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Adam Mettler: Steeped in the Business of Wine

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Adam Mettler was born into the wine world. By age 16, he had taken more college courses on winemaking than most of us had passed by the age of 20. Having earned gold medals as an amateur winemaker, he and his family established Mettler Family Vineyards in 1997 with the release of their Mettler Cabernet Sauvignon. After completing a degree in enology with a chemistry minor at Fresno State University and working in South Australia and Livermore, he joined Michael David Winery in 2005, where he continues to oversee all aspects of production winemaking.

Michael David has been farming soil in Lodi, California, since the 1850s and cultivating wine grapes since the early 20th century. Their founders, brothers Michael and David Phillips, are fifth-generation grape growers who have raised their families in the vineyard, and now the sixth generation Mike’s son, Kevin, and daughter, Melissa, have joined the team. They understand the importance of leaving it better than you found it for future generations, and their family legacy and love of Lodi drive their focus on sustainability.

Lodi Appellation Recognition
Adam was named Wine Enthusiast Magazine’s 2018 Winemaker of the Year, which is a worldwide recognition. When he learned he was selected, he was shocked to have earned this worldwide award. “Honestly when the founder of Wine Enthusiast, Adam Strum, called me and told me that I was the recipient, I was in disbelief,” he explained. “I had been certain I was just a filler to the list of nominees, and I was not anticipating anything more. Two days later I ended up actually calling Adam back and asking him if I had heard him correctly. He explained to me that they had been watching me for a while and reconfirmed that indeed I was selected. That’s when it finally started to sink in. 

“As much as I don’t really like to be in the spotlight, I quickly realized that this recognition was far bigger than me. It is a validation of the Lodi Appellation’s being a quality wine region to be reckoned with. That’s something so many before me have fought to promote and so many continue to. It was also confirmation of years of hard work not just by myself, but also by the many people who contribute to the wines I produce. It is exciting to be able to continue to contribute to Lodi’s long list of accolades.”

In addition to his work at Michael David, he also makes the wines for Mettler Family Vineyards, his family’s brand. He and his wife, Alyson, also farm vineyards of their own and he tries to stay active with his family’s farm management business, Arbor Vineyards. 

“Outside of that I am also involved in multiple different business ventures with folks; all are wine-business related. One of those partnerships is Northern Interior Wine Partners, a winery located on Clements Road, the old Cosentino Winery, which largely stores wine barrels,” he related. “We are currently doing a 50,000-square-foot expansion there now that will increase its capacity to over 30,000 wine barrels. Another is Fermented Vision, which produces and supplies an array of high-end winery clients with quality bulk wines on long-term contract.”

Networking + Experience
A combination of factors led Adam to his work at Michael David. It started in late January 2004 when his wife, then fiancée, struck up a conversation with Kevin Phillips at a ZAP, or Zinfandel Advocates and Producers tasting. She was sharing with Kevin what they had been up to with life and that they were returning to Lodi.

“Kevin explained that the Michael David Winery was just starting to really grow, and they needed solid winemaking help. The next thing you know, Michael Phillips called me and they started recruiting me to work for them,” he continued. “At the time, I had already given notice to Fenestra Winery, and Alyson and I had plans to be in Lodi long-term, so the timing was right.

Another connection that led up to this was that Michael David and Mettler both shared the same wine consultant, Barry Gnekow, who I had really spent a lot of time with over the previous seven or so years learning wine. He recommended to me I should go to Michael David even just for a year as a learning experience. He explained to me that much of winemaking is learning to fix problems and learning from mistakes. And that a growing winery will have those opportunities that would further my education. So, I decided to try it for a year or two.” 

The Woman Behind the Man
Alyson stays at home with their three children, and does some teaching and volunteer work, and of course helps with all of Adam’s personal work load behind the scenes. Adam wants HERLIFE readers to know that she is a big part of what occurs in his life.

“I truly don’t know how Adam juggles everything he has going on,” Alyson remarked. “Sometimes I’d love to look in his brain and see what he’s processing because somehow, he manages multiple businesses while still taking time to be part of everything the boys and I have going on. It honestly amazes me. He has worked so hard and sacrificed so much to get to where he is today. I am so proud of him and his constant dedication to anything he’s a part of.”

Rooted Enologist
Adam grew up in Lodi, in the Victor area, and attended Victor Elementary, Houston Middle, Lodi High, Delta College and Fresno State. He began making wine while in high school after dabbling in beer-making. He attended multiple winemaking short courses at UC Davis with his mother during this time. After earning his credentials at Fresno State, he worked a harvest in Langhorne Creek, South Australia, and then two vintages at Fenestra Winery in Livermore before starting with Michael David in 2005. In the meantime, throughout his wine journey, he maintained winemaking for his family’s wine brand, Mettler Family Vineyards. 

“I am the first-generation winemaker in my family, so I didn’t really grow up around wine. More so, I grew up farming, so I was immersed in that side of the business,” he commented. “I think my main inspiration for wine was just the connection with fermentation itself and producing a product from a raw material. I have always liked making things; wine just kind of stuck.”  

Outside of a busy work calendar, Adam likes to be outdoors fishing and hunting. He is also extremely busy helping raise their three boys, Cooper, 11, Brixten, 9, and Everett, 6. They are all active in sports, which requires a lot of time.

What new ventures are on Adam’s horizon? “There are lots of great things happening everywhere. I know I would like to slow down some and spend more time with my family. Sometimes finding that life balance can be tricky.” 

Let’s all raise a glass in agreement!