Dean of female winemakers
Kraftzeck crafts products for Chateau Julien
By ROBERT WALCH • For The Salinas Californian • October 13, 2008
CARMEL VALLEY - It's very possible that had Marta Kraftzeck not become a winemaker, the Monterey native would have gone into teaching.
The veteran Monterey County winemaker, who will celebrate two decades at Chateau Julien in Carmel Valley next year, has discovered she enjoys sharing her knowledge of wine and winemaking with anyone interested enough to listen.
In fact, her eyes light up when someone asks a question about her profession. In a sense, she considers herself an ambassador for the wine industry.
"I enjoy explaining how we make wine and why we do the things we do," Kraftzeck said.
She also likes to help people determine why they like a particular wine. If an individual can master a few "descriptors" - adjectives that describe a given wine - he or she will be better equipped to make intelligent wine purchases, she said.
"Rather than asking for a bottle of white wine, if a person can say he or she wants a Chardonnay with no oak or a 'soft' cabernet, the individual is saying much more," Kraftzeck said, as she explained why some knowledge is important when selecting wine. "I think the key is to determine what you like or what you don't like and then be able to describe that wine in simple terms."
Although she has always enjoyed talking about wine, the dean of Monterey County's female winemakers has discovered there are a lot of people eager to hear what she has to say.
About 10 years ago when Peter Meckel, director of Hidden Valley in Carmel Valley, asked Kraftzeck if she would be interested in conducting wine classes as part of the Elderhostel program offered at the center, she said, "Sure, why not?"
Since then, Kraftzeck has become certified as a wine educator. There are only a few hundred individuals in the U.S. holding such certification.
Liking an educational challenge, Kraftzeck said she took the test not because she was conducting Elderhostel classes but because she wanted to see if she could get the certification.
"I think there's a little intimidation that's been created by some people in the wine industry," she said. "I'd like to lessen that fear some people have that they should be afraid of voicing their likes or dislikes about wine."
Kraftzeck emphatically stated that she encourages her students to "follow their own taste buds" and not be influenced by someone's ranking or how many medals a wine has captured.
When she conducts her Elderhostel classes two or three times a month, Kraftzeck will have between 12 and 50 people in the room. What she likes about working with seniors is that they are very honest.
"They are very up-front and not afraid to say anything," she said. "At their time in life they aren't shy, nor do they care what someone else thinks. But best of all, they are still interested in learning and that's why they participate in the Elderhostel program."
Does she ever take offense when some of the seniors nod off during a class?
"Never!" Kraftzeck exclaimed. "It's after dinner, so of course that will happen occasionally. I never take it personally. Someone falling asleep doesn't faze me at all - as long as there's no snoring."
Kraftzeck also teaches a monthly class at Chateau Julien called The World of Wine.
"I give a slide presentation of various wine regions so everyone has a visual idea of the area, and then we do some wine tasting," she said. "We have had about 25 people at each session."
As with any dedicated teacher, Kraftzeck is also striving to learn more about her subject area.
"I like to study and keep learning new things," she said. "I believe learning should be a lifelong passion, not something that stops when you leave school."
To this end she recently took and passed the first level test to be a certified sommelier. In December she'll tackle the second of four levels.
"I don't think I'll go any further than level two, since I have no real desire to serve wine," she said. "I just wanted to see if I could do it."