Say hello to Ellie Loustalot, our longtime enologist at Ancient Peaks. After growing up in Santa Cruz, California, Ellie attended college at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, where she earned a degree in viticulture and enology.
We caught up with Ellie to learn more about her journey and her duties at Ancient Peaks—and to find out more about The Lees Cellar, her new entrepreneurial skin care line made with a winemaking twist.
How did you find your way to Ancient Peaks?
During my junior year at Cal Poly I was looking for a part-time position in the wine industry. Something that I could realistically maintain while finishing up my education. At that time, my aunt had a friend who managed the Ancient Peaks tasting room. She set me up with an interview and they hired me to come work weekends.
How and why did you make the jump from the tasting room to the winery?
Upon getting my degree in viticulture and enology, I had my eyes set on working in Italy. I even had arrangements set up. However, a few family events made it so that going overseas became much more complicated. I was explaining my troubles to Amanda (our VP of Operations at the time) one day and she connected me with Winemaker Stewart Cameron to see if there was a spot for me in the cellar. Thankfully Stewart hired me! I worked in the cellar and as a lab technician starting in 2017, and was promoted to the enologist position in 2019.
What drew you to viticulture and winemaking in the first place?
My family grows grapes in Napa Valley and Fiddletown. I spent a lot of my childhood working in the vineyard with my grandfather, brothers and cousins. I always loved my time out there! And at school, science was always my subject of choice. So when I learned I could study fermentation science and alcohol chemistry and work in the wine industry as an enologist, I was sold.
What are your key duties at the winery—what is a typical workday like for you?
I currently wear many hats as the enologist for Ancient Peaks. I do a bit of lab analysis and quality control when needed. Brenda does an amazing job of running the lab, but I’m happy to jump when needed. I participate in a fair amount of cellar work with the crew. I do a lot of trial research and development—this is probably what I love most. I also help manage the water treatment plant! It’s important to be water conscious and sustainable in this industry. Ancient Peaks has done a great job of investing in systems that help support this.
What do you like about working at Ancient Peaks?
Its great working around people that love their job and are happy to work. It makes the team environment so much better when everyone shares the same goals of making good wine and building relationships. Furthermore, I love working for a family business. I feel connected to the community and family that Ancient Peaks is a part of.
Can you tell us about The Lees Cellar?
Yes! The Lees Cellar is a collaboration between me and a few industry professionals. We use wine lees—a natural grape byproduct of the winemaking process—and harness its power in the skincare realm. We are really excited to be launching this project this March.