Thursday, September 12, 2013

Brad Martz Promoted to Winemaker at Whitecliff Vineyards in Hudson Valley (PA)

Great news! For wine lovers, that is! Michael Migliore and Yancey Danforth-Migliore have announced that Brad Martz has been promoted to Winemaker at Whitecliff Vineyards! This is great news. Whitecliff has been expanding at an massive rate, and the growth has been great not just for them, but for the valley as well. Whitecliff is one of the most forward thinking wineries in the region, and the ascension of Martz bodes well. He has hands-on experience in harvest/fermentation, racking, production/blending, fining, filtering and bottling. I have experience producing still wine, sparkling wine, fortified wine and apple wine/cider. Responsibilities have included: working with farm management, pre-harvest estimates and analysis, harvest/crush operations, wine management, cellar/facility maintenance, bottling operations, laboratory operations and analysis, and maintaining winemaking and inventory records. Sounds like a winemaker to me!

Before becoming a winemaker, Brad had almost 15 years of experience within the IT consulting services and staffing industry. He had a strong history of business development, channel management, recruiting and engagement management. I have comprehensive experience working with product partners, internal management, and external (client) management in the development and execution of IT project plans. He has also been a sales, recruiting and operations leader.

I caught up with Brad, whom I have gotten to know better over the last several years. I am a big fan, and I think he's certainly been a great addition to the team at Whitecliff. First I asked him about his background. 
"I was born and raised in Chambersburg, PA.  About an hour South of Harrisburg and 30 minutes West of Gettysburg.  After high school (Chambersburg Area Senior High School) I left the East Coast and went to college at San Jose State University--studying Physics and Aeronautics/Aviation."


As someone who moonlights as a sportswriter, I was impressed by his time spent playing major college baseball. He was a right handed pitcher. And of course one of my favorite  baseball books is by a pitcher - Jim Bouton's BALL FOUR. He said, "While I was at San Jose State playing baseball in an adult league, I was convinced by a few semi-pro players that I should pursue baseball.  I was introduced to a very well known baseball coach in California and then transferred to the junior college (San Jose City) where he was coaching.  After 2 seasons there, I was recruited by and invited to play for an excellent baseball program in California--UC Davis." 

You probably didn't know that Davis had an excellent baseball program. 

"When I played there, we were Division 2 (now Davis is D1), but we played a stronger schedule than most of the big division 1 programs.   We were ranked #2 in the country." 

The 1994 U.C. Davis Aggies were one of the best baseball nine to ever take the field in the history of the school. They shattered UC Davis Baseball record books with Most Victories (47) & Highest Winning Percentage (.797). Northern California Athletic Conference Champion by dramatic 16 game margin with 32-3 record. Ranked as high as 2nd in NCAA polls finishing 9th nationally. Parlayed two separate win streaks of 10 games during season. Lost NCAA West Regional Championship Game to host UC Riverside but placed four All-West Region Tournament players. Garnered seven All-NCAC first team stars including conference player, pitcher & coach of year. Six regulars averaged over .300 showcasing team batting average of .301. Three starting pitchers won combined 33 games. Pitching corps set new school records for Shutouts (12) & Saves (14) while fashioning 3.16 Earned Run Average. Superb defense set school standard with 58 Double Plays & .962 Team Fielding Percentage. Team produced three NCAA All-Americans & five NCAA All-West Region First Team choices including All-West Region Pitcher of Year. Three student-athletes earned GTE/CoSIDA Academic All-District honors. Five players signed professional baseball contracts after graduation.

But the allure of wine soon made it's impact. "My exposure to wine and winemaking started there, even though I didn't study it directly while I went to school at Davis." So Brad traded in his cleats for a wine glass.
"After college, I stayed in California and started working in the IT consulting and staffing industry.  During a trip to Napa, I stopped at Grgich Hills and had my first real wine experience.  I didn't know the Mike Grgich/Chateau Montelena story so the Grgich name didn't mean anything to me.  At the time,  the Grgich winery had a small tasting room and that particular day we had the whole place to ourselves--an oddity in Napa.  The tasting room worker spent a lot of time with us and gave us the full Grgich story as she discussed each wine in detail.  I remember drinking the 1994 Cabernet Sauvignon.  It was the best wine I had ever tasted and I immediately wanted to drink more wines like this-bold but not harsh, expressive fruit and incredibly smooth."

Brad was hooked.

"I started homebrewing beer about 10 years ago and dabbled with a little home winemaking.  About 5 years ago I started getting more serious about learning everything I could about wine and the science of winemaking.  I read numerous books about the history of wine, major players in the industry, and the science behind it." 

Suddenly Brad wanted to trade in his glass for a wine thief. 

"In 2010 I started the winemaking certification program with UC Davis --doing the classes online while commuting on the train into NYC every day--I'm still working on that certification.  About that time, I met Michael and Yancey Migliore and explained to them how I was very interested in the wine business and how I would love to work with them.  I volunteered my services for whatever they needed help with around the winery. In the winter of 2010, I started working with the sparkling product line." 
"In the Spring of 2011,  I worked in the field (tying, pruning, leaf pulling, etc...) and helped with the transition to the new production facility.  Then during the summer of 2011, I became an assistant winemaker at Whitecliff.  Michael has been an incredible mentor for me. When I first started, he would explain to me or show me how to do something, and then he would let me do it.  He would also allow me to bring new ideas to the table and would allow me to run with them.  In addition to learning winemaking protocols from a great winemaking mind, I have been able to learn all aspects of the winemaking business."

Speaking of the 2012 harvest season, Chris Gerling wrote in his harvest re-cap, “There was hope the late reds might get to hang (and the cellar crew might catch a break), but As Brad Martz at Whitecliff said, ‘the break did not come. More rain and the constant battle with birds and other animals aside, the early season frost last week (we had several nights where the temp dropped to 25 degrees F) had everyone in the Hudson Valley rapidly picking everything that was left on the vine… Brad Martz added, ‘After alcoholic fermentation and the first rackings, things are looking, smelling, and tasting very good. We expect 2012 quality to be high.’” And the results have been spectacular. The Malbec/Merlot, the GamayNoir, and other 2012 wines have been well received, and are flat out wonderful. 

"One of the things I love about Whitecliff is that I get to make a variety of wine products:  Sparkling, Still, Fortified, Apple, etc...  I also get to work in a 27 acre vineyard, with a diverse range of grape varieties.  Each variety has it's own set of challenges so my knowledge base grows each and every day.  I am always trying new blends so having a range of varieties to play with is great!!  A couple blends that came out of those trials was our Rose and the Merlot Malbec."
You can see why Michael and Yancey want to hold onto this this man.

Brad remains an ardent baseball fan. He's a Phillies man. Famed baseball pitcher Jim Bouton once wrote, “You spend a good piece of your life gripping a baseball and in the end it turns out that it was the other way around all the time.” I think you could morph that for Brad Martz and for all wine folk -You spend a good piece of your life gripping a wine thief and in the end it turns out that it was the other way around all the time. Welcome to The Show Mr. Martz!
Very exciting stuff for the whole valley...and for wine consumers.