Meet the Winemaker: Ryan Zotovich

Category: Life


I grew up on the central coast of California in a town called Los Osos, which is just south of Morro Bay and just west of San Luis Obispo. San Luis Obispo is equally positioned between San Francisco and Los Angeles. It’s prime grape growing region.

I wanted to work outside. I wanted to work with my hands. I ended up going to school in San Luis Obispo at Cal Poly. There’s a viticulture department there. From that point forward I was just in love with and really immersed in wine. Cal Poly’s motto is ‘Learn by Doing’ and that’s the way that I live my life.

I’m third-generation Serbian so plenty of people in my family before me made bathtub wine during prohibition using methods from the old country. My uncle and I used to work together at Zotovich. He bought a vineyard in 2004 in Santa Rita Hills, where it’s 70 acres and then he brought me on to help run the business.

You grow up in the central coast of California, barbecuing is a big thing. It’s what everybody does. It’s oak wood, pit barbecue. Growing up, I just saw the camaraderie between people while they were barbecuing and I really wanted to be a part of that. You just translate that home. With the barbecue, I get to cook food for people, who then benefit from that. I’m happy barbecuing. People are happy eating barbecue. None of my friends are going to take the 12 or 14-hour time to smoke a brisket but they appreciate it when I do.

With diving, it’s all about spear-fishing and bringing back food. It has to have a purpose. I’m always all about hunter or gatherer.

At the end of the day, you’re just trying to make people happy. The way that I do that as a winemaker is through creating a delicious product that somebody can drink.

Don't miss a conversation with Winc Director of Winemaking Ryan Zotovich and Chief Wine Officer Brian Smith as they split a bottle of Objet d'Art Pinot Noir.