Alicia Sylvester

Alicia Sylvester

Banshee Wines (Winemaker)

Alicia Sylvester is a native Californian, having grown up on her family’s almond farm in the Central Valley. This inevitably led to her having a strong work ethic and an appreciation of agriculture. Moreover, she has fond memories of following the picking crew with her red wagon as the fruit on the family-owned 20-acre Zinfandel vineyard was harvested. In her own words, “Harvest time has always held a special significance in my family,” and this feeling clearly extends to her current role as a winemaker.

The seeds of a career in winemaking had been planted during her childhood, so it was not surprising that she completed a B.S. degree in 2011 from California Polytechnic State University with a major in Agriculture Business and a minor in Wine and Viticulture. Although her undergraduate degree was business oriented, Alicia put her toe in the winemaking field by virtue of a summer internship with Bronco Wine Company in 2010. A subsequent harvest internship at Provenance & Hewitt Vineyards following graduation cemented a commitment to winemaking.

In early 2012, Alicia embarked a series of enology and winemaking internships that took her from Australia to Italy, Denmark, South Africa, and Patagonia, as well as to Chateau Montelena and Sonoma-Cutrer in the Napa and Sonoma Valleys, respectively. At Chateau Montelena, she was only the second woman ever to receive its “Golden Shovel” award. Over the course her travels from one winery to another, Alicia had a hand in the production of several wines that made the prestigious Top 100 list of Wine Spectator, including those from Hewitt Vineyards, Molly Dooker, and Fincas Patagonicas. She became part of the Foley Family Wines team in early 2015 by joining Lancaster Estate as its enologist and while there, completed the University of California, Davis, Winemaking Certificate Program. In January 2017, Alicia was promoted to assistant winemaker at Lancaster, a position in which she helped develop some of the winery’s highly regards wines and its sustainability and safety programs. She was named winemaker for Merus Wines in St. Helena in March 2019 and then in December, 2021, moved to her current position as winemaker for Banshee Wines in Healdsburg.

As Alicia says, “My main winemaking focus is with Pinot Noir [vineyard designates] and Chardonnay from Sonoma County.” Banshee also has many secondary focuses, including but not limited to Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Carignan, Sauvignon Blanc, and Rosé. Among her goals is to produce world-class Bordeaux varietals and to be an approachable and strong leader within the winery. But making these varietals is not the be all, end all for Alicia, as she also enjoys making other varietals, using her international and domestic experiences as a basis for doing so.

An active member of Women for WineSense, Alicia serves on its planning committee for the Winemaker’s and Viticultural Round Table, among other duties. She resides in Healdsburg, where she might be found running, baking, hiking, and improving her skills at yoga. If time permits among all these outside activities, she may be found donating platelets at her local blood bank.