Winemaker Sal De Ianni

According to Jo Ann Truchard, co-owner of Truchard Vineyards, Winemaker Sal De Ianni is a dream come true. “Sal doesn’t get the appreciation he deserves,” Joann said. “He has a great palate, and he’s a great team player. Sal has us taste our wines blind – twice – to ensure everyone is comfortable with the decisions made. He knows the style we want, and he sticks true to the varietals.”

Photos courtesy of Truchard Vineyards

According to Sal, “I just try not to mess anything up.”Jo Ann warned that Sal is humble, especially considering his rich and unique background before becoming a winemaker. Decades ago, while pursuing a Ph.D. in chemistry at Northwestern, Sal had an epiphany. “I thought chemistry was fun until I was studying it. I wasn’t as interested in all the theory,” Sal shared. “Then I decided to take a wine appreciation course just for fun. I remember the first glass of wine was a Chenin Blanc, and I tasted it and thought – this is so much more fun than chemistry,” he laughed. “I went home and researched careers in winemaking.” He finished his master’s degree but stopped short of getting a Ph.D. Instead, he packed up and drove from Chicago to California to study winemaking at the University of California at Davis.

His chemistry background provides a good knowledge base, but Sal believes his love of cooking makes him a good winemaker. “I grew up in an Italian family. My mom is a phenomenal cook, and I grew up helping her, creating in the kitchen. We didn’t follow recipes because we followed the palate. And that’s how I make wine today, on the fly and based on the palate.”

Still, he gives some credit to his chemistry knowledge. “There’s chemistry in winemaking. Acids, buffers, changing pH, I have a good handle on that, and I have the confidence to do what’s needed—but it isn’t needed very often with Truchard.”

This year will be his 24th harvest. After graduating from UC Davis, he traveled to Australia to work as an interim winemaker at a small estate in Margaret River. He’s grateful that he had the chance to work harvest in the Southern Hemisphere. When asked what’s next for his career, Sal doesn’t hesitate to confirm that he will be at Truchard Vineyards.

Sal explained, “Our vineyards are set, we have 13 different grapes already, and now our focus is on getting a new facility built. We have 400 acres and a small facility, so it’s a challenge getting all the grapes in the way we want or having the luxury of time to try new things.”

Jo Ann agreed that Sal is here to stay. He’s like a member of the family, which is vital to the Truchards. Jo Ann added, “We live right here; this is our home. We want everyone to feel like we are adopting them, and Sal and his family are part of our family now.”