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A trio of wine industry veterans—all female—lead Chamisal Vineyards into its 50th year

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Chamisal Vineyards just shattered its own wine-glass ceiling in 2023 by appointing its first female winemaker since its inception 50 years ago.

Now the leadership team of the San Luis Obispo winery consists of a trio of women with deep industry experience, devotion to customer service, and an exciting lineup of golden anniversary events.

Replacing former winemaker Fintan du Fresne, Brianne Engles joins Andrea de Palo, director of estates innovation, and Brooke Serafine, hospitality manager, at the storied Edna Valley winery, founded by Norman Goss and now owned by Napa-based Crimson Wine Group.

"I am extraordinarily honored to be appointed as Chamisal's first female winemaker at a time when we are commemorating our 50th anniversary," Engles said. "The winery is a truly special place with a respectable history and incredible pedigree of wines."

AT YOUR SERVICE From left, Director of Estates Innovation Andrea de Palo, winemaker Brianne Engles, and Hospitality Manager Brooke Serafine espouse a single overarching goal at SLO's Chamisal Vineyards and Malene Wines—to wow customers. - COURTESY PHOTO BY HEATHER DAENITZ
  • Courtesy Photo By Heather Daenitz
  • AT YOUR SERVICE From left, Director of Estates Innovation Andrea de Palo, winemaker Brianne Engles, and Hospitality Manager Brooke Serafine espouse a single overarching goal at SLO's Chamisal Vineyards and Malene Wines—to wow customers.

A SLO resident and Cal Poly graduate, Engles is excited to join fellow alumnae de Palo and Serafine, from SLO and Grover Beach, respectively, who "are exceptional at what they do," she said.

"Brooke is best-in-class at hospitality," Engles said. "She's created a welcoming environment for all and works harder than anyone in her field. Andrea has been with the winery for 17 years and has seen it evolve while also having a clear vision of where Chamisal can go."

Serafine and de Palo are equally excited to welcome Engles into the Chamisal leadership fold.

"Brianne is a breath of fresh air," Serafine said. "She is focused on her craft and brings with her a tremendous amount of dedication and vision."

Engles also "understands that she plays an integral role in what we do from a direct-to-consumer standpoint," Serafine added, commending "her willingness to link arms with myself and Andrea."

"I have worked with Andrea for my entire career with Chamisal Vineyards and Malene Wines," Serafine continued. "It goes without saying that I value, trust, and respect her on so many levels. She leads with a service heart and, truthfully, sits at the fundamental core of what it means to be a part of Chamisal Vineyards."

INDUSTRY PIONEER Chamisal planted Edna Valley's first commercial vineyard 50 years ago. Named for the area's native flowering shrubs by founder Norman Goss, the picturesque property lies within the SLO Coast American Viticultural Area. - PHOTOS COURTESY OF CHAMISAL VINEYARDS
  • Photos Courtesy Of Chamisal Vineyards
  • INDUSTRY PIONEER Chamisal planted Edna Valley's first commercial vineyard 50 years ago. Named for the area's native flowering shrubs by founder Norman Goss, the picturesque property lies within the SLO Coast American Viticultural Area.

De Palo is likewise thrilled to be working alongside Engles and Serafine "in a profession that has traditionally relegated women to supporting roles," she said.

As director of estates innovation for Chamisal, as well as its rosé branch Malene Wines and parent company Crimson Wine Group, which oversees five other wineries in California, Oregon, and Washington, de Palo said she feels proud and empowered.

The entire Crimson organization "has female leaders—from the CEO and CFO level to VPs, directors, and head winemakers—so I feel fortunate to be working for a company where women are truly valued," she explained.

She looks forward to Chamisal's next chapter in partnership with such capable co-leaders.

"Brianne's an incredibly talented winemaker who understands the full process from grape-to-glass," de Palo said. "Our former winemaker was with us for many years, but Brianne is so good at understanding our barrels, soil structure, terroir, clones, and overall mission that our wines continue to be outstanding."

Rounding out the team, de Palo continued, is Serafine, the gracious "face" of Chamisal and Malene for many guests.

MALENE SCENE Malene Wines' 1969 Airstream mobile tasting room, specializing in rosé, is parked adjacent to Chamisal's winery in San Luis Obispo seasonally from April through October. A miniature model is available for private events. - PHOTOS COURTESY OF CHAMISAL VINEYARDS
  • Photos Courtesy Of Chamisal Vineyards
  • MALENE SCENE Malene Wines' 1969 Airstream mobile tasting room, specializing in rosé, is parked adjacent to Chamisal's winery in San Luis Obispo seasonally from April through October. A miniature model is available for private events.

