WOODINVILLE, Wash. – The world’s No. 1 Riesling producer is losing its white winemaker.
Stuckey, an Australian native, has been named chief winemaker for Constellation New Zealand.
“My husband is a New Zealander, so it’s almost home,” Stuckey told Great Northwest Wine.
Constellation, which owns several Pacific Northwest wineries including Hogue Cellars in Washington’s Yakima Valley, has four wineries in New Zealand. The most prominent is Kim Crawford Winery in Marlborough on the South Island. It also owns Drylands Estate Winery in Marlborough, Corner 50 Winery in Hawkes Bay and Nobilo Winery in Auckland.
“They make a little bit of Riesling,” she said. “I’ll be going from a Riesling powerhouse to a Sauvignon Blanc powerhouse. Hopefully, I’ll be able to keep my hand in it.”
Wendy Stuckey enjoyed time in Washington
Stuckey arrived at Washington’s largest and oldest winery just after harvest in 2007. She’d actually planned to arrive in time for the grapes to be picked, but obtaining a work visa held up the process by several weeks.
For her role in New Zealand, Stuckey will arrive just as harvest wraps up.
“That’s OK,” she said. “I’ll be involved in the blending.”
Stuckey said her time in Washington has been enjoyable and enlightening.
“I’ve really enjoyed making wine here,” she said. “Coming to a large company was a great experience. I was exposed to many different regions within Washington. I’ve grown as a person and as a winemaker. It’s been a great experience for me, and my family has loved it. When these opportunities are placed in front of you, it is a hard decision.”
Stuckey said that while Washington and New Zealand provide similar geographic features – mountains, water and outdoor activities in particular – she will miss the great skiing she’s enjoyed in Washington. She and her family have come to love such resorts as Crystal Mountain and Stevens Pass, and they also ventured into British Columbia to ski at Whistler and Sun Peaks.
While there is a ski area not far from where she will be working in New Zealand, it isn’t much more than a couple of rope tows, she said ruefully.
She said that while she has been able to find Vegemite (a spicy Australian food paste) in the United States, she does look forward to once again being able to eat Hokey Pokey, a New Zealand vanilla ice cream with chunks of toffee in it.
Stuckey brought level of detail to winemaking
Bob Bertheau, head winemaker for Chateau Ste. Michelle, has known Stuckey for many years, back when they both worked at the same winery in California’s Sonoma County. Bertheau recruited Stuckey to Chateau Ste. Michelle during the 2007 Riesling Rendezvous, which took place at the Woodinville winery. At the time, she was working for Wolf Blass, a large winery in South Australia, where she had earned a reputation as one of her country’s top Riesling producers.
Bertheau said that while he was well known for his white wines and, in fact, was recruited to Ste. Michelle as white winemaker, his experience with Riesling was limited. When he arrived in Washington, he was mentored by Ernst Loosen, Ste. Michelle’s German partner in Eroica Riesling.
“Ernst brought a global perspective,” Bertheau said. “He taught me the soul of Riesling.”
When Stuckey arrived in late 2007, she contributed a technical perspective, he said.
“Wendy has brought a level of professionalism and a level of detail we’ve appreciated for the past eight years,” he said. “She brought a more detailed approach to winemaking, and she benefited our entire state.”
Bertheau knew Stuckey wouldn’t spend the rest of her career in Washington because she yearned to return Down Under, but he has been happy with the years she gave to Chateau Ste. Michelle.
“She departs a dear friend,” he said.
Stuckey is not the first Chateau Ste. Michelle winemaker to land a top position within Constellation. Erik Olsen was Ste. Michelle’s white winemaker from 1993 to 2002 until he was recruited to California’s Clos du Bois, which later was purchased by Constellation Brands. In 2010, Olsen was promoted to chief winemaker for Constellation Wines U.S.
Ste. Michelle Wine Estates has not named a successor for Stuckey.