Idaho enologist, 23, wins SommCon Young Leader scholarship

Hailey Alexander, enologist for award-winning Cinder Wines near Boise, will represent the Pacific Northwest wine industry as a member of the Young Leader’s Summit Scholarship panel during SommCon on Nov. 16-19 in San Diego. (Photo by Eric Degerman/Great Northwest Wine)

SAN DIEGO, Calif. – Idaho’s Hailey Alexander, 23, one of the youngest winemaking talents in the Pacific Northwest, was announced Monday by California-based SommCon as a Young Leader’s Summit Scholarship winner.

The award means Alexander, enologist for award-winning Cinder Wines in the Snake River Valley, will be feted Nov. 16-19 in San Diego during the 50-session conference that gathers Masters of Wine, Master Sommeliers, wine directors, wine educators, distributors and hoteliers.

As long she doesn’t get recruited away from the Treasure Valley, Alexander leaves with the blessing of winemaker Melanie Krause and co-owner Joe Schnerr, the husband/wife team behind Cinder.

“I’d just like to say that I am very grateful to SommCon for giving me this opportunity, and of course Joe and Melanie’s unyielding support,” Alexander told Great Northwest Wine. “It still doesn’t feel real – being as young as I am and being given such amazing experiences.”

Cinder owners cheer SommCon award

Hailey Alexander, left, joined other members of the Idaho wine industry at the 2016 Riesling Rendezvous in Seattle. The group included, left to right, Mike Williamson of Williamson Vineyards, Moya Dolsby, executive director of the Idaho Wine Commission, Leslie Preston of Coiled Wines and Meredith Smith, winemaker for Ste. Chapelle and Sawtooth wineries. (Photo by Eric Degerman/Great Northwest Wine)

Alexander, who grew up in the Boise area, is one of 16 recipients for the Young Leader’s Summit Scholarship. All are under the age of 30, but Alexander is the only winner from the production side of the wine industry. The 2016 vintage marks her third harvest as Cinder’s enologist, where she’s been an employee since age 19.

“We couldn’t be prouder of Hailey,” Schnerr said. “This is great news for her professionally and for our business since one of our key employees will be part of an enriching experience.

“I know both Melanie and I will be waiting to hear back from her about the ideas that she picks up there,” Schnerr continued. “I think it is fitting that Hailey is part of this ‘Young Leaders’ summit as she is certainly taking to that role and title here in Idaho.”

The awards are presented by Tasting Panel/The SOMM Journal, Wine Ring, The Society of Wine Educators and SommSelect. Alexander will join Erica Catubig, wine director of Tom Douglas’ The Carlile Room in Seattle, as the two Young Leaders from the Pacific Northwest.

Both are scheduled to participate in tastings, panel discussions and keynote presentations as well as network with wine professionals at the Marriott Marquis San Diego Marina. A 90-winery trade tasting closes out the four-day conference.

“I am so very excited to meet all these other young professionals and ‘nerd out’ as I like to say it!” Alexander said.

Last year marked the debut of SommCon. This year’s sponsors include Ste. Michelle Wine Estates brands Intrinsic Wine Co. and Seven Falls Cellars, Left Coast Cellars in the Willamette Valley, Riedel, Southern Glazer’s and Wine Spectator.