Winemaker Interview: Scot Covington, Trione Vineyards and Winery

It's all in the family at Trione Vineyards

An interview with Scot Covington.

In the fall of 2012, as the bounty of harvest was coming to an end, we had the opportunity to meet winemaker Scot Covington at the beautiful Trione Winery. Trione Vineyards and Winery sits in the heart of Alexander Valley, just north of Healdsburg in Sonoma County. For more than 35 years the Trione family has been involved in Sonoma vineyards and winemaking. We were lucky enough to be on site during the Trione staff harvest party, complete with grilled wild duck, compliments of Mark Trione’s hunting skills. Scot’s excitement over the 2012 wines was contageous. The barrel and tank tastings showed exceptional promise.

In 2005, when the Trione family decided  to venture back into winemaking, it was Covington they tapped to design and build the winemaking facility. He is a warm and friendly person dedicated to the winemaking arts. As you will read, Covington was well traveled before Trione, though now he seems to have, paraphrasing Jimmy Buffett, "found a life that suits his style."

Bacchus & Beery: Who do you see when you look in the mirror?

Scot Covington: Well, that is a good question. Some days it’s Brad Pitt, some days George Clooney some days Archie Bunker… more often than not I see my father. I see his eyes, ears, laugh lines. I wish my father was still around to taste the wines that I am making now. He was a big fan of mine as I was of him and I see him often in the mirror especially now that I am a father. The mirror gives perspective.

B&B: Tell us about your background?

SC: My background is in a word varied. I began my college years thinking I was going to study chemistry or biology. I was taking classes at Santa Rosa Junior College when I stumbled upon an elective course in viticulture/enology. I took the first course and was hooked. The director of the ag department, Rich Thomas, was very influential in my decision of which school to attend. He said, "If you want to be a doctor go to UC Davis, if you want to make wine go to CSU Fresno." I went to Fresno. While working on my degree, I met Terry Adams of Sonoma-Cutrer and did a harvest internship with him. After graduation, Terry gave me my first winery job as the lab assistant. I worked for five years with Terry Adams and Bill Bonnetti at Sonoma-Cutrer becoming lab director.

Working with only chardonnay for five years was great but I wanted to expand my responsibilities and creative expressions with other wines. So in 1995, I became the enologist at Marimar Torres Estate making pinot noir and chardonnay. In early 1997, having the bug to travel, I worked at a winery called Vergelegen in Somerset West, South Africa. The climate, the people, the wines were all fantastic and the experience really expanded my knowledge of the greater global wine world. Upon returning to California in the late summer of 1997, a friend told me that Gallo-Sonoma was looking for an experimental winemaker. I jumped at the idea of being an experimental winemaker and spent the next five years at Gallo-Sonoma. During my time at Gallo-Sonoma I was able to travel to Australia where I worked the harvest at Rosemount in the Hunter Valley and Yalumba in the Barossa. In 2001, I returned to Adelaide to work with the students at the Adelaide University.

In the spring of 2001, I met Merry Edwards, who is a pioneer in Russian River Valley pinot noirs, who was working with Bob Pellegrini at the time. They were looking for someone to be the winemaker and to oversee construction of the yet to be built Pellegrini Winery. I did not hesitate at the opportunity when Merry asked if I knew of anyone who might be interested and started working with Bob that summer. Fast-forward to 2005, when a friend called to say they had heard that the Trione family was thinking of getting back into the winery business. I met with the Triones and they talked of the plans that they had and their commitment to quality and I knew at the first meeting that I wanted to be part of their dream and have not looked back.

B&B: What role did wine play in your family and upbringing?

SC:  In my early years wine played a rather small role. I remember my parents having the occasional bottle of cold duck or hearty burgundy at the table but my father preferred beer. It wasn’t until I was college age that I finally discovered the world of wine and started down the path of discovery on my own. My mother would tell stories of my grandfather having a barrel of wine in the tank house in which he would go out to each evening and get a glass. I was too young to remember him but I do remember the stories.

Click here to learn more about Scot Covington's winemaker influences, the future of Trione Wines, and life away from the winery.

Related Stories
5 Rookie Winemakers to WatchBe a Winemaker for a Day52 Wines for 2013 (Plus Holiday Picks)How to Start a Wine Cellar

— Roger and Donna Beery, Bacchus and Beery Wine Blog