Winemaker Derek Baljeu: A Journey from Surfing to Cabernet Sauvignon

Derek Baljeu’s path to becoming a winemaker was an unexpected one. Growing up in Southern California, he was drawn to surfing and skateboarding, but also developed a keen interest in cooking thanks to his mom’s culinary skills. Wine was a regular fixture on the family dinner table, and little did he know that it would eventually become his career.

While attending the University of California, Davis, on a football scholarship, Baljeu discovered the world of winemaking. It was a fateful dinner, paired with a bottle of Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon 1996, that solidified his passion for wine. He soon found himself interning in wineries and conducting research on phenolic development, which paved the way for career-defining opportunities in Napa Valley.

In 2019, Baljeu was hired as the assistant winemaker at Knights Bridge Winery in Sonoma County’s Knights Valley AVA. The winery, known for its Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, and Sauvignon Blanc, recognized his talent and promoted him to winemaker just two years later.

Baljeu’s love for the wine industry extends beyond winemaking. He is actively involved in mentoring through The Roots Fund, an organization that aims to increase diversity in the wine community through scholarships and mentorships. He firmly believes in the importance of understanding all aspects of the industry and is currently pursuing an MBA in executive wine business.

While Cabernet Sauvignon remains his main focus, Baljeu’s appreciation for wine extends to the concept of terroir, or sense of place. He recognizes the unique characteristics and flavors that different soils, exposures, and clones bring to a wine. Knights Bridge Winery, with its volcanic soils and stunning vineyard, was a natural fit for Baljeu’s vision and passion.

As a mentor, Baljeu hopes to make a difference in the lives of aspiring winemakers, particularly those from underrepresented communities. By sharing his personal experiences and providing guidance, he strives to inspire others and break barriers in the industry.

Derek Baljeu’s journey from a Southern California surfer to an accomplished winemaker is a testament to the power of passion and following one’s instincts. Through his work and mentorship, he is shaping the future of the wine industry and inspiring others to pursue their dreams.

FAQ:

1. How did Derek Baljeu become a winemaker?
– Derek Baljeu became a winemaker after discovering his passion for wine while attending the University of California, Davis. He interned in wineries and conducted research on phenolic development, which led to career opportunities in Napa Valley.

2. Where is Knights Bridge Winery located?
– Knights Bridge Winery is located in Sonoma County’s Knights Valley AVA.

3. What is The Roots Fund?
– The Roots Fund is an organization that aims to increase diversity in the wine community through scholarships and mentorships. Derek Baljeu is actively involved in mentoring aspiring winemakers through this organization.

4. What is terroir?
– Terroir refers to the concept of the sense of place in wine. It recognizes the unique characteristics and flavors that different soils, exposures, and clones bring to a wine.

5. What is Derek Baljeu’s main focus in winemaking?
– Derek Baljeu’s main focus in winemaking is Cabernet Sauvignon.

6. What is Derek Baljeu currently pursuing?
– Derek Baljeu is currently pursuing an MBA in executive wine business to further his understanding of all aspects of the wine industry.

Definitions:

1. Phenolic development: The process of phenolic compounds in grapes ripening, including the development of flavors, colors, and tannins.

2. AVA (American Viticultural Area): A legally defined wine grape-growing region in the United States that is distinguishable by its geology, climate, and other factors.

Related links:

Knights Bridge Winery
The Roots Fund