Your highest-rated female winemaker of 2018 - crafting you fruit-forward wines with elegance and finesse
- Karen Birmingham proved her incredible talent working for years at sustainable winery LangeTwins (with David Akiyoshi).
- And Angel funding is helping her start her own project that features breathtaking grape varietals many Lodi wineries are afraid of playing with
- But Karen's delicate touch always brings out the best in the fruit and really makes these grapes shine in the warm, sandy soils she calls home.
Karen Birmingham's Story
I want to be able to showcase the great wines of Lodi and Clarksburg.
I like to make fruit forward, friendly, wines that are easy to drink and enjoy. Wines that are elegant and balanced, that can be enjoyed at multiple occasions - while relaxing, hanging out with friends, and with a meal. And with Angel funding, I can do that in Lodi and Clarksburg.
The wines I make for Naked Angels will always be a true reflection of the vintage and variety. I am able to make wines from best vineyards in the area, to nurture each wine lot through the winemaking process and create blends that bring you the very best of the region.
A bit about my background...
As a student at Washington State University, I jumped at the opportunity to be a research assistant in the lab of Dr. Charles Edwards in the Department of Food Science who was working with the Washington Wine Industry. I completed my BS in Microbiology (1994) and MS in Food Science (1997), focusing on wine fermentations. Wine became a passion for me during this time. I was interested in every aspect of wine and winemaking and learned everything I could about the wine industry, visiting different wine regions, and tasting as many wines as I could. During my research studies, I made many small lots of wines and learned the science behind winemaking.
Originally from Sacramento, I moved back to California after graduation when offered a great job with a well known Food Research Laboratory. I spent my weekends visiting wineries, having group tastings with friends, and thinking about making wine. I quickly realized I needed to peruse my winemaking passion and moved to the Lodi area, an appellation with a long history of grape growing and winemaking. As newlyweds, my husband and I purchased an old farm house on a hill with 5 acres of Merlot grapes in the middle of the rolling vineyards in the Clements Hills. I set my sights on Robert Mondavi Woodbridge Winery, wanting to work for an industry icon that revolutionized California grape growing and winemaking.
I was thrilled to be hired as an Enologist, responsible for maintaining the 70,000+ barrel program and working with all the talented winemakers. I would start each day tasting over 100 barrels, and was very active tasting all wines and making blends. Tasting so many wines each day with multiple experienced winemakers quickly trained my palate, and I was educated in the art of wine blending. I learned traditional winemaking techniques, making varietal correct wines, where fruit quality is paramount. I was able to meet many Lodi growers, spending time in the vineyards learning about grape growing, participating in vineyard research discussions, and watching grapes ripen for harvest. I was promoted to winemaker, and ultimately became the responsible winemaker for all Woodbridge red wines. As part of a large company that became even larger when Constellation acquired Robert Mondavi in 2004, I participated in tastings with winemakers throughout the state, attended multiple conferences for viticulture and enology research, and had access to all the latest industry research and innovations. During this time, I made millions of gallons of wine, tasting each tank every step of the way.
In 2008, I was given the opportunity to join a new, state of the art winery in Lodi built by the Lange Family. Once again, this was an opportunity I jumped at quickly. The Lange’s are a dynamic and innovative grower family whose vineyards are benchmarks and well known in the region. I wanted to work with a generational winegrowing family to make premium wines that would showcase the area and these exceptional vineyards. The sustainable winery was built with a focus on gentle grape and wine handling. Since all vineyards are farmed internally there is total control from grape to bottle. In this position, I am also a custom winemaker and work with many well known winemakers who look to the Lange’s fruit, winery and wines as important components of their blends. The quality of the wines I make at LangeTwins was also recognized by NakedWines.com, and I'm very excited to make special wines for Naked Angels.
I love making wine from start to finish, but my favorite time of year is harvest. I love watching the grapes come in, tasting the juices every day, making decisions to move wines forward in the winemaking process, projecting how these new wines will taste 6, 12, or even 2 years later. It’s an exciting time that requires constant attention to each individual wine lot. When harvest is over it is very rewarding to sit down to taste all the new wines from the season.
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