Self-proclaimed “Jersey Girl” Remi Cohen is stepping up as CEO of Domaine Carneros. Taking over for the legendary Eileen Crane, who retired in 2020 after a 33-year run, is no easy task — especially during a year that brought us a global pandemic and wildfires in Northern California, which have become an annual occurrence since 2017. But , having spent more than two decades in wine at places like Saintsbury, Merryvale, Bouchaine, her own wine consulting company, and, most recently, Cliff Lede (where she acted as COO), Cohen is well qualified to continue the legacy of strong leadership at Domain.
Cohen talked to VinePair about her path into the wine industry, how she ended up at Domaine Carneros, and her thoughts on the role of women in wine.
1. What was your first experience with wine?
Growing up, wine was not a family beverage. My parents didn’t really didn’t drink that much in general, but I was a little precocious and partied in high school. My friends and I got into craft beers and were probably some of the only people in my New Jersey hometown that cared about craft beers, so the owner of a local liquor store thought we were older and sold us alcohol. We would buy Marques de Caceres Rioja and Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio to pair with salmon and grilled asparagus. God, we thought we were so cool at 17. I wish I could say my first experience was sparked from a fancy European trip to a wine region, but it came from just managing my way through what I thought at the time was sophisticated.
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2. Did you start out in college knowing you wanted a career in wine?
No. I started at University of California Berkeley as pre-med but soon realized that I had a stronger connection to agricultural science after taking a few plant biology classes. At 21, I heard you can make a career in wine, so I remember thinking, “That’s what I want to do. This sounds amazing.” That led me to apply to the University of California, Davis Viticulture and Enology master program. I love science, being social, and nature, so the program seemed perfect for someone interested in the viticulture side of the business.
3. I’ve been told your first harvest is a flashpoint for those interested in wine. What was yours like?
While at UC Davis, there was an enologist from Saintsbury Winery that came to give a vertical of 1990 to 1999 Reserve Carneros Pinot Noir from Saintsbury. I had never had a vertical before and absolutely loved the wines. To see similarities and nuanced differences of the vintages was an eye-opening experience. I stayed after to ask him many questions. I must have impressed him because he asked me what I was planning after graduation. I smiled and told him, “Finding a harvest job, hopefully.” He offered me a harvest job at Saintsbury in part because he said, “The majority of people are focused on the winemaking side. We need smart, passionate people that focus on the viticulture side.”