Our winemakers.

We label our winemaking approach ‘attentive neglect.’ That means staying out of the way whenever possible and letting the climate, soil and grape variety call the shots.

Chrissy Wittmann - General Manager
& Director of Winemaking

Chrissy Wittmann never intended to have a career in the wine industry. All she knew was that she wanted a life outside of her home town of Burbank, California, with its endless miles of concrete and urban sprawl.

An avid participant in sports—softball, volleyball, basketball and some occasional skiing—Chrissy pursued a degree in Physical Education at California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo. In her freshman year, Chrissy rekindled her love of nature during biology field trips and changed her major to Ecology and Systematic Biology.

With her B.S. Ecology and Systematic Biology degree, Chrissy began work at an independent environmental chemistry lab analyzing soil and waste water samples. Her first peek into the wine industry came when she filled in for a vacationing co-worker in the lab’s wine division. “I didn’t completely understand what I was doing at first,” recalls Chrissy, “in part because, at the time, I was a beer and ‘7 & 7’ kind of gal.” But her interest was piqued, two years later, she became a Wine Chemist at Meridian. After two years with Meridian, she was promoted to Laboratory Enologist. Realizing she needed further education, Chrissy returned to Cal Poly, where she earned an M. S. in Agriculture with a concentration in Food Science. She wrote her thesis, a dissertation on seed color and extractable tannin in Syrah during ripening, while she worked as the Lab Manager and Production Winemaker at Courtside Cellars.

In 2005, Advance degree in hand, Chrissy became the Assistant Winemaker at Scheid Vineyards, where she hit the ground running.  “That first year was a huge harvest, at least for me, with 12,000 tons of grapes coming into a brand new facility in which new systems were being tested for the first time ever,” she recalls. Chrissy rose to all the challenges.

Chrissy was thrilled when the Wild Horse Winery & Vineyards Assistant Winemaker position was available essentially ‘in her backyard.’ “You couldn’t live in San Luis Obispo without knowing and loving Wild Horse,” she says. “And it could not have been more fortuitous, since my husband and I had just welcomed the birth of our first son six months earlier.”

Just one year later, in 2008, Chrissy’s dream of becoming a winemaker was realized when she was promoted to the position of Winemaker; and in 2013 she was promoted to Director of Winemaking at Wild Horse Winery & Vineyards. “I couldn’t be happier.” Chrissy continues. “When I was younger, I hated the idea of spending my life sitting behind a desk all day. I wanted to be where things were happening. I wanted to have an opportunity to be outside and I wanted to be challenged every day.  And I’ve got all that here.”

When not busy at the winery, Chrissy enjoys spending time with her husband and two sons. Their family time includes trips to Zion or Yosemite National Parks, multiple Bruce Springsteen concerts and San Francisco Giants’ baseball games.

Todd Ricard - Winemaker

Todd Ricard grew up in the country just outside of the small town of Mount Vernon, OH. Driven by the need to get out of town a t age 17, Todd enlisted in the U.S. Army as a satellite controller, determined to see the world. While stationed in Okinawa, Japan, for two years, he developed a love of sushi and Asian cultures. And after Okinawa, while stationed at Camp Roberts in SLO County, his affinities for home brewing, specialty foods and music would pave the way for a career in the wine industry.

After his work in the Army, Todd settled into the central coast town of San Luis Obispo and enrolled in Cal Poly, earning a B.S. in Wine and Viticulture. He secured an internship at Le Cuvier Winery in Paso Robles, where he learned the ins-and-outs of the winemaking process as a cellar worker both during harvest and throughout the year. As he worked his way up to becoming Le Cuvier Winery's Assistant Winemaker, under the tutelage of John Munch, he truly began to see the shape of his future in the business. Todd had always been inspired by music and he discovered a way to combine this love with the winemaking process in a way that humanized wine for him. "John was the man. I connected with him over this passion for music and realized that wine is a product of earth to share with people. The fact that people really care about the artisanal quality of the product itself, versus simply manufacturing it, struck a chord with me," he says. Further piquing Todd's interest, John Munch made wine unconventionally. John didn’t specialize in any one varietal, but instead on making wine with native yeast and long barrel aging. His methods were developed over a long career, and made a lasting impression on Todd and his ideas about the simplicity of wine.

Armed with a solid background in the industry and looking to further explore this humanized connection to wine, Todd accepted a position as a temporary cellar worker in 2010 and as the Senior Laboratory Technician at Wild Horse Winery in 2011. Four years of hard work and dedication later, he was promoted to Winemaker. Not all of Todd's past remained in Ohio once he left the rural countryside. He loved hunting and fishing as a youth with his Uncle Joe and continues to enjoy the outdoors today. Other passions include foraging for chanterelles, fermenting craft beer from locally grown hops and discovering other new libations.

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© 2015 Wild Horse Winery and Vineyards, Templeton, CA