Meet Your Winemaker: David Bradley, Winemaker/Owner, Vindemia Vineyard & Estate Winery

February 13th, 2012

Vindemia Owners David and Gail Bradley


This month’s “Meet Your Winemaker” installment is about Vindemia Vineyard & Estate Winery owner and winemaker David Bradley. David also owns and operates California Dreamin’ Balloon Adventures in Temecula.

Q: What inspired you to go into wine making?

A: I am a commercial hot air balloon pilot. I started flying balloons in 1977 and in Temecula in 1986. Passengers on our flights would ask questions about grape growing and winemaking (our pilots have served over 35,000 bottles of sparkling wine over the years), so I began learning more about the vineyards I was flying over and the characters in Temecula who made wine- and there were quite a few! I would stop growers and picking crews and ask questions.

Over the years I learned more and got very interested. I saw that Mesa Verde (now called Van Roekel) Winery was for sale and dreamed of one day owning a vineyard and winery. Having children, building a business and financial restrictions put The Dream on hold but it never left my mind. I asked more questions, bought books and began looking for vineyard property. It seemed like understanding viticulture and our region’s climate would be the place to start. Weather patterns and subtle climate influences are my background from years of hot air ballooning so growing conditions and vineyard placement was a little easier to grasp. My grandfather was a chemist, so as a kid I was familiar with the equipment in a wine lab and scientific note taking but I didn’t  know much about wine….cuvee rouge and white zinfandel were my friends! As a kid I remembered all the smells in the chemistry lab, and as an adult I noticed, while flying, that I had a good sense of spatial awareness and changes in my environment- especially smells. You can smell rain, desert winds at 4000 feet, cow poop when the wind is out of the North, In-N-Out onions when you step on certain weeds…so I think my sense of smell really opened my mind up to wine and the world of wine making.

In short, I am a balloon pilot who is a student of winemaking.

Q: Did you have a wine-making mentor, and if so, can you tell us a bit about him or her?

A: Yes 4 mentors,  Dr. Enrique Ferro, Jon McPherson, Javier Flores and Marshall Stuart.

Enrique is a Doctorate of Enology and has spent his life in California and Baja California helping others make beautiful wines. He has been a patient teacher.

Jon and Javier are the winemakers at South Coast Winery and are masters of the craft, from sparkling to floral whites to deep expressive reds. When I am in a jam I call the “Dynamic Duo.”

Marshall does it all from vineyard operations to crushing 600 tons while talking on the phone- nothing phases him. He is a giant friend who makes big reds.

Just having the opportunity to grow up with and talk with these four winemakers has been a great pleasure. They make working and producing wine the best job you could have.


Q: Have you had any “oops” moments during your early days of winemaking? If so, we’d love to hear the story!

A: In the early days,  “oops moments” seemed like a once-a-vintage tradition. Probably the one with the best outcome was in 2008, while I was making a cabernet franc off the vineyard at the corner of Rancho California road and Calle Contento. We had a beautiful lush wine with a high PH that we crushed at Stuart Cellars, and it needed some acid. I added the acid and filled out a work order. The way I filled out the order made it seem like the wine needed acid (instead of relaying the message that it had already been added) so the next morning, the assistant winemaker at Stuart Cellars came in and added acid. The result was a wine that had a deep, beautiful color that tasted like Sweet Tarts candies! Marshall Stuart, the owner of Stuart Cellars, said in a calm voice that his Estate Cabernet Franc actually needed more acid and color, so we blended the two wines and the 2008 Cabernet Franc became a “two vineyard” select, which turned out to be one of our best wines- it went on to win Best of Region Red for South Coast Appellation at the California State Fair in 2010.

Q: What do you feel has been your greatest achievement as a winemaker?
A: Understanding just how important every decision you make in the vineyard shows up 15 minutes after you crush. That, and being a lifelong student to the art.
Q: Give one piece of advice to aspiring winemakers:
A: If someone tells you that it is a crazy idea – do it!
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