“At its core, that’s what winemaking is all about — conducting series after series of trials to optimize the process and outcome,” says Hitchcock, who is now the head winemaker at J Vineyards & Winery, which was founded by Judy Jordan in 1986. We chatted with Hitchcock about her day-to-day work as an acclaimed winemaker and one of Gallo’s celebrated Women Behind the Wine.
That first restaurant job sparked Hitchcock’s curiosity. Not only did she enjoy creating an atmosphere of “magic” for people through tastings and pairings, but she also loved delving into the more technical and hands-on aspects of wine. After earning a degree in Viticulture & Enology from UC Davis, she took on a variety of internships and jobs across the industry, from sales to cellaring. Eventually, that led her to winemaking.
“Becoming a winemaker is not for the faint of heart. It requires relentless dedication, a passion for problem-solving, fearlessness of getting dirty, and true team spirit,” Hitchcock says. “I think that those qualities, combined with a persistent thirst for discovering and producing delicious wines, led me to where I am today.”
Now, at J Vineyards & Winery, her job revolves around creating award-winning sparkling and still wines from grapes grown in California’s Russian River Valley — which is renowned for its cool-climate vineyard sites and diverse soil types — and other Sonoma County regions. She spends her days overseeing every step of the process, from the vineyard to the cellar to the laboratory.