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Ste. Michelle Wine Estates Announces Katie Nelson as Senior Director of Winemaking for Columbia Crest

Posted on July 24, 2018

Paterson, Wash. (July 24, 2018) – For just the third time in the storied 35-year history of one of Washington’s most acclaimed wineries, Columbia Crest has a new winemaker. As one of the most accomplished and respected female winemakers in Washington state, Katie Nelson returns to Ste. Michelle Wine Estates as Senior Director of Winemaking for Columbia Crest.

“As a winemaker who’s traveled the world, and one of the leading female voices in our industry, Katie brings a unique and diverse take on winemaking to a 35-year-old winery,” said Juan Muñoz-Oca, Vice President of Winemaking for Ste. Michelle Wine Estates. “Her dedication, experience, and leadership will take our team of young, talented winemakers to new heights; I can’t wait to see the results.”

Nelson landed her first winery job shortly after her 21st birthday as a crush intern in Healdsburg, California, and first joined Ste. Michelle Wine Estates in 1999. In 2015, Nelson was hired as Associate Winemaker for K Vintners, Charles Smith Wines, and Wines of Substance, before returning to Ste. Michelle Wine Estates this month. Throughout her career, Katie has had a hand in over 150 90+ scores and nine 95+ scores from publications such as Wine Spectator, Wine Advocate, Wine Enthusiast, and Wine & Spirits Magazine.

“My winemaking approach is bold and explores variety, with a gentle hand, aiming to create wines which are elegant, but exciting,” said Katie Nelson, Senior Director of Winemaking for Columbia Crest. “When starting out, making the wrong decision and taking risks scared me. With twenty-two years of experience in Washington, I take those chances, and have never been disappointed. Somewhere along the way, I tossed my nerdiness aside and have learned to be bold.”

“Katie Nelson is always concerned with quality and attention to detail; her enthusiastic all-inclusive approach makes it a pleasure to work with her,” said Dick Boushey, one of Washington state’s most renowned and respected wine grape growers. “She brings an extensive range of experience both in the vineyard and in the winery; it is hard to imagine a more qualified person for this job."

Muñoz-Oca said he was lucky enough to work with Katie over the years and her creativity, passion, and strong attention to detail has always been contagious. “We are lucky she calls Washington wine country home and even luckier that she has decided to take over the winemaking of one of the oldest, most acclaimed wineries in the state’s rich winemaking history,” said Muñoz-Oca.

“Besides getting to go back and work alongside all the talented winemakers I worked with for years at Ste. Michelle Wine Estates I am thrilled to be working for a winery that devotes resources to research and innovation that are unrivaled,” said Nelson.

In Nelson’s new role, she will be responsible for all winemaking decisions across the entire range of the Columbia Crest wines including the Reserve, H3 and Grand Estates tiers. She will also manage other innovation projects that are produced at the Columbia Crest winery.

Juan Muñoz-Oca, who was currently Director of Winemaking has been appointed Vice President of Winemaking; effective April 2018. Muñoz-Oca will remain head Winemaker for INTRINSIC and Borne of Fire, and will work closely with the winemakers for other brands in the Ste. Michelle portfolio including Columbia Crest.

Muñoz-Oca joined Columbia Crest in 2003 and was named Head Winemaker in 2011. Prior to 2011, he was dedicated to the winery’s red wine program. It was during this time that the Columbia Crest 2005 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon was produced, becoming the first Washington wine to be named “Wine of the Year” by Wine Spectator in 2009.

About Columbia Crest

Founded in 1983, Columbia Crest has grown from a small winery in a relatively unknown wine region to one of the most significant wineries in the U.S. and a major force behind Washington State’s emergence as a world-class wine region. In 2009, Wine Spectator magazine named the Columbia Crest 2005 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon the No. 1 Wine in the World on its Top 100 list, the first time a wine from Washington State has received the ranking. More information about the winery can be found at

Region: Northwest, USA
Job Function: Winemaking

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