A Day in the Cellar with Winemaker Morgan Maureze

For the distinct group of individuals who choose winemaking as a career, it’s not so much a job as it is a way of life. Unlike most professions that begin with coffee, morning commutes, and 9-to-5 routines, winemakers experience both extremes. With the first buds of spring and the onset of harvest, their lives transform into weeks filled with 1:00 a.m. starts, 24-hour shifts, and staggered sleep. However, it’s winter now in the valley, a season marked by heavy rainfall, short days, and cold nights. At Seven Apart, our winemaker Morgan Maureze’s routines reflect those of our vines, hibernating, diligently maintaining things, and preparing for the next vintage. While the pace is significantly calmer compared to the hustle and bustle of summer, we took the chance to sit down with Morgan to gain an intimate glimpse into what a day in his winemaking life entails.

Morning: 9 am – 1 pm

“It’s the off-season in Napa Valley right now, meaning my hours are more regular—a typical 9-to-5 day, which is fantastic. This schedule allows me the luxury of time in the mornings to be with my daughter Genevieve, to enjoy breakfast together, and to walk her to daycare, among other things,” opens Morgan. This tranquil routine starkly contrasts with the hectic pace of peak season, during which Morgan finds himself at the vineyard by 1:00 a.m. to harvest grapes in their optimal state and catch sleep sporadically amidst overseeing pressings and fermentations.

Upon arrival at the winery, Morgan’s routine reflects the current season’s pace. Winter in Napa Valley is a time for introspection and planning. The cellar, a sanctum of potential and promise, holds the future of the 2022 vintage, quietly aging in barrels alongside the more recent 2023 vintage. Morgan, alongside Jorge, Seven Apart’s Cellar Master, delves into the day’s tasks with a focus sharpened by years of experience.

“Mornings mean maintenance, encompassing not only the facility but the wines themselves. We’re currently monitoring the 2023 vintage as it completes its malolactic fermentation,” Morgan shares. From monitoring the progress of the wines in barrel to envisioning the blends that will define the next vintage, his approach is one of minimal intervention but maximum attention. As Morgan walks through the cellar, his eyes scan for anything amiss, a habit honed by years of tending to the minutiae of winemaking. The aesthetic of the cellar, its cleanliness and organization, speaks to the ethos of Seven Apart—excellence in every detail. “I’ve also made some adjustments to enhance the layout for our winery tours,” he notes.

Morgan and Jorge methodically review a weekly schedule displayed in their office, ticking off each completed task. While the vineyard remains dormant, necessitating only monthly inspections, the frequency of these walkthroughs intensifies as spring nears, eventually becoming almost hourly to meticulously monitor the fruit’s development and pinpoint the ideal harvest time. “These walkthroughs are crucial for evaluating the cover crop’s vigor and the effectiveness of our pruning techniques, among other factors,” Morgan explains. For now, the morning hours are reserved for tackling the most labor-intensive tasks.

Afternoon: 2 pm – 5 pm

Lunch is often a shared moment with Jorge at a simple picnic table outside. “We just talk about work, family, whatever. We’ve known each other a while, so we’re comfortable to grab a quiet bite to eat,” explains Morgan. Sometimes, their lunch break is not so quiet, punctuated by interactions with winery visitors. Morgan’s willingness to engage and share the story of Seven Apart reflects a broader commitment to hospitality and the shared experience of wine.

By afternoon, his focus shifts to the barrels that lie in the heart of the cellar. Tasting and blending are acts of creativity, guided by an intimate knowledge of each lot’s potential. His philosophy, one of letting the wine express its inherent qualities without unnecessary manipulation, shapes his approach to these tasks. It’s a belief in the wine’s ability to mature, to find its balance and character with time rather than through constant adjustment.

“Once the wine is in the barrel, I avoid excessive tinkering and sampling. After all, it’s aging for a period of 18 to 24 months.. Intervening too much can introduce oxygen and potential contaminants. Moreover, it’s about allowing the wine to rest and mature on its own. If the wine was crafted correctly from the start, it shouldn’t need much adjustment. Much like people, wine sometimes needs time to develop,” Morgan elucidates.

As the day draws to a close, the sense of accomplishment from completing the day’s tasks and leaving the cellar in pristine condition reflects Morgan’s life philosophy—being thoughtful, and always looking ahead. “The most gratifying part of my day is when everything is cleaned, organized, and ready for tomorrow. There’s a profound sense of satisfaction in knowing everything is in its right place. It feels good and makes the next day’s start infinitely smoother,” he shares.

Evening: 6 pm – late

Morgan’s commute home is a short 10-15 minute drive. Dinner, often prepared by his wife Britny, is an opportunity for Morgan to shift from winemaker to family man.

“I’m incredibly fortunate because my wife is a chef, so I often return home to exceptional meals. Consequently, mealtime is important in our home—it revolves around food and wine,” shares Morgan. As Britny prepares the meals, Morgan contemplates their drink choice, delving into their home cellar to find the perfect pairing. “This ritual marks the beginning of my evening unwind, essentially assisting in meal preparation, though I mainly try to keep out of Britny’s way in the kitchen. It’s about spending quality time with Genevieve and enjoying dinner together. While work might come up in conversation, we make a concerted effort not to let it dominate our evening discussions,” he adds.

Morgan’s evenings are a time for reflection, for appreciating the simplicity of a meal shared with loved ones, and for the quiet contemplation of the day’s work. It’s in these moments that the full scope of his role at Seven Apart comes into focus—not just as a maker of wine but as a custodian of a tradition that spans generations, a tradition that, under his watchful eye, will continue to flourish. Here’s to the journey ahead, the vintages yet to come, and the hands that will bring them to life.