Marisa Taylor Huffaker - Winemaker, Rutherford Hill Winery
Growing up amongst the vineyards of Santa Rosa in Sonoma County, Marisa Taylor Huffaker seemed destined to find a career in winemaking. At a young age, she recalls visits to the vineyards to watch her godfather, a vineyard manager, work in the vines. Like most people who grow up in Wine Country, wine was a typical fixture at her family’s dinner table. During those impressionable years, Marisa developed a deep appreciation for the process of taking the tender grapes from vine to the glass, generating the spark of what would become her professional calling.
Marisa enrolled in Santa Rosa Junior College and by the age of 25 was making her own wine, using Pinot Noir from Carneros. She graduated from the University of California – Davis, first with a B.S. in Chemistry and then an M.S. in Food Science-Enology. With her two degrees, Marisa had the solid foundation needed to excel at top quality, artisan winemaking. A self-described “lab rat,” Marisa continues to have a passion for the analytical detail needed for monitoring yeast cultures, barrels, fermentation, blending and ultimately, bottling.
After initially honing her skills in the lab at Piper Sonoma and J Winery, she became an enologist at S. Anderson Vineyard in Yountville, where she learned to make Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and sparkling wine. Her natural curiosity led Marisa to work abroad for the harvest of 1999 at the Colognole Winery in Rufina, Italy, where she immersed herself in winemaking and learned to vinify Sangiovese.
Upon returning to the U.S., Taylor Huffaker joined Williams-Selyem as an assistant winemaker, where she further honed her winemaking skills, making Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in Sonoma County.
Today, Marisa is part of a talented winemaking team at the Terlato Wine Group’s Rutherford Hill Winery in Napa Valley, crafting its award-winning Chardonnay, Merlot and Cabernet. She is happy, challenged and enjoys all aspects of winemaking. In her free time, Marisa enjoys quilting, gardening and entertaining family and friends.