Susan Lueker

Susan Lueker

Fortress Vineyards (Winemaker)

Kendall-Jackson (Winemaker)

Susan Lueker says that she always wanted to be a scientist, envisioning that she would ultimately “end up like Jane Goodall, observing chimpanzees in their isolated natural habitat.” But her years at the University of Missouri studying chemistry and working in labs changed her mind. During her senior year she switched majors, graduating with a minor in chemistry and a major in medical child development. Then she went to graduate school while working at John Hopkins as a play therapist.

Having grown up in a farming family, she thought she wanted a career in anything but agriculture. However, her work at John Hopkins was not fulfilling, and after much soul searching and the counsel of her father, Susan transferred to the University of California, Davis intending to pursue either a medical or an enology degree.

With her first enology class, visit to the vineyards, and internship, she knew she wanted to be a winemaker. She loved the vineyard, the interaction with people and nature, and the science. She started at Hacienda Winery, a 20,000-case family winery in the Sonoma Valley, which gave her an unequalled hands-on experience. Working at a small winery, she did everything from vineyard thinning, to sampling, experimentation, pump maintenance, winemaking, problem solving, sensory analysis, blending, and bottling-line production.

She first took that experience to Kendall Jackson and then worked for eight years at Dry Creek Vineyard. From 2000 to mid-2019, Susan was the senior winemaker for Icon Estates and also joined the team at Simi in 2000, where she directed the day-to-day winemaking processes, worked with growers and vineyard managers to obtain the highest quality Sonoma County grapes, and assisted marketing and sales to promote the unique beauty and diversity of Sonoma County wines. She gave special attention to varietal favorites: Pinot Gris, Viognier, Sauvignon Blanc, Petite Sirah, and Zinfandel. She left Simi in early 2019 to rejoin Jackson Family Wines as Bordeaux Winemaker. As Susan says, “Life goes full circle”

Susan was born in Little Rock Arkansas, loves watching football on Sundays from a bar stool, and has a particular fondness for Zinfandel and Sauvignon Blanc.