Jennifer Reichardt

Jennifer Reichardt

Raft Wines (Winemaker & Owner)

Jennifer Raft might characterize herself as a fifth-generation duck farmer, being a member of the family that established Sonoma County Poultry in 1901, a business in which she has had and continues to have various responsibilities since 2000. Now she’s added winemaking to her portfolio of talents.

Born and raised in Sonoma County, California, she entered the University of California, Santa Barbara, in 2006, initially following a pre-med curriculum but ultimately deciding that a career in medicine was not for her. She earned her B.A. degree in Sociology in 2010 and then embarked on a variety of work experiences, some of which were not harbingers of the career in winemaking that was to come. For example, she spent the Fall of 2010 in southwest France working as a housemaid while also learning about French cuisine and culture, and followed that by working at a wholesale nursery in Sebastopol, CA, in the Spring of 2011.

The Fall of 2011 found Jennifer working her first harvest, at B.R. Cohn Winery in Glen Ellen as a winemaker’s assistant, and then a second harvest in Fall, 2012, at Littorai Wines in Sebastopol as an enology intern. Spring, 2013, found her working harvest at Terra Noble Wines in Talca, Chile, and this was followed by harvest internships at Scherrer Winery in Sebastopol and James Estate in Australia in 2013 and 2014, respectively. Additional harvest internships at Ceritas Wines and Lioco Wines in Santa Rosa (2014) and Cruse Wine Co. in Petaluma (2015) broadened her winemaking expertise.

With no formal training in winemaking but with all the aforementioned “hands-on” experience under her belt, Jennifer established Raft Wines in 2016. The name of the winery embodies one definition of “raft,” a dense flock of swimming birds, and reflects the family’s historic business as well as the support she has received from her family and friends.

The timing for starting the winery was perfect because, as she has said, “All the stars sort of aligned right before Harvest 2016.” A producer with whom she had worked had some barrels for sale and a friend in Dry Creek had some Syrah fruit to sell, the result being three hundred cases of wine in her first vintage. She is now sourcing grapes from throughout California, using mainly Rhone varietals in her wines but limiting her purchases to organically grown fruit. Her production includes Syrah, Sangiovese, and Viognier.

Jennifer’s philosophy on winemaking includes using “the In Pursuit of Balance ideas [a now-defunct Bay Area organization] in promoting lower alcohol and higher acidity in my lineup.” In addition, she says, “I'm making wine that I enjoy drinking. The wines are approachable early. I'm not making wines that need to be aged fifteen years before drinking.”