Winemaker and Vineyard Manager
Rudy was born in Sacramento, California, and grew up in the nearby agricultural community of Davis. Building on a love of the outdoors and an interest in farming, Rudy studied Plant Science and Agricultural Management at the University of California, Davis, where he focused on viticulture.
Upon graduating from UC Davis in 1991, Rudy moved to Napa and took a position at the famed Oakville Grocery that inspired Rudy’s desire to pursue winemaking. Working alongside wine buyer Mary Danielak, Rudy tasted thousands of wines, refining his palate and expanding his base of knowledge about vineyards, vintages and winemaking styles. In 1993, eager to gain hands-on winemaking experience, Rudy traveled to Australia’s McLaren Vale to work at Wirra Wirra Winery. Under the guidance of Australian winemaker, Ben Riggs, Rudy learned techniques for achieving ideal ripeness, cap management and extraction—techniques that still inform his approach to winemaking.
After returning to the United States, Rudy worked for St. Clement Vineyards and White Cottage Ranch under his mentor Dennis Johns. From there he moved on to such respected wineries as Cuvaison and Honig Vineyard, where Rudy was the assistant winemaker working alongside James Hall, of Patz and Hall Wine Company. In 1996, Rudy joined Robert Craig Winery as winemaker, where he spent the next seven years focusing on terroir-driven Cabernet Sauvignon production from Howell Mountain, Mount Veeder, and the Napa valley floor. Eager to combine his love of agriculture and winemaking, Rudy moved to a post as the winemaker and vineyard manager for Ehlers Estate from 2003 to 2008. “My ideal approach to winemaking,” says Rudy, “begins with guiding the farming of the land.” This was an incredible opportunity to feel the luxury of an estate run program. His most recent position was back on Howell Mountain for his second stint at White Cottage Ranch. As Winemaker, Vineyard Manager and General Manager, he converted the property to a certified organic and biodynamic estate.
As a consulting vineyard manager and winemaker for small estate programs, Rudy Zuidema combines a passion for agriculture with an expansive knowledge of winemaking. In the vineyard, he follows organic and biodynamic farming practices to naturally enhance the flavorful diversity of the estate’s rich tapestry of vineyard blocks. This natural approach continues in the winery, where Rudy emphasizes classic, small-lot techniques and gentle handling to craft balanced wines that embody a sense of elegance, purity and power.
In the cellar Rudy uses the entire range of winemaking methods, from traditional open-top fermentation using native yeasts to cutting edge Flash Détente extraction. See the Flash Wine Technologies site for more information.