Conn Creek Winery

back to Our Team Mike McGrath Winemaker

Before winemaker Mike McGrath parked his backpack in Napa in 1982, he spent 13 years in Argentina, logged 20,000 miles on a bicycle in Australia, and explored the backroads of Peru.

From Davis to Australia
Mike graduated from U.C. Davis with a degree in fermentation science in 1978 and soon found it was the art of winemaking he loved, travel gave him confidence to strike a balance between technique and intuition. In Australia, his academic background helped him make enjoyable wines from the fruit he says would have been rejected in Napa. Mike returned to California to work at Charles Krug and later at William Hill where he found himself resisting the urge to be a technician and honing his ability as a craftsman instead.

A Winning Style
At Conn Creek Winery he's found success with a winemaking style that results in lush, elegant wines. "California grapes have so much flavor, and they have the opportunity in most vintages to become very ripe. The challenge as a winemaker is to capture them at the optimum point: at the peak of flavor and the threshold of ripeness,” he explains. Such winemaking requires patience and endurance, something Mike learned in college as an All-American cross-country runner. "Like a distance runner, a winemaker needs to pace himself to allow both the grapes and the wine time to evolve," Mike says.

Every Vintage is a Journey
While still a traveler at heart, trading a backpack for a wine thief wasn't as difficult as he had once imagined. "California winemaking offers plenty of uncharted territory," he says, "Every vintage is a journey."