Established in 1995 by Jess Stonestreet Jackson and Barbara Banke, Stonestreet Estate Vineyards draws from an array of diverse mountain vineyards. With elevations ranging from 400 to 2,400 feet, their winemaker has been rewarded with multiple microclimates and soil types.
From these raw materials, Stonestreet’s wine team produces unique, single-vineyard Cabernet Sauvignons, Chardonnays and Sauvignon Blancs.
We interview Stonestreet’s Winemaker Kristina Shideler to learn more.
What makes Stonestreet wines unique?
Kristina Shideler, Stonestreet Winemaker: Without a doubt, the mountain. Everything that makes up the terroir – the elevation, the soils, all the slopes, aspects, and microclimates – creates such high character wines that really embody the estate. The complexity and sheer beauty of the property make the winemaking pursuit pretty exhilarating.
What’s a popular tasting experience at Stonestreet?
Kristina Shideler: The Stonestreet Mountain Excursion would be the most unique offering at the estate – this privately guided (and by appointment only) driving tour goes through the Stonestreet Mountain Estate vineyards. The duration runs for about 3 hours and you can enjoy views of Alexander Valley from 400-2400 feet in elevation where you learn first-hand how the incredible team thrives in these high-elevation vineyards.
I wish more people knew about our mountain excursion. Our mountain estate vineyard is the energy force behind our wines and you cannot fully understand it until you get up there.
What do you love about winemaking?
Kristina Shideler: Walking vineyards during harvest time. The hard work is done in the vineyards and so there’s both an appreciation and an anticipation of finding out what is possible. There are a lot of high stakes decisions to be made, but I find that both creativity and clarity flow from a good morning walk on the mountain.
Do you have any winery traditions with your team?
Kristina Shideler: We do a very fun white elephant gift exchange around the holidays. People put a lot of thought and effort into their gifts and there are always some ridiculously funny ones in there. I’ve left before with a belly ache from laughing so much.
How does your team help you as a winemaker?
Kristina Shideler: From the vineyard team to the cellar staff to all the administrative support, winemaking cannot be done alone. Working in agriculture requires a lot of grit and it always humbles me to be surrounded by the hardworking men and women in this industry that help execute my vision.
How did you get started in the wine industry?
Kristina Shideler: My mom is a music professor, and she took a group of college students to a different European county each summer. I had the opportunity to tag along and in that experience was really drawn to admire what happens at mealtime – the intentional pause of the day for conversation and enjoyment, the discovery and excitement of experiencing different flavours.
There was an early recognition that wine is a reflection of the land and culture, and that really stayed with me.
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned in the winemaking process?
Kristina Shideler: Winemaking relies heavily on the senses. I’ve learned that it’s important to trust my intuition and palate, but to also keep it in check.
It’s hard to make impressionable wines without tasting and exploring what quality wine producers are doing around the world and remaining curious about what makes a truly great wine.
I’ve learned to be very intentional about tasting throughout the winemaking process and what wines influence my palate outside of the cellar.
Do you remember the first time you fell in love with wine?
Kristina Shideler: I don’t really have a “first time” story. I’ve been fascinated by wine since I can remember, but what keeps me loving wine is the ability for it to transcend us to a place and time through the senses.
Describe your winemaking philosophy.
Kristina Shideler: Everything done in the winemaking process ultimately aims to showcase site. Grapes are picked on fresher side to ensure that the site is at the forefront of the wine’s expression and can unfold for decades in bottle.
Our Chardonnays utilize native yeast for fermentation and very delicate processing techniques so that what you get in the bottle is purely an expression of the vineyard.
Cabernet winemaking and particularly Cabernet from high elevation relies on the ability to project what a wine will taste like after two years in barrel, 5 years in bottle, etc. In all wines, texture is very important to me as a winemaker and I am constantly trying to master that part of the craft.