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Anaba Winery exterior.

Anaba Wines in Sonoma

By Published On: September 4th, 2022

Interview with Katy Wilson, Anaba Wines Winemaker

Some wineries embody a region. Anaba Wines encompasses the best of Sonoma’s past, present and future.

The winery was founded by John Sweazey in the 1970’s, after he fell in love with wine in Napa, and then Europe.  

After almost a year of traveling through Europe, he was inspired to bring the spirit of culture and hospitality to wine country in California. He picked Sonoma, believing it had the best blend of microclimates to nurture the grape varieties that he connected with in the Rhone Valley and Burgundy.  

Today, the Anaba estate rests on the western corner of Carneros, buffeted by cool Pacific breezes. The sloping vineyards, the breezes and the sustainable farming produce optimal grapes for Anaba’s award-winning wines. Anaba is small, family-owned and operated, with a warm and welcoming hospitality center.

Visitors can hit the bocce ball or paddle tennis courts, enjoy wood-fired pizza, or just sit back, enjoy the view and sip wines in the unpretentious farmstead setting.  

We interview Anaba Winemaker, Katy Wilson to learn more.

Anaba Winery owner John Sweazey during his youth in the French Countryside.
John Sweazey during his youth traveled to the French Countryside and fell in love with wine.

Katy Wilson: Our Elements Tasting which features our 2018 Chardonnay, Sonoma Coast, 2021 Turbine Rosé of Grenache, 2018 Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast, 2019 Turbine Red, Rhône Blend, and our club exclusive 2018 Pinot Noir, Westlands is our most popular tasting experience.

We also recently came out with our Pinot, Pizza, Bocce experience, which features a tasting of all our Pinot Noirs, along with wood-fired pizzas made with all local and organic ingredients, along with a two-hour bocce court reservation.

Anaba Winery wine, pizza, bocce experience.
Enjoy Anaba’s Pinot, Pizza, Bocce Experience. Sip on a flight featuring all of their Pinot Noirs. Photo Courtesy Taylor Clark.

What type of wine do you specialize in?

Katy Wilson: At Anaba, we are deeply inspired by Burgundian and Rhône-style wines. We have a vast portfolio of wines with small case production ranging from classic Pinot Noir and Chardonnay to our single varietal Grenache Blanc, and Late Harvest Viognier dessert wine.

What makes your wine unique?

Katy Wilson: I believe that one of the things that make my wines unique is that they are wines that you can drink upon release, but that can also age.

This is a very difficult balance to achieve. If you focus only on your wines being ready at release, then you may pay more attention to aromatics and freshness. If you focus only on aging, then you may pay more attention to body and structure. I try to find that balance that allows for both.

Pouring wine at Anaba Winery.
The Define Series, which is ever-evolving and gives Anaba a chance to experiment through many different avenues to learn, explore, evolve, and improve their winemaking tactics and sustainability practices. Photo Courtesy Bex Wyant.

What’s one thing you wish more people knew about your winery?

Katy Wilson: Sustainability is a part of every conversation we have whether it is on the production side, in the tasting room, or in our offices. Sustainability is not just a marketing tactic to make us look good. It is a priority to everyone here at Anaba.

We take great pride in having been the first winery in Northern California to utilize wind power. With the addition of our solar panels, we are 100% carbon neutral and we are sometimes able to send power back to the grid to help support the local community. In our Estate JMcK Vineyard and with the family-owned vineyards that we work with across So, we are all working the land with the mindset of passing it on to future generations.

Describe your winemaking approach.  

Katy Wilson: I like to let the vineyards speak for themselves, so my intention is to be as hands-off as possible. I do this in a thoughtful way. I am very careful about when and how much I expose my wines to oxygen through fermentation and aging.

I also top off my barrels often and pay close attention to how the wines are tasting through the aging process. I love that no vintage is the same. I strive to showcase maximum vineyard expression, allowing for the unique nuances of each vintage to shine through, while simultaneously allowing for my style to shine through as well.

Anaba Winery is dog friendly.
Dogs enjoy a visit to Anaba Wines too. Photo Courtesy Bex Wyant.

What’s your favorite wine right now?

Katy Wilson: Our 2021 Turbine Rose of Grenache always surprises people with how delicious it tastes. We love pairing it with pesto salmon, our in-house onion dip, and our brand new brunch board.

Our 2017 Define Series Pinot Noir is delicious on its own, but paired with one of our wood-fired pizzas (specifically the Calabre Pizza, with pepperoni, spicy honey, and arugula) our wine is really able to shine through and reflect a balanced silkiness. 

What do you love about winemaking?  

Katy Wilson: I love that no two years are the same. I am constantly learning and adapting along with the vintages. I also love the seasonality of making wine. As a winemaker, I am very in tune with the seasons, and my job changes throughout the year. Harvest is still my favorite time of year. 

Anaba Winery Winemaker Katy Wilson.
Katy Wilson, from Anaba Wines, checks on a vineyard. Photo Courtesy Bex Wyant.

How did you get started in the wine industry?

I was raised in a small agricultural town in California where my parents owned a hay-hauling business, as well as a walnut orchard. I grew up immersed in the world of agriculture and was never afraid to get my hands dirty, whether it be driving tractors or pruning walnut trees. It was no surprise when I set my sights on a degree in Agricultural Business at Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo. During my freshman year, in my Agricultural Business 101 class, the professor was speaking about different areas of agriculture. When she started talking about wine, I knew right then and there that making wine was the path I wanted to pursue. It was the perfect combination of farming, science, and creativity. So, at 18 years old, I took on Wine & Viticulture as a second major and set on the path to making wine my career.

Looking for Wineries in Sonoma? checkout: Ram’s Gate Winery in Sonoma

Do you have any winery traditions with your team? 

Katy Wilson: Yes! I have two traditions that I have kept up for over ten years. The first is that we do a Champagne toast with the first fruit that we harvest for the year. We all gather around before we start processing the fruit and cheers to a great vintage.

The second tradition is that with the first real rainstorm of the year, I bring in Bailey’s Irish Cream and we put a little in our coffees and we play Billie Holiday. It is a celebration of the first rain!

How does your team help you as a winemaker?  

Katy Wilson: Without the team, we would not have any wine.

It takes everyone working together, from the vineyard to the winery to the tasting room staff. Many would be surprised to learn just how many people it takes to make a bottle of wine. The great wines that we produce at Anaba are possible because we are all working together and making the best wines possible.

We need everyone along the way in order to make great wines and also to get them into the hands of the people who enjoy them.

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