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.
Was there a specific wine, moment or place that unlocked your passion?
Mike Lempriere: In my parents’ household there really wasn’t much alcohol, I had very little exposure when young. When I got to college, I didn’t like beer (love it now), and when at parties, I learned that wine could be interesting. I also learned that this gave me an opportunity to hang out with the ladies who tended to drink wine, as opposed to the guys drinking beer!
There was a little shop in Olympia, Washington (called Green Frog – I attended The Evergreen State College) that did weekly wine tastings with the winemakers. Through this, I met Mike Wallace of Hinzerling Vineyards. I loved his wines, and he was a super-interesting guy. From that moment on, I visited wineries every chance I could and went out of my way to learn about wine.
What did you study in school and what were you doing before you started in the wine industry?
ML: I was actually doing Computer Sciences in college. I’ve been an electronics and software nerd-geek since the Apple II came out in 1977. I use my tech background to support my winery and vineyard whenever I can. I used to be a 9-5, daily commute to downtown for a computer day-gig guy.
How has being in the wine industry changed you?
ML: I worked for companies I liked, and some I didn’t. I worked with some good people, and with some whom I didn’t care for. I worked on projects that I liked, and some that I didn’t.
Now my commute is literally out the step of my front door! Whatever I’m doing that day is something that I care about as it’s directly my own business. Also, most everyone I’ve encountered in the wine business are the neatest people there are. Put simply, I’m much happier now in all facets of my life.
What’s your favorite part of being in the wine industry?
ML: I love working with the grapevines– the almost meditative state of working in the vineyard is wonderful. Seeing the vines through their annual growth stages is so rewarding! Most of all though, is of course the pleasure of seeing people appreciate the end product.
When introducing my raspberry dessert wine, I often get disinterest from customers who don’t care for dessert wines. When they taste it, you can see how their eyes widen, and how much they love it immediately! And then, they buy a bottle– talk about rewarding!
Working with each year’s harvest (every harvest is different) and trying the myriad possibilities to make the best wine I can is a thrill. All this and simply sharing quality wines with other wine interested people.