Today, as we celebrate International Women’s Day, we raise a glass to winemaker Carrie Bonvallet of the Winery at Wolf Creek in Norton and Troutman Vineyards in Wooster. Bonvallet, who is in charge of making 35 to 40 wines, has a B.A. in chemistry from Kenyon College and a postgraduate diploma (the equivalent of an M.A.) in brewing and distilling from Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, Scotland. Bonvallet, who grew up in Maine, lives in Wooster with her husband, Paul, and their two teenage children, Violette and Nathan. More info: wineryatwolfcreek.com and troutmanvineyards.com.
After college, I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life, so I phoned my first-cousin-once-removed, who I had never met, and asked if I could come live with him in Scotland. He said, “Yes,” so I arranged for a job doing atmospheric chemistry research at a local university. I ended up loving Scotland, but hating my job.
Meanwhile, I was having my subscription to Chemical and Engineering News sent to my parents’ house. My dad picked it up one day and happened to notice an article about a brewing program at Heriot-Watt University near where I was living in Scotland. I thought that the program sounded like a great nonacademic way to use my chemistry degree!
From Edinburgh to Madison
I ended up staying in Scotland another year and earning my degree in brewing and distilling. I got married a month after I returned from Scotland. My husband was working on his Ph.D. at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, so I moved there to live with him. I became a beer brewer working at a brew pub there, J.T. Whitney’s.
When we moved to Ohio 14 years ago, I was staying home with two very young children. My daughter went off to preschool and met the Troutmans’ daughter, Sofia, and came home and said, “I have a new best friend and her dad makes wine.” Then I said, “I guess I have a new best friend then, too!”
Tasting at Troutman
There weren’t many breweries in Ohio at that time. I started working in the tasting room at Troutman’s for one day a week just for something to do. Then I did sales for both wineries for a year, and then the winemaker at Wolf Creek left and I said, “Well, let’s try it.” That was nine years ago and here we are.
There are more woman coming into the industry. I still wouldn’t say there are a lot of us. I think when I was out in Wisconsin, I was the only female beer brewer at the time. I’ve always kind of been one of the few.
Wine vs. beer
I enjoy making wine more than I enjoy making beer. I think because it has more variables. The grapes are different year to year where as malted barley is pretty standard. I really enjoy the fall harvest season because that’s when you get to do all the problem-solving.
Carrie’s Faves & Raves
I really like our chardonnay at the moment. I like chardonnay because it is so versatile. The other one that I really like here is the cranberry wine. It’s nice with the holidays. It goes with ham and turkey and all that.
When we have time, we tend to go hang out down at JAFB Brewing in Wooster. We don’t get down there as much as we like, but we can get growlers at the local grocery store so we can bring it home.
To unwind, I really enjoy walking and hiking. I tend to spend a lot of time on the soccer field with my kids these days, which I do find fun. That keeps me so busy.
— Phil Masturzo
Winemaker Carrie Bonvallet talks about learning her craft in Scotland and why wine is more fun than beer