A Sit Down with Meredith Leahy, the SipCozy Winemaker
Interviewed by Alex Klempf
Meredith and I met back in 2015 when we were both bridesmaids in our very close friends wedding. Meredith has been a winemaker in Napa Valley for over 15 years. When I started my project back in January of 2019, I reached out to Meredith to see what she thought of the project and if she wanted to work together to create the product. Long story short, we made a wine together! Check out our conversation below to learn more about Meredith, winemaking, and our collaboration.
In your own words, can you describe the path you have taken that has led you to being involved in the SipCozy project?
Since I was little I’ve loved science! From going to Chemistry camp, to being a lab aid, and then majoring in Chemistry in college I was always excited talking and learning about it. At the same time that I decided to change career goals away from medicine I had a realization that making wine relies on science. That ah-ha moment opened me up to this new exciting path. Jump forward 6 months and the two jobs I had lined up in Napa (Mumm Napa and Hess Collection) for harvest determined that wine was right path for me. From the beginning I fell in love with this industry – it is a great/fun/exciting bridge between science and art and each day, month, year brings different challenges that keeps me on my toes. Before the idea of SipCozy was realized, I met Alex at a friend’s wedding where we were both bridesmaids. After talking for a few minutes, we realized we shared a passion…. Wine. It wasn’t until years later that Alex called to talk to me about her idea for SipCozy. I immediately knew I wanted to be involved with this project. It totally aligned with what I get excited about when I am thinking about a new wine. The challenge to learn new techniques and making a non-alcoholic wine from a winemaker’s perspective resonated with my inner science-geek.
Is it challenging to be a female winemaker in Napa? Is it dominated by men or is it a balanced industry?
This is a hard question to answer. I obviously haven’t known anything different than being a female winemaker in this industry. I moved to Napa when I was 22 and immediately felt welcomed into the industry by both men and women. I know that there still are more male winemakers than women, but this ratio has gotten a lot closer. This issue is talked about a lot, but this day in age when I look around at tasting events and seminars it really has become a more balanced industry.
What is it like raising a family in Napa?
Raising a family in Napa… it is completely different than where I grew up in Jacksonville. My childhood involved a lot of time at the beach or on the river, which if you know Northern California the beaches aren’t warm. Even with this big difference I love raising my family here. My boys (Colm and Killian) are 3 and 17 months and they both have experienced more about veggies and fruit than I did until I moved to California. The produce out here is amazing and we love going to the farmers market every Saturday (except during harvest) and I love that Colm has learned how to garden at daycare. Napa really is a small town and there is a big sense of community pride and supporting each other, local small businesses, and entrepreneurs.
Where do you see the relationship between wine and cannabis going?
Being in California I think it’s only natural the two industries go hand-in-hand. California is the ideal climate to grow most anything and especially phenomenal wine and cannabis. The wine and cannabis relationship is still relatively new, and each day is changing. The way people are thinking about it is also changing. The cannabis industry has gone from something people enjoy but is rarely talked about to being widely accepted. It is an exciting pairing and the research that is currently going on shows that everyone in this business takes it very seriously that wine and cannabis will be an exciting new venture.
When you make wine, what are some of the first steps in your creative process?
Oh man I could probably get too technical here and bore everyone! One of the great things about wine is there are so many times in the year that small changes can make big impacts on the finished wine. It also heavily depends on the year. I think the very first thing is I try to get an understand of what the client and I want the finished wine to be. Once I understand what I am trying to accomplish I then start implementing plans to achieve the end goal. For example, with SipCozy the first conversations you and I had about our Rosé relied heavily on the style of Rosé we wanted to make, our own preference in what we liked to drink, and who we envisioned drinking our wine. After all that was laid out it was easier to move forward with making the wine.
How do you get cozy after a long day?
With our SipCozy Rosé of course! On date nights my husband, Kyle, and I like going to Oenotri for amazing Italian food and great drinks. Most nights though after we get the kids to bed we change into some comfy clothes and watch a little bit of TV to unwind. I know, not glamorous but a great way to stop thinking about then next steps with wine projects or what is coming up for the next day in harvest.