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Interview with Ancient Oak’s Denise Gill

Denise Gill, Director of Sales and Hospitality

Take a few moments to get to know our lovely and charming Director of Sales and Hospitality, Denise Gill. Denise’s sales and marketing savvy coupled with her deeply-rooted understanding of wine make her one of Ancient Oak’s greatest assets. She is at the counter of our tasting room five days a week and always provides a warm and fun visit when tasting our wines. Denise and I recently sat down to discuss wine, her own background and relationship with the Moholt-Siebert family, and of course the seductive and subtle indulgences that we have in store for tasters this week with our soon-to-be famous Wine and Truffle pairings.


Jordan Wardlaw sat down to interview Denise this week as we anticipate our Valentine’s Happy Hour.


Jordan: Denise, how long have you worked in the wine business? Any notable experiences or insights you’d like to share?

Denise: I have 20 years of experience within my career in the wine industry. I started this journey with taking wine related classes at Santa Rosa Junior College and UC Davis.  Some of my notable accomplishments include implementing new wine clubs, creating new events, opening tasting rooms and building long relationships within the wine industry.

J: I’ve talked to customers who would like to know: How did you come to form a partnership with Ken and Melissa?

D: A prominent mutual friend introduced me to Melissa and Ken. I was intrigued with the great family history, a passion for Sonoma County wines, and  their value of sustainable farming practices. Shortly after our meetings, I was invited to their home to taste the wines which commenced our excitement to put Ancient Oak Cellars on the map. On October 25, 2012 we opened first tasting room in downtown Santa Rosa, inside the historic Corrick’s building. Staying local is important to Melissa and Ken when determining the vineyards they will farm. Along with the winemaker Kent Barthman, the mainstay wines produced are the Russian River Valley Chardonnay and Pinot plus other single vineyards like the estate Siebert Ranch Pinot Noir RRV, Pagnano Vineyard Zinfandel RRV  and Warnecke Cabernet Sauvignon  from Alexander Valley. All of Ancient Oak Cellars wines have received outstanding recognition.

J: I, like many others, admire your knowledge and understanding of wine. One of your most interesting activities is adjudicating wine at festivals and competitions. Could you describe some of your experiences?

D: Over the past 9 years, I have judged the San Francisco Chronicle  and CA State Fair  wine competitions. This is clearly an educational experience to follow the trends and the different vintage outcome such as ripeness, pH, acid and alcohol levels. There are panels of three or five professionals from wine writers, wine makers, educators, buyers and distributors.  A day of judging includes tasting up to 100 wines which are then awarded a Gold, Silver, Bronze or No Award.  The San Francisco Chronicle is the largest competition in the US, this year featured over 5,500 competing wines.

J: That’s a LOT of wine! Could you talk about your personal taste in wine and some of the wines that you are most passionate about?

D: My favorite wine is determined by what’s for dinner, the weather temperature or who I am sharing the wine with. The wine that tends to be the most versatile is Pinot Noir. Even my white wine friends enjoy one of my favorites, Ancient Oak Cellars Estate Siebert Ranch Russian River Valley Pinot Noir. I love the great flavors of lively strawberry, cherry, a touch of earthiness, balanced French oak, supple tannins, and elegant silkiness. The Russian River Valley has claimed the best appellations for growing Pinot Noir. The long, cool, foggy mornings produce happy, healthy vineyards. Wine is the best beverage to enjoy when it comes to enhancing food flavors. The ultimate pairing makes for a memorable experience. The best rule of thumb is to mirror some of the flavors in the wine thus enhancing the wine and food pairing.

J: I recently did an interview with David, our friend at Sonoma Chocolatiers who we’ve partnered up with to offer wonderful wine and truffle pairings in our tasting room this week. Could you talk about the partnership with the Chocolatiers and tell our readers about the Valentine’s event?

D: Working together with Sonoma Chocolatier, we have created the ultimate pairing ranging from a Lemon Thyme Brie truffle with the Chardonnay to a Smoked Olive Oil Pergon for the Zinfandel. The Chocolatiers also have created a truffle especially for us, a 70% cacao dark chocolate truffle with a ganache infused with our own 2010 Zinfandel. We invite you to taste these pairing starting Saturday, February 9 through 16th. (closed Sunday) from 11:00am to 5:00pm.

J: Any interesting notes about pairings, or personal favorites you’d like to describe to entice us?

D: It’s fun to pair wine with chocolate especially during Valentine’s to start or finish a romantic day. I fell in love with their California Coastal truffle. The ganache is made with organic cream infused with herbs native to California’s Coast which creates a great marriage with the layers of savory richness of our Siebert Ranch Pinot Noir.

J: So, what’s next for Ancient Oak Cellars?

D: I’d like to tell people about our new partnership with the Berger Vineyard in Sonoma Valley. This amazing 800 ft elevation vineyard has the perfect terroir and weather for Bordeaux varietals plus sweeping views of Mt. Veeder in the Mayacamas. To introduce these wines, we will offer barrel samples in our tasting room during the first two weeks in March. We hope you can celebrate with us and taste these full-bodied, stellar wines.

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2 Responses to “Interview with Ancient Oak’s Denise Gill”

  1. Ray Moholt says:

    Denise and Jordan: I know the wines are great; now I’m really ready to taste some of those truffles.

  2. lorinda says:

    well done/reallyreally interesting. Hurrah for both Denise and Jordon.

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