Growing up in suburban Maryland, moving to rural Somerset as a teenager – an idyllic transition that wouldn’t be out of place in a bestselling novel. In fact, this is the start of Sam Kozlowski’s journey towards working as Assistant Winemaker at Penn Croft.
So why winemaking? And why Crondall, Hampshire? Sam’s plans were fluid, he fell in love with the area, and his affection for the team was far too strong. So what was intended to be a six-month stop turned into a much longer stint as our Harvest Assistant Winemaker.
Sam’s introduction to wine began with an inexpensive bottle of Zind-Humbrecht Riesling that he discovered on a skiing holiday in France. This ‘sweet deal’ sparked his curiosity and surprised his palette too – a complex and intriguing wine with an overwhelming review of “delicious”.
Sam quickly fell down the rabbit hole and threw himself headfirst into winemaking, kicking off with a harvest in California. Somewhere in between a tank of Zinfandel skins and hosing down presses, he decided that this was the career he didn’t know he’d been looking for.
“It’s the perfect marriage of biology and chemistry, engineering and logistical thinking while engaging all of the senses. The wine industry is so rich in culture, history, and interesting personalities. Long gone are the days of sitting down at a computer and staring at engineering drawings for eight hours!”
What kind of drawings, you may ask? Sam’s previous career saw him working in aerospace engineering, and during this time, he was able to steal a few hours to complete his WSET Level 3 (when he was supposed to be writing his Master’s dissertation). The appetite for learning didn’t stop, and Sam’s seriousness for winemaking took him through Vinifera Euromaster’s MSc in Viticulture and Enology and some ‘hands-on’ research into Montpellier, Bordeaux and Geisenheim.
Inspired by the history of wine (particularly its modernisation and industrialisation), Sam looks forward to an industry coming to terms with changes around sustainability, climate and agriculture. From keeping a close eye on winemakers who are experimenting with indigenous grape varieties, to vineyards making bold steps forward to making wines that separate themselves from their contemporaries, we enjoy Sam’s view on the winemaking world and what it may become.
On home soil, Sam keenly follows how Simon has shaped Penn Croft’s approach to farming, whether it’s unconventional trellising and training or utilising agronomy experts and soil scientists. The sustainable ambitions of our entire operation truly strike a chord with Sam, who firmly believes that it’s this very ambition that sets Penn Croft apart the most.
The inevitable question remains… what is your preferred wine? For our well-travelled Sam, it’s understandably a difficult one to answer.
“I absolutely adore the top white wines from Burgundy, more specifically Puligny-Montrachet and Meursault; the marriage of Chardonnay with a touch of new French oak, malolactic fermentation, and some flinty minerality gives such hauntingly beautiful aromas and flavours.”
We hope this has given you a little insight into our much-loved Assistant Winemaker. Sam shows no sign of slowing down as he continues his journey as a Stage 2 student on the incredibly difficult Master of Wine programme, where he aims to build his palate for blind tasting, another accolade to add to his list of achievements and passions.