The following is the first in a series of interviews with the Revel winemaking team.
We recently sat down with “the new kid on the vineyard,” Noel Schaff. At 29 years old, she is our youngest winemaker and particularly inspiring, both for her infectious energy and her unfaltering drive.
Tell us your background?
I was born and raised in Los Angeles and I got my degree in Environmental Geology Science from Boston College.
How did that lead you to wine?
When I returned to California after college, I was trying to figure out what to with my geology degree. I knew I loved science, loved being outside and loved food. This led me to the wine industry. I found an opportunity with Hahn Family Wines and I begged my way into an entry-level harvest intern position.
That was only six years ago and now you’re a winemaker. How did you accomplish that?
The first year, 2011, was a really difficult vintage and harvest for everyone. We had to use some real winemaking magic. I worked with the winemaker, Juan Jose, and he trained me to operate the Flash Détente, which helps fix problematic grapes. I learned quickly and soon mastered the machine. The next year, I was promoted to Assistant Winemaker. At every opportunity I got, I jumped in and tried to learn something new. When Juan Jose became the Winemaker for Jaimeson Ranch Vineyards, he invited me to join him and I became the Production Winemaker here.
Explain your style of winemaking?
I have a very practical approach, which comes from how I’ve learned winemaking, from the cellar up. I’ve had a very hands-on education, versus a textbook education, so I tend to think that way. My philosophy is to follow the grapes and coax the best out of them.
How would you describe yourself?
I’m very outgoing and social. I easily get along with new groups of people and have no problem introducing myself. Perhaps its because I find humor in everything and love joking around.
What had the most impact on your career and why?
Landing with Juan Jose and being introduced to Bill Leigon at Hahn Family Wines, which introduced me to a vast network of winemakers, consultants and people in the business. Also, learning the Flash Détente process gave me a special advantage and I developed a unique niche in industry that sets me apart from other young winemakers.
Do you have a motto you live by or want to share?
Yes! The wine industry is about passion, and anyone can make it if they grab hold of that passion and work hard. This industry is about making something that pleases people and it is open to anybody who wants to succeed and have fun in the process.