Fortress Vineyards is proud to announce their new consulting winemaker, Nils Venge. Nils has over 30 years of winemaking experience in the Napa Valley, and now brings his expertise to Fortress Vineyards.
Nils graduated from UC Davis in 1967 with a BS in viticulture and a minor in enology. In 1970, after serving a tour of duty in Vietnam, Nils began his career in the wine industry as a vineyard supervisor for Charles Krug Winery and later, Sterling Vineyards. By 1973 Nils made the transition into winemaking by becoming winemaker and general manager for Villa Mount Eden.
In 1982, Nils joined forces with Dennis Groth to form Groth Vineyards and Winery. Nils served as winemaker and general manager. In 1985, Nils was bestowed the honor of being the first American winemaker to receive a perfect ‘100 Points’ from Robert Parker Jr. for Groth’s Reserve Cabernet. In that same year, Nils began making wine under his own label, Saddleback Cellars, from grapes grown on property he and his father-in-law owned together. Saddleback Cellars’ first vintage was released in 1982.
Nils parted from Groth Vineyards in 1993 to become a consulting winemaker and to make wine under his own label, Saddleback Cellars. Nils later added Venge Vineyards, a Venge family operation with his son Kirk. Envy Wines is his newest collaborative venture. In addition to now consulting for Fortress Vineyards, Nils' winery clients include such prominent wineries as Keenan, Del Dotto, Plumpjack and Moss Creek.
Lars Bjorkman was born in Fresno, California to Scandinavian parents. After graduating from Clovis high school as a football star, he was recruited to play at UC Davis where he began his studies as a Biology major.
Eventually he came back to one of his first college classes, Introduction to Winemaking, to change his major to Viticulture and Enology. Here Lars truly realized his future in the wine world. Internships at Gloria Ferrer in Sonoma, R.H. Phillips in Dunnigan Hills, and Stonehaven Vineyards in Padthaway, South Australia, soon followed.
After receiving his B.S. he began work as the Enologist at Flora Springs Winery where he helped to make many award winning wines. In 2006the changed jobs to become the Assistant Winemaker at Saddleback Cellars in Oakville under the well-known winemaker, Nils Venge. Here Lars oversees all winemaking and vineyard operations.
Since then, his duties have expanded to overseeing winemaking and vineyard operations at Envy Wines as well as overseeing winemaking for Fortress Vineyards with Nils Venge as consulting winemaker.