Lambert Bridge Winery is a special place and tasting small production, high quality wines at this family-owned winery is just part of the experience. Built in 1975, there is a lot about the building that reflects the best of Sonoma County. Warm and inviting, the vaulted redwood ceilings and large fireplace create a very cozy place to taste their wines. We interview Jennifer Higgins, Winemaker at Lambert Bridge Winery.
What type of wine do you specialize in?
Jennifer Higgins Lambert Bridge Winemaker: We focus mostly on the Bordeaux varietals and actually bottle the five main reds (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, and Petit Verdot) separately. It’s a great way to see what each type of grape contributes to the overall blends. We do try to keep things interesting for our members though and make a couple great Chardonnays and some single vineyard Zinfandels as well. It’s important to keep our members happy!
What’s a popular tasting experience?
Jennifer Higgins: Our Bordeaux flight is a wonderful way to be introduced to our wines and story. This seated, 90-minute tasting experience is hosted by one of our Wine Educator’s either outdoors on our patio, or indoors in our barrel room and paired with a local, curated cheese and charcuterie plate to enjoy while tasting.
What makes your wine unique?
Jennifer Higgins: All the hard work and care that starts in our vineyards and carries through until bottling. The wine is the storyteller for every site and every vintage. It’s important to do everything possible to let it shine in the best way.
What’s one thing you wish more people knew about your winery?
Jennifer Higgins: Our deeply rooted connection to our property, winemaking, experiences, and relationships. Every team member at Lambert Bridge has a true passion and love for what they do. There is so much care, attention to detail, and dedication that is felt from our ownership, our winemaking, our hospitality, and customer service. It is the connection we all have to our brand and relationships we create and foster with our members and guests that make truly make it feel so warm, authentic, and special.
How did you get started in the wine industry?
Jennifer Higgins: After earning a degree from UC Davis in Biochemistry, I moved to northern Italy for almost two years. I moved back home to Sonoma County thinking it would be a short transition before starting med school. I took a part-time position in the tasting room at Simi Winery in Healdsburg where I met Zelma Long, a legend in the wine business and a mentor of mentors.
That’s when I took a hard left turn and decided that a career in winemaking was what I wanted to do.
Do you remember the first time you fell in love with wine?
Jennifer Higgins: I remember tasting wine at an iconic Sonoma County winery when I was around 9 years old. I couldn’t see above the tasting bar but my dad would hand me his glass and say things like “name the varietal” or “what type of oak is it- French or American?”. It was our game together and made a huge impact on how I felt about wine in general.
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned as a winemaker?
Jennifer Higgins: Throughout my 25 years in the business, I’ve had some great teachers. Jill Davis taught me to never put something off until tomorrow when it would be better for the wine to do today. From David Ramey, my take-away was to always do the work and figure out the why of doing things a certain way. Both of those lessons have defined how I make wine and the pursuit of quality.
Describe your winemaking approach.
Jennifer Higgins: I’m big on balance, texture and elegance in a wine. It’s a personal quest to get this all right in a final blend. Fruit character, tannins, and acidity are the big three components to a wine and their interactions with each other is what creates the balance. Texture has a huge impact on how a wine feels to the drinker. Elegance is what shows through when attention has been paid to the details at every step of the winemaking process.
Favorite wine and food pairing?
Jennifer Higgins: Crane Creek Cuvée is a very special Bordeaux blend we make, “Right Bank” in style so it’s always predominantly Merlot. It’s a beautiful wine with food. For me, the standout pairings that come to mind is either a wild mushroom tart or a seared duck breast with a berry reduction. For those not wanting to cook, just try it with some Mt. Tam. cheese from Cowgirl Creamery. You can’t go wrong.
What do you love about winemaking?
Jennifer Higgins: I love the tangibility of it. When I share a wine with guests or friends, I get the same feeling as when my mom would put a crayon drawing of mine on the refrigerator. Sharing something that feels special and you’re proud of making is a wonderful thing.
Do you have any winery traditions with your team?
Jennifer Higgins: The guys on the team sometimes grow harvest beards which can get a little crazy. We also have a supply of candy to keep everyone fueled up for the long crush days. I think we ate 45 pounds of chocolate this year, a new record!