Summer job leads alumna to career as a winemaker

Amy Lillard (BSBA ’93) says DU helped her find her calling.

It started when she got a summer job through the school’s career center as a bike tour guide in France. She learned to appreciate French cuisine and tasted her first French wines while traveling through Burgundy and Provence.

“That’s where I got the wine bug, and it hasn’t left me since,” she says.

That bug led Lillard to numerous wine gigs in the years following graduation: She worked in a wine shop in Colorado Springs, vineyards in the Napa Valley and Burgundy, and at Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant, a wine importer in Berkeley, Calif.

But things only intensified when she moved to Paris in 2000 with her husband, Matt Kling, for his job. After a year and a half in the city, they left for St. Quentin la Poterie in southern France.

“Just about the time we were settled in, a friend called us to say that he knew of some vineyards for sale,” Lillard says. Although the couple hadn’t seriously considered running a vineyard, a few months later they found themselves the owners of nearly 10 acres of land.

The next 10 months until harvest was spent converting part of their house into a winery, buying a tractor and sprayer and learning the basics of farming, Lillard says.

Now the two are moving into their fourth year making a red wine that blends Rhône varietals, Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre.

This year, they rented an additional acre to plant white grapes; they’ll only make about 100 bottles of white wine. Lillard says the husband-and-wife operation may eventually expand to 20 acres, but no more, as they want to keep it so that just the two of them can manage it.

“We’re not trying to change the world. We just want to make a really good wine that we ourselves enjoy drinking, ” she says.

That, and make it in the most natural way.

“We buy organic, locally grown food and try to live as low-impact as possible where the environment is concerned,” she says. “It’s simply our way of life.”

The wine is organic, too.

Matt is the man behind their biodynamic movement, which Lillard describes as homeopathy used in agriculture.

“We make lots of infusions of plants like horsetail, nettles, willow and chamomile, which we then spray on the vines to help them fight off various things.

“That’s a much bigger challenge.”

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