Meet The Winemaker: Niner's Amanda Cramer, Calculus Teacher Turned Master Vine Reader
Earlier this week, Niner winemaker Amanda Cramer was among those whom we chatted with about the current state of the 2010 California grape harvest. For better or worse. In an industry currently swimming in public relations laced glasses of keep quite (never say it might be a bad vintage), ours was a refreshingly frank interview. That Cramer was a former Northeast prep school kid (St. Paul's) who is now doing hard labor time is somehow even more sweetly intoxicating.
Niner Do We Detect A Splash Of Former Math Teacher?
Cramer landed the lead position at Niner after working her way though several Napa wineries as an assistant winemaker (her husband is the one who told her to stop over-analyzing and just take that dream job, damn it). Turn the page for our interview with Cramer, from her days working under Heidi Barrett to how she really landed that gig at Niner (via her book club friends). Please god, don't tell Oprah.
Squid Ink: You started out as a math teacher?
Niner Cramer In Her A + B = Wine Squared Element
Amanda Cramer: Yes. It was a lot harder than I thought. It was the fourth year I'd been a teacher that I decided it was time for a change. Those first years, I'd had AP students [calculus] who really wanted to be there, to learn. That last year I had 50% freshman who didn't care about math. That was when I told my students they drove me to drink (laughs).
SI: So you went to UC Davis for a graduate degree in oenology.
AC: Actually, I started out in their undergrad program. My math degree wasn't all that relevant to winemaking. But I always loved science, which is what winemaking is really about. Then I wound up in the graduate program. I like to say I was "lured" by the idea of a master's degree.
SI: Aren't we all.
AC: Well, with me, for goodness sake, I was there for the entire three years and didn't even finish my thesis. I even wrote most of it. I call it my MS/EBT degree, Everything But the Thesis.
SI: Instead you wound up at a few different wineries, eventually at Paradigm under Heidi Barrett.
AC: Yes, it was a great experience. But there is always that Heidi Barrett ceiling. You know you are never going higher than her.
SI: You're never truly going to be making your own wine with Barrett in the house.
AC: Right. And then this Niner thing, to be perfectly honest, just sort of came up from a book club I was in.
SI: A book club?