Tami Lotz has always been a person for whom memories are tied to smell and taste — a valuable trait for a winemaker. When the scent of jasmine is in the air, she’s transported to playing in the backyard as a kid. A whiff of caraway puts her in the kitchen making sandwiches on rye bread with her grandma. And the taste of Mumm Napa Pinot Gris takes her to a specific time and place that inspired her as a winemaker.
Among the rolling vineyards of Ingelheim, Germany at Schloß Westerhaus, a small tank of Pinot Gris — less than 100 gallons — had a bouquet that created a memory, which still lingers to this day.
“The aromatics were stunning,” Tami says. “You’d smell that glass, and it just popped. The fruit was really vibrant, and the wine had such a personality.”
After first interning at Mumm Napa, Tami studied her craft in travels through Germany, Australia, and Chile. In Germany, Tami performed every task possible at a small winery, including leafing vineyards, cleaning tanks, pressing grapes, monitoring fermentations, and racking wines.
“I learned there is no one ‘right’ way to do something,” Tami says. “Practices may vary from country to country, or even region to region, but if you’re happy with what’s in your glass, at the end of the day, the specifics become much less important.”
Knowing how to speak both German and Spanish gave her an advantage as she discovered new ways to describe and share wine, and new terminology — for specific equipment, as well as techniques and wine styles. But more importantly, the lessons Tami learned both about wine and herself influenced the technique she uses at Mumm Napa, since returning in 2003 as one of our winemakers.
Tami’s family lives here, and working at Mumm Napa offers her a career that blends her love of science with her creativity, resulting in a craft she can enjoy and share with friends and family, every day. She can’t pick a favorite wine, though — “that’d be like picking a favorite child,” she says. She simply loves making the highest-quality, most memorable sparkling wine she can.
And pairing that wine in ways to make flavors shine, like a Sparkling Pinot Noir with saucy, barbecued ribs, for a red you can chill and that’s lighter than most. Or, Blanc de Blancs with oysters and mignonette because they’re the “perfect match.”
It’s her seemingly simple goal to maintain the tradition of Mumm Napa’s timeless quality. If a special harvest crops up, she looks forward to brainstorming a new small-volume wine. But the best part of her day is tasting the wines to make sure they remain the very finest.
And whenever that work brings her back to the memory of a certain German Pinot Gris? “I know we’re on the right track,” she says.