The Tasting Panel magazine

June 2018

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june 2018  /  the tasting panel  /  49 Niki Wente Unlike her older sister, Niki Wente knew from an early age that she wanted to work in wine. In addition to being raised in a home built by their grandfather that was tailored to be for a viticulturist, Niki grew up watching her dad work in the vine- yards. At 14, she asked if she could shadow the Wente Vineyards viticulturist for a sum- mer and continued interning there every year. Not only did she enjoy the work, she had the ultimate teenage privilege of riding ATVs through the farm. After graduating from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo—her one chance to live by the beach—Niki came home to work a harvest at her family winery. However, the Wente family has a strict rule that any family member who wants to join the business must first complete five years of relevant work experience elsewhere before accepting a full-time role at the company. Niki then spent a year working in tech in San Francisco before returning to wine country for good, but instead of going back to Livermore, she landed at Huneeus Vintners in Napa. There, Grower Relations Manager Nicole Hayden took her under her wing, teaching Niki about the business side of the wine industry as she learned how to create the network necessary to build a brand. Niki rejoined Wente Vineyards as the Viticulture Supervisor shortly thereafter and helped oversee last year's harvest. "The vines are looking the best I've seen in years, and I am very proud to be a part of it, especially my first year back with the fam- ily," she says. "I'm also proud of the wines that we crafted—they're tasting amazing." One of Niki's passions outside of the office is as fulfilling as it is unconventional: rescuing animals. Two hawks Niki saved as they were pushed out of their nest now help patrol the vineyards to scare away critters; she also rescued both of her dogs—Dizzy, whom she found at a gas sta- tion in a box, and Riley, whom she adopted from Big Dawgs Rescue in Livermore. Niki says she and her fiancé firmly believe in living life through experiences, which is why they buy each other trips rather than material possessions as gifts. "There is a whole big world to see," she says. "We just got back from London and Belgium, but one of my favorite places I have visited were the old wineries in the Tuscan wine region." It just goes to show that no matter where the Wentes travel, wine is always on their mind.

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