Alysha Stehly is an Enologist for Vesper Vineyards. She is also the Winemaker for Stehleon Winery in Escondido California. She doesn’t feel that being a female winemaker is unique, and she doesn’t see herself as a novelty.
“When I was in college it was almost 50/50 split of male and females in all of my winemaking classes.”
She continues, “If you want to be treated like an equal, then act like one. Putting winemakers into a category based on gender is ridiculous. When it comes to being a winemaker, I think it all comes down to the ability to handle the work, the hours, the ever-changing job description and the criticism. Doesn’t matter if you’re male or female.”
Alysha grew up around vineyards. Her father is a vineyard manager for many vineyards in San Diego County. She combined her love of art, science and farming into one- Viticulture and Enology. She set off to college at the prestigious University of California, Davis. And she stuck with it. Not many people can say they made a career of what they chose to study as a 19-year-old, but she can!
Today she also teaches Viticulture at Mira Costa College in Oceanside, California. The class is a whirlwind of material, “We brush over a little bit of everything, picking a vineyard site, designing the vineyard, planting, managing pests, diseases and critters and more,” she says.
“I visit the vineyards at least once a month. I want to know what is going on, so when it comes to harvest time I know exactly what I am getting, and I am prepared to make them into the best wines possible with minimal intervention.”
We have 20 micro climates in San Diego County, which gives us a lot over variety to work with – more so than other wine regions. “I work only with San Diego County grapes. I like supporting our local business and farmers. Making wines from grapes grown here not only supports local farmers and businesses, but it preserves farmland. If I can help a grower transition to wine grapes and keep their farm in farming, and not being sold to a developer, it is a huge win for San Diego.”
“Nowadays, people care about where their food comes from and how it was grown, but they don’t think about where their beverages come from. Hopefully making wine from San Diego grapes can make them think twice about supporting local and have pride in what is grown here.”
At Vesper Vineyards, they take what she calls the occasional big risk on the winemaking side which they wouldn’t get to do at the other wineries. She and her husband made the decision to go natural about a year ago. Alysha says she didn’t sleep well for the first year, but her husband reminded her that she would be there the whole way and if there was anything going wrong in the wines she has the knowledge to catch it and fix it.
Alysha is having fun creating a variety of wines including Sauvignon Blanc, Rancho Guejito Rosé and McCormick Ranch Rosé, Torrontes, Syrah Blanc, Carménère, Malbec and Syrah.
“We can grow great grapes and make nice wines in San Diego. Don’t discount San Diego wines just because we aren’t a famous region. It’s more like the best-kept secret.”