Seriously skilled Ondine wants to prove that wine can be an affordable luxury
One of the top winemaking talents in Sonoma, Ondine Chattan worked for famous US wineries, including Ridge Vineyards and Cline Cellars. She also spent decades overseeing the iconic Geyser Peak winery.
Geyser Peak was the long-time winemaking home of Naked legend Daryl Groom – and it’s where Ondine and him met. That was a decade ago, and they’ve been great mates ever since.
Ondine is awestruck by the wine community Angels have built – and she wants to help it grow. “I truly connect to people through the wines I make,” she said. “The stories of the growers, the vineyards, and the process behind the wine are as vital to me as grapes.”
A California native raised in Marin County, Ondine spent many childhood summer breaks in wine country, and fell in love with the region at a young age. While attending Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo, (and thinking she might want to become a writer) Ondine discovered viticulture – and it was the start of a life in wine.
“Somehow, I just knew at that moment that I wanted to make a career of winemaking,” she said.
The formative years
After graduating from Cal Poly, Ondine spent her formative winemaking years at Cline Cellars in Sonoma, where she was introduced to a fringe arm of the wine industry. “At Cline, there was tremendous energy and enthusiasm,” said Ondine. This was the heyday of ZAP and organizations like the Rhone Rangers who were challenging a lot of accepted norms in the industry. “I forged relationships with some of the great luminaries of the time,” she explained. “The industry was very sincere, and there was a wonderful sense of community – much like what I see being created at nakedwines.com.”
After two years at Cline, Ondine entered graduate school with the rare (at the time) opportunity to make commercial-sized trial lots for a graduate research program at Fresno State. Working on her own research as well as all other projects underway by the Viticulture and Enology Research Center at Fresno State, Ondine became an active researcher, lecturer and member of the industry.
“Those were two very defining years in my life and helped to lay a foundation of global awareness, understanding of the industry as a community, and the possibility of making an impact personally,” she said.
Returning to Healdsburg after a few years away
After grad school, Ondine spent “two blessed years” at Ridge Vineyards, where she spent two years learning about native yeast fermentations and other-than-Napa & Sonoma wine regions.
Homesick for the community she had left, Ondine accepted an offer to work as a winemaker for Healdsburg’s Geyser Peak Winery.
“It was a magical time,” she said. “Marriage to my college sweetheart, I was again incredibly fortunate to be hired by Geyser Peak Winery – a winery for whom I had done research trials while at Fresno State. From the first moments of the interview I knew I had found my winemaking home.”
The Daryl Groom decade
Ondine spent 18 years with the Geyser Peak brand, seeing the winery through several changes in ownership. In 2017, she joined Cannonball Wine Company, where she works with boutique Napa and Sonoma vineyards and broader-sourced California wines that “keep me in touch with the state’s many amazing viticultural regions and growers.”
It was at Geyser Peak where Ondine forged her decades-long friendship with 8-time Winemaker of the Year and champion Angel-funded winemaker Daryl Groom – their bond strengthened over decades collaborating at the Healdsburg flagship - and they remain close today. In fact, it was Daryl who introduced Online to nakedwines.com, and encouraged her to get on board with a new kind of winemaking.
She gently nudged him to do a little collaborative wine project together, too!
That's one of the things Ondine loves about the industry – relationships endure. “Winemakers become fast friends. We all seem to have an awareness of being connected at the most basic, fundamental, earth-tied level. I am in awe of this every day.”
Embracing the purity of winemaking
Today, Ondine defines herself as a no-nonsense, no-gimmick winemaker. “I am in love with the industry, but not foolishly so,” she explains. “ I believe in affordable luxury and value for money and tapping into a collective psyche. The stories of the growers, the vineyards, and the process behind the wine are just as big a storyline.”
Ondine values the sense of community in wine – and it’s something she loves having in common with Angels. “I truly connect to people through the wines I make,” she explains. “My ‘interpretation’ of a wine is an attempt to transport a customer to another place – to elevate the story and origin of the wine.”
As for what she’s most looking forward to as a nakedwines.com winemaker? Well…
“I am so excited to be a part of a winemaking community that isn't driven by what has become the standard wine industry protocol,” said Ondine. “I want to be a part of the disruption of the three tier system, an alternative to the large corporations telling consumers what to drink, a part of breaking down the barriers that shame wine lovers away from drinking what they enjoy. I want to re-embrace the purity of winemaking.”
Good thing Angels are helping her do just that.
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