Anyone who has seen Meghan Zobeck in action on SOMM TV knows that her laugh and smile are contagious. She brings a joyous charm not only to the screen but to her role as winemaker for Burgess Cellars. A joy that no doubt made the seemingly left turn from her previous career appear like it was kismet.
From the Colchagua Valley to Piedmonte and Bordeaux to the Barossa Valley, Zobeck has immersed herself in many of the globe’s most prestigious winemaking regions. And now, she’s making a distinctive mark in the Napa Valley.
Read on to find out how she maneuvered from pro football to wine.
What was your career before working in wine?
I was negotiating player contracts and helping manage the salary cap for the Denver Broncos.
What led you to your first job in the wine industry, and what was the job?
I started making wine in my basement in Colorado after coming home from my first wine tasting trip to Santa Barbara. Serendipitously, I found an advertisement in a magazine for a local homebrew store that sold fresh grapes for wine. From then on, I was obsessed with wine. Specifically, I spent my (minimal) free time studying, tasting, writing to winemakers and traveling to different wine regions. That obsession eventually led to my first professional foray into wine. I quit my job to be a harvest intern at Clos Apalta in Chile.
Was wine a part of your family culture growing up? If so, how did it impact your view of wine?
My parents don’t drink. My dad was one of eight children, and his family is very Slovenian. Occasionally, we would have Slivovitz at weddings, a plum brandy that my uncles said would “put hair on your chest”. At the time, I knew next to nothing about wine. That is until I went wine tasting in Santa Barbara. It blew my mind to discover how complex the entire winemaking/farming/history of wine is. The experience fueled my curiosity and deep obsession.
How did you get involved with SOMM TV?
I initially met Jason Wise through mutual wine industry friends at one of the SOMM film premieres in Napa. That led to my first filming experience with SOMM TV – a blind tasting session with Jonah Beer.
I remember being so nervous that my hands were shaking while opening the bottle of Togni. It didn’t help that there was enough sediment in the bottle that the wine didn’t come out when I went to pour it. I just about died. However, the wine was incredible, and I was happy to guess one of my blinds correctly.
What is your primary job right now? Do you have a side-hustle in the industry?
For my day job, I am the head Winemaker for Burgess, a historic winery in Napa, CA. Working with old vines on a historic property is a dream come true. For my passion project, I am preparing to release my first wines under my own brand, M. Zobeck Wines (@m.zobeckwines on Instagram), including an El Dorado Hills Gamay and a cool-climate Cabernet Sauvignon from the Carmel Valley. Additionally, I have a few very fun collaborations I’m putting together for next year so stay tuned for those.
What do you do to keep yourself up to date within the world of wine?
I am constantly reading and listening to podcasts. I’m fortunate to have many friends who are wine educators and writers who continually put out great information. For instance, I can’t get enough of Elaine Chukan Brown‘s educational and thoughtfully written pieces. Sydney Love and Vanessa Rason are other great examples of up and coming wine writers. Additionally, for podcasts, I like to geek out on wine geologist Brenna Quigley’s Roadside Terroir or the Regenerative Agriculture podcast.
Where do you hope wine will take you in the future?
On a small scale, I hope to own and farm my own vineyard. Complete immersion is the best way I’ve found to learn and grow. I would love to use it as a classroom to teach healthy farming practices to the next generation of winemakers and farmers. Additionally, for our industry as a whole, I hope we keep using wine as a conduit to champion social and environmental change and continue to drive wine to be more welcoming and inclusive for all.
Watch Meghan Zobeck in SPARKLERS, premiering November 23rd on SOMM TV. Zobeck, alongside Maryam Ahmed, Claire Coppi, Matthew Kaner, and George Walker III, embarks on a 13-episode cooking competition featuring some of the world’s best sparkling wines. Sparklers is Top Chef meets SOMM, and it’s unlike anything else on TV.