and our new brand, Fiadh Ruadh in Napa.
You work(ed) with iconic wineries like To Kalon, Vine Hill Ranch, MacDonald, Detert, Hyde Vineyard, and Robert Mondavi Winery. How did you build up your portfolio and which skill set did you bring to the table which got you so far?
To be fair, To Kalon, Vine Hill, MacDonald, Detert, and Hyde are all vineyards that I worked with while at Robert Mondavi. I just looked for opportunities throughout my career to learn new things. When you are constantly curious and open to learning and willing to put yourself in the deep end, you move up quickly. I think the most important skill that I brought to any table I sit at is creativity. When you can think outside the box about a lot of things it allows you to see patterns in the industry that maybe others might miss.
Pinot Noir is equivalent to Napa Valley. Can you describe the magic of this region and why this wine is so special?
I think Sonoma is more well known for Pinot Noir at this point and Napa is most well known for Cabernet Sauvignon and other Bordeaux varieties. The area is perfectly primed for great Cabernet by having hot days but cool nights due to the marine layer that comes in from the Pacific Ocean. The soils are incredibly diverse also which allows for a lot of complexity when blending from sites all over the valley.
Last year you gave birth to your child (during Covid) How did you experience this time? How did you manage your time as a winemaker and being a mom?
My youngest was born in 2020 a few months after everything shut down. When I was still pregnant the shutdown was great because I had nowhere to go. I could really focus on the last few months with my oldest being an only child and also making sure I was comfortable. By being able to work from home, I was able to avoid the swelling and other issues that most women face during the last trimester. Now it’s odd because my youngest has never seen other people without a mask on. He’s only been in a grocery store once and his eye was SO wide the entire time taking everything in. There is so much of the world he hasn’t seen yet because of the pandemic and us trying to keep him safe. I can’t wait for him to really get out and explore.
Managing being a winemaker and a mom is just like everything else. It’s a balancing act. Now that I’m consulting full time, I have more control over my schedule so I can be available if there is a school event or just to walk to pick up my oldest from school in the afternoon which gives me a nice break from the workday.
Which alcohol-free wines did you discover during your pregnancy?
I didn’t delve into alcohol-free wines at all but LOVE Seedlip non-alcoholic spirits. I used them to make mocktails during my pregnancy and it gives you a nice option when so much is just off limits while you are growing a baby.
Can you tell us more about the Vintage Report Napa? How did you work together with Vintage Report Napa?
I was the keynote speaker for the 2019 Vintage Report in Napa in January of 2020. I was so honored to be selected for this since it was an opportunity to talk about what I saw during the 2019 vintage in Napa and how I interpreted the vintage in our wines.
Which young winemakers should we look out for in 2022?
Goodness. There are so many exciting new winemakers right now, it’s hard to name just one. I’m still a huge fan of Kelby Russell at Red Newt in the Finger Lakes. He’s doing really exciting stuff there. I also loved my team at Robert Mondavi Winery consisting of Kurtis Ogasawara and Lauren Oliver. They are super talented, and I loved hearing their ideas and passion come through in the blending room.
Are there any exciting projects you currently working on?
Yes! I have so many exciting projects that I’m working on right now. The first is the launch of our new Napa Cabernet, Fiadh Ruadh (pronounced Fay-ah Roo-ah) which is Gaelic for “Untamed Red Deer”. I thought it was a great name to highlight both my husband and my Scottish heritage and my newfound freedom in my winemaking career.
Another project which is in the works is a book about overcoming failure and the life lessons which helped me build the resilience and grit to accomplish the MW. So many people have asked me about that so I thought it would be good to write about it.
I’m also working on a winery building for our New York brands in the Finger Lakes which I’m designing to be able to not only house our own brands but also offer custom winemaking to others in the area.
Finally, I have some really exciting clients right now including one of the most ambitious vineyard resort projects in Ohio, which was the wine capital of the US prior to prohibition. It’s going to be a lot of fun finding out what is possible there. Another project is a vineyard development here in Napa which will be absolutely amazing. It’s in a hidden valley within Napa just at the base of Atlas Peak and I can’t wait to see what the fruit is going to look like there.
Which Master of Wine shall I interview next?
You should reach out to Martin Reyas, MW. He has a fascinating background and was the first MW of Mexican heritage which is really impressive!
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