"Brooke is amazing, and I honestly do not know what I would do without her," de Palo said. "She is dedicated and very passionate about her job. In a way, we've evolved with the winery together. For our club members and guests to return year after year and still see the same [people] pour their wine and share life updates, it's been rewarding."

Reaching the top ranks of Chamisal has been a long road for all three women, who bring combined decades of experience to the table.

Engles boasts a degree in wine and viticulture as well as a level 3 advanced certification from the Wine & Spirit Education Trust. Her more than 20 years in the industry include stints at Two Hands in Marananga, South Australia; Duckhorn and Quintessa in St. Helena, California; and Adelaida in Paso Robles.

OAK AND NO OAK Regularly scoring 90-plus points from Wine Enthusiast magazine, Chamisal's chardonnay lineup includes its rich, oaky Califa, as well as crisp stainless and aromatic amphora-aged options. - PHOTO COURTESY OF CHAMISAL VINEYARDS
  • Photo Courtesy Of Chamisal Vineyards
  • OAK AND NO OAK Regularly scoring 90-plus points from Wine Enthusiast magazine, Chamisal's chardonnay lineup includes its rich, oaky Califa, as well as crisp stainless and aromatic amphora-aged options.

Serafine, armed with a marketing degree and minor in wine and viticulture, launched her career in 2005 at retail shop the Wine Garage in Calistoga, California, before returning to the Central Coast in 2009. There, she landed "the job of her dreams at the one and only Chamisal Vineyards, with a familiar face from her college years," she said of de Palo.

"The property felt like home. Knowing the history of the vineyards and wines, I knew that being associated with Chamisal Vineyards would forever change my world," Serafine said.

De Palo, meanwhile, earned a degree in agriculture systems management with a minor in agriculture business and wine and viticulture in 2005.

"Shortly before graduation, I began working at Chamisal Vineyards when it was known as Domaine Alfred, and I have worked in various capacities at the winery ever since," she said.

Crimson purchased the winery in 2008, changing its name back to the original Chamisal.

FLAVOR BOMB Potent pinot noir with notes of "our signature Chamisal spice," according to the winery's website, hail from its estate vineyard. Chardonnay, syrah, and grenache also benefit from the property's cool climate and distinct loam soil. - PHOTO COURTESY OF CHAMISAL VINEYARDS
  • Photo Courtesy Of Chamisal Vineyards
  • FLAVOR BOMB Potent pinot noir with notes of "our signature Chamisal spice," according to the winery's website, hail from its estate vineyard. Chardonnay, syrah, and grenache also benefit from the property's cool climate and distinct loam soil.

In her current role, de Palo thrives on creating memorable experiences for guests, while also educating them about best-in-class wine and responsible estate management.

Producing 30,000 cases annually, including 5,000 at Malene, the 82-acre property specializes in pinot noir and chardonnay, with blocks of grenache and syrah as well.

Malene rosés feature a variety of grapes "sourced predominantly from the Central Coast region, including some from our estate," Engles explained, while sparkling is 100 percent estate chardonnay and pinot noir—capped at 200 cases per year—and limited to the tasting room and wine club only.

WINGED WARDENS Protecting Chamisal's vineyards from unwanted pests are a healthy population of raptors. The SIP (Sustainability in Practice)-certified property is also herbicide-free and uses cover crops to increase biodiversity. - PHOTO COURTESY OF CHAMISAL VINEYARDS
  • Photo Courtesy Of Chamisal Vineyards
  • WINGED WARDENS Protecting Chamisal's vineyards from unwanted pests are a healthy population of raptors. The SIP (Sustainability in Practice)-certified property is also herbicide-free and uses cover crops to increase biodiversity.

"I always aim to craft very fresh and lively wines that honor their sense of place," she added. "I want the estate vineyard to shine through and use as little intervention as possible to reach the fullest expression of what Chamisal can produce in any given vintage."

The trio is particularly proud of Chamisal's long history of sustainability. Measures include installing a Miyawaki (native) forest, community vegetable garden, and cover crops; using predatory birds to target pests; eliminating the use of herbicides; irrigating with recaptured water; and generating partial electrical power from solar panels.

However, Chamisal's most prized possession remains its diverse and loyal client base.

"[Our team] aims to build experiences for the sophisticated wine connoisseur as well as novice guests looking to discover their palate," de Palo said. "From premium wines to a glass of rosé to just being a welcoming place for someone to sip chardonnay with a friend, I want Chamisal and Malene to be known as a place where everyone can go and know they're being catered to." Δ

Flavor Writer Cherish Whyte salutes Chamisal's leading ladies and 50 years of fabulous wine. Reach her at [email protected].

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