Matt Ortman is the new winemaker for Villa San-Juliette Vineyard & Winery in San Miguel.
Ortman, who competed against hundreds of applicants for the position, impressed the winery’s owners, television producers Nigel Lythgoe and Ken Warwick, when in a blind tasting of more than 20 cabernet sauvignons, Ortman’s two submissions ranked first and second for both owners, according to a statement released by the winery.
Although this is Ortman’s first job with the title of winemaker, he comes from a family of winemakers, having worked alongside his father, Chuck Ortman, at Ortman Family Wines. The boutique winery closed in 2011, however, due to the difficult economic climate, Ortman said.
Ortman, 41, applied for the position at Villa San-Juliette after friends told him about the job opening. He had worked with grapes from nearby vineyards and knew that it was a special microclimate. He also liked the soil and the vineyards, with good Bordeaux varietals planted, Ortman said. The 40,000-case winery sits on 169 acres in San Miguel.
The team also impressed him.
“I’ve known president Hillary Trout for quite some time, and she’s got an all-star team out here,” he said. “The owners are great guys and really enthusiastic about the wine industry and learning more about it. It’s fun to have a fresh take.”
Ortman is still new to the winemaking job at Villa San-Juliette, but he’s looking forward to focusing on what he calls “promising” Bordeaux varietals.
“We may slowly over time change out some of the older vines for some other things like Rhône varietals as we develop our reserve of wines,” said Ortman. “It’s exciting to have a great base to work with and the ability to explore and expand the offerings.”