In 2013, at the age of 29, rising star Heidi Bridenhagen was named just the third winemaker in the storied history of MacRostie Winery and Vineyards. Today, in addition to continuing to make wines for MacRostie and its sister winery, Clockwise, Heidi also oversees the winemaking for Dough Wines—a pioneering philanthropic partnership with the James Beard Foundation. Guided by a passion for sustainability and a belief in fostering a diverse, inclusive, and equitable wine industry, Heidi has emerged as a dynamic and empowering leader recognized for her collaborative spirit, winemaking acumen, and commitment to opening doors for the next generation of women industry leaders.
Heidi’s approach to winemaking was shaped by her unique background. Heidi earned a degree in biochemistry from the University of Colorado at Boulder. After university, she spent half a year traveling through Europe. As she explored local wines in France, Italy, Spain, and Germany, Heidi became fascinated by the ways in which wine expressed itself in different regions. Returning to the United States, Heidi was eager to use her scientific skills, but she also wanted a career that engaged her creative side. She found what she was looking for in the enology laboratory of Jackson Family Wines, where she built on her science background to establish a strong understanding of winemaking. She also found that she loved