Q&A with Ispiri Owner and Winemaker Leslie Sisneros
Q: How did you begin making wine?
A: I graduated from UC Davis with a Plant Science, Viticulture degree and worked my way up over the years at various wineries.
Q: Where did you cut your winemaking teeth?
A: I was fortunate to work at a custom crush facility in the late ‘80s where some budding icons were making their wine. I learned a lot about different winemaking styles. I also spent many years at Kendall-Jackson where the expectations and demands were high, so that helped me to develop my techniques and work ethic.
Q: Who were some of your mentors?
Q: You’ve made wine for the likes of Kendall-Jackson, and boutique wineries like Arista and Kastania. What inspired you to start your own label, Ispiri?
A: I always need to remain challenged and expand my comfort zone. When the opportunity arose to source grapes from this unknown, sleepy mountain. I immediately did some research and learned there are several vineyards at different elevations. The wine from these grapes suited my style, so I took on the mountain along with my own label.
Q: How would you describe your winemaking style?
A: My goal is to craft wines that possess complexity, layers of flavor integrated with texture, and above all, show elegance.
Q: You seem partial to Pinot Noir and Bordeaux varieties? Why?
A: Because I was the Pinot Noir winemaker for Kendall-Jackson for eight years it was only natural to be Pinot-centric when I started consulting. And it doesn’t hurt that I live near some of the best Pinot areas. As far as Bordeaux, I enjoy making them because I enjoy drinking them.
Q: If you could make wine in another region, which would you choose?
A: I would choose Burgundy because there is already so much historical knowledge regarding the vine’s interaction with that environment. I also would want to be a part of a culture where wine is so ingrained.
Q: What wines, be they specific producers or styles, are you currently enjoying?
A: I’m not going to lie about my affinity towards California wines. Ok, I like the fruit, and alcohol usually doesn’t bother me. Because Sonoma County has such a bounty of small boutique producers, I like comparing wines from my area to different appellations within the region. And, I always appreciate the wine much more when I know the winemaker!
Q: What are your favorite special occasion wines?
A: I can never pass up those bubbles.
Q: What’s the most special wine you’ve tasted?
A: When a wine is special it’s about the time and place. I’ve had a lot of excellent and interesting wines but probably the most special wine was out of a single barrel over 25 years ago at a small winebau in Germany where I was interning.
Q: What do you like most about being a winemaker?
A: Mostly, I like being around the vines. I always knew I wanted to be around plants and I still find it fascinating that this ancient plant can produce the nectar of the gods.