Marisa Sergi: the 20-year-old vintner

When I first came across Marisa Sergi on Twitter (@MarisaSergi), I was shocked to see that at 20, she had already bottled her own wine! I had to get to know this girl!

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Marisa is a third-generation winemaker. Her grandfather, who immigrated to the U.S. from Italy when he was 24, brought the family tradition of winemaking with him. Her grandfather and father would make wine together in their basement and in 2006, her father opened L’uva Bella Winery in 2006 in Ohio, as an homage to her grandfather.

When the winery opened, Marisa helped with the grape crushing, fermentation and gave a hand in the lab. But even before that, she has fond memories of walking in circles with her sister in her family’s garage to crank a hand-operated basket to help make wine.

“Coming from a wine family has allowed for my true passion and destiny of having a career in winemaking to merge,” said the Cornell University Enology student. “I cannot picture my life any other way, or having another career choice.”
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Marisa’s brainchild: Redhead Wine is a blend of California Zinfandel and Chilean Carmenere grapes with one sexy label. While I haven’t tasted it myself (editor’s note: this is a feature on an interesting young winemaker and not a review), Marisa said the red table wine, which has been sold since Fall 2013, “offers notes of sweet plums, black cherries and blackberries with a fiery kick at the finish.” The wine has been one of the top 10 sold at L’uva Bella since October 2013, she said. As of now, there are 220 cases available.
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WFTW: What’s your favorite part about making your own wine?

MS: My favorite part about making my own wine is that I am able to combine the knowledge and family tradition I grew up with into such a large accomplishment.  Not many people can say they have made their own wine at my age.  I did this to make my family proud and do whatever I can to make my mark on the wine industry.

WFTW: What was the greatest challenge you faced when making it?

MS: The greatest challenge was definitely getting the label approved by the [Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau].  There are many specific laws you need to meet to be able to get a label approved.  If you do not get TTB approval, you cannot legally sell a wine.  It took me three submissions to get it through.  But, the hard work was worthwhile and I felt a great sense of accomplishment when I found out on my birthday that it was approved!

WFTW: Who is your audience? Are they college students like you, people just getting into wine, ladies who lunch, wine aficionados, blend lovers, etc?

MS: My audience varies; I designed my wine for a large group of consumers to like it.  It is a sweet and spicy red wine; a California Zinfandel and Chilean Carmenere blend; I brought my favorite two wine regions together in one bottle.  Right now, sweet reds are very popular and I decided to create a wine that was already popular in the market but was also unique.  The spice from the Zinfandel, my label and having two renown wine regions in one bottle makes my wine a little different than a typical sweet red.  I feel anyone could like my wine!

WFTW: What are your friends’ thoughts on wine?

MS: My best girl friends tend to enjoy a sweet red, but my enology friends tend to enjoy dry and fruity California wines.

Redhead Wine is sold at L’uva Bella Winery for $15 a bottle, but Marisa is working to get it sold nationwide. She has partnered with Superior Beverage Group in Ohio, which will begin distributing her wine at the end of the year. You can follow @Redheadwine on Twitter and Instagram.

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