The US Wine & Beverage Expo returns to Washington, DC, February 21 – 22.  Launched by the Wine Industry Network in 2016, USBevX was started with the goal of establishing a world class conference and trade show specifically for the eastern U.S. wine industry. 

The 2018 conference theme is ‘In Pursuit of Excellence’ in acknowledgment that every great wine region shares a common obsession, quality above all else.

I’m returning to the conference this year to participate as a panelist and to moderate a panel—The Next Generation: Winemaker’s Perspective on the Future of Wine in the Eastern U.S.—on Wednesday, February 21.

I invited three winegrowers to be panelists based on their wine accomplishments, exceptional reputations, and commitment to winegrowing in their respective regions: Marin Brennan, Assistant Winemaker, Bedell Cellars, on the North Fork of Long Island, New York; Krista Scruggs, Assistant Winemaker & Winegrower at La Garagista Farm & Winery in Vermont (and ZAFA Wines); and, Nate Walsh, Winegrower, Walsh Family Wine in northern Virginia.

This is the third winemaker interview in the series (interview with Marin Brennan here. Interview with Nate Walsh here).  Meet winegrower Krista Scruggs:

Krista started in the wine industry in 2013, working for Constellation Brands as the Bulk Shipping Coordinator and then ventured to work for an array of growers in Washington, Italy, Southern France, and Texas.  She recently worked as assistant winemaker La Garagista Farm & Winery in Vermont and is now the Vineyard Manager of Ellison Estate Vineyard and the owner/winegrower of ZAFA Wines.

Why did you choose Vermont?
While working with these different growers and producers domestically and abroad (Particularly, an experience working the harvest season in Cahors, Southern France) I realised that I wanted to be a vigneron. After working in France, I went back to California and began hanging out at Bar Ordinaire. One day, Deirdre [Heekin, founder & winegrower, La Garagista] came in to pour her wines. Within minutes, I had made up my mind that I wanted to do exactly what Deirdre and Caleb were doing in Vermont, so I asked if I could come work and learn alongside to be a New World-style vigneron.

Describe your winegrowing philosophy; what are you trying to achieve with your wines?
Wine is food as such wine starts in the vineyard.

Mentoring is important to navigating the wine (and life) learning curve; what role have mentors (and who) played in your winemaking career so far?
Mentorship has been and will forever be the most important role in my life as a winemaker and farmer, because I feel I will always be a student. Having the opportunity to not only work beside Deirdre in the vineyard and winery, but also be able to taste beside her daily has been a constant learning and humbling reminder of that.

What is the one myth about wine that you would like to see ended?
That ‘natural wine’ is a fad or trend.

‘Natural wine’ continues to be a polarizing topic in the wine world, what are your thoughts on this subject?
I think that environmentally conscious and friendly practices shouldn’t be polarising it should be celebrated.

From your perspective what are the most notable opportunities and challenges ahead in the next 10-20 years for the local (and east coast) wine industry?
To me the most notable opportunity and challenge (that will be overcome) is to change the perception that hybrids are second class varietals and when farmed properly can and DO stand shoulder to shoulder with vinifera. This is especially important with the rapidly changing climate.

What book(s) are you reading now (wine or otherwise)?
Becoming Wise: An Inquiry into the Mystery and Art of Living by Krista Tippett

What are you most curious about?
Why humans aren’t kinder to each other.

Most underrated wine region and/or grape variety?
Regarding region: Any region in North America that is not California, Oregon, Washington.  Regarding grape variety: All varietals that aren’t vinifera.

What did you drink last night?
American Solera Norton Fellowship

What bottles are open on your counter or fridge right now?
Podere Il Saliceto L’Albone Lambrusco di Modena Frizzante Secco & La Boutanche Trollinger 

What would readers and conference attendees be surprised to know about you?
Basketball was the first love of my life.

Favorite food and drink pairing?
Chips and sparkling wine [Second that!]

Favorite mixed drink?
Hemingway Daiquiri