Why Wine? An interview with Spencer Spetnagel of King Estate Winery4 min read

Spencer Spetnagel of King Estate Winery

This is part of a series introducing you to interesting people in the wine industry. For many, the journey into wine is not only intriguing but often quite an adventure. These talented individuals are what make the wine industry what it is today so follow this series to meet this group of passionate people who have dedicated their lives to wine.

Why Wine? An interview with Spencer Spetnagel of King Estate Winery

Was there a specific wine, moment or place that unlocked your passion?

Spencer Spetnagel: I fell in love with wine while waiting tables in fine dining in Atlanta. The first wine that showed me this was the industry I wanted to pursue was a 1991 Joseph Phelps Insignia.

What did you study in school and what were you doing before you started in the wine industry?

SS: My undergrad was in Marketing from Kennesaw State University. I was waiting tables in fine dining which gave me my first glimpse of what wine can be. I went straight from the restaurant industry to the cellar at Ravenswood for my first Harvest in 2004. From Atlanta to Sonoma.

How has being in the wine industry changed you?

SS: I like to think that the wine industry has not changed me too much. I’ve always enjoyed the rewards of hard physical labor. I may be more aware of the seasons now, but I have always been a very outdoors oriented person. That is one of the main reasons I got into the industry, to be able to work closely and in conjunction with Mother Nature.

It has given me an appreciation for all the back-breaking labor that goes into every bottle. No matter how fantastic and earth-shattering a wine is, it is still just an agricultural product. Wine is only as good as the grapes it is made from.

Winemakers are glorified babysitters. The best wine is made when you need to do the least amount of work possible to it. I’ve definitely learned that it is not nearly as glamorous as we believe it to be in the service industry. My blood, sweat and tears end up in every bottle.

What’s your favorite part of being in the wine industry?

SS: My favorite part of being in the wine industry is to know that I can make people smile who I never get the pleasure of meeting. To make a bottle of wine that is enjoyed at a special occasion that ends up enhancing that occasion with more fond memories is what I strive for. Even to make a Tuesday evening memorable just because of the wine that is opened to go with dinner is what makes this industry such a fascinating industry for me.

The cohesive and collaborative nature of this industry between winemakers and vineyard managers also makes this a great industry and is a very close second favorite part. Everyone is continually learning and just trying to pass on the knowledge of their experiences. It’s a very supportive and rewarding industry to be a part of.

Looking back, was there something in your past that led you to wine?

SS: Besides my direct interaction with wine in the service industry, I’d probably have to say my parents deserve credit. Wine was not something that was at our dinner table every night, but it was talked about with reverence. They also instilled in me the fact that I should find something that I love doing, because so few find work that they are truly passionate about. They gave me the foundation of realizing hard work is something to be embraced, not shunned.

It all clicked as I got more and more into wine at my restaurants. The more winemakers and grape growers that I had the pleasure of meeting I realized that it was an extremely down to earth industry. The more I found out about wine the further down the rabbit hole I immersed myself.

As soon as I set foot in the cellar for my first vintage I knew I had truly found a passion that would easily occupy me for a lifetime. There was something about the 12-hour shifts and extremely difficult physical labor that drove the passion in me even further. My mom tells me that I’ve done everything on my own, but I would not have the work ethic that I possess if it was not for my parents shaping the person that I am by leading by example. So, to Mom and Dad I give all the credit for every success I have ever had in life. I only hope to continue to make them proud. I’m certainly proud to call them my parents.

Read more Spencer Spetnagel and King Estate Winery

Michele Francisco
Michele Francisco, a founder and regular contributor to Winerabble, a blog primarily about Pacific Northwest wines, is living the dream in Portland, Oregon. Her passion leads some to believe she's got wine running through her veins. Contact Michele at michele@winerabble.com & be sure to visit her online portfolio at www.michelefrancisco.com.
  1. Mary Reply

    “Winemakers are glorified babysitters.” I lOVE that. I’ve never heard anyone say it just like that before 😉 Lovely interview btw! Interesting reading about Spencer’s journey.

    • Michele Francisco
      Michele Francisco Reply

      Mary, I know, right?! Thanks for stopping by, Michele

  2. Meredith {MarthaChartreuse} Reply

    I really appreciate that his focus and respect centers around the actual grape. I feel as though winemakers fall into two categories: All about the wine, or all about the winemaker.

    • Michele Francisco
      Michele Francisco Reply

      Totally Meredith! I’ve often thought that if the winemaker didn’t act like a rockstar, his or her wines are probably pretty good 😉

  3. Erin (Platings and Pairings) Reply

    Love King Estate wine and love this behind the scenes interview! I lived in Eugene for over 15-years and King Estate was always one of my favorite places to visit. I can’t wait to go back!

    • Michele Francisco
      Michele Francisco Reply

      Erin- that’s so great to hear as I still haven’t been down to the winery and really need a good excuse to make it my destination! Maybe you have given me just the push I need. Thanks, Michele

  4. Create/Enjoy Reply

    Very cool! I love the connection wine and other agriculture gives us to nature, too!

    • Michele Francisco
      Michele Francisco Reply

      Suzannah- that’s so true. While I don’t make wine (yet), I do remember each growing seasons pros and cons since getting into the Oregon wine industry. Great observation, Michele

  5. Renee @ The Good Hearted Woman Reply

    Great interview. I really appreciate the comments he makes how his favorite part of the work is knowing how it impacts people he will never meet. Such a beautiful philosophy.

    • Michele Francisco
      Michele Francisco Reply

      I couldn’t agree more Renee! Thanks for reading, Michele

  6. Marlynn | UrbanBlissLife Reply

    love how he gives a shout out to his parents! Is he the winemaker for King Estate Winery? The assistant winemaker? I wasn’t sure. Great profile though!

    • Michele Francisco
      Michele Francisco Reply

      Hi Marlynn- Spencer is one of the winemakers and the other, Brent Stone, has graciously granted us a Why Wine interview as well. Look for his coming soon. Cheers, Michele

  7. Pech Reply

    I’m a fan of King Estate and this was a nice profile that really shows how reverently he thinks about wine and he’s a humble hard worker, great to read!

    • Michele Francisco
      Michele Francisco Reply

      I agree- thanks Pech!

  8. Melissa Chee Reply

    I love that you also have an interview series! Awesome. 🙂

    • Michele Francisco
      Michele Francisco Reply

      Thanks Melissa! I’ve learned so much with these interviews and hope my readers have too.

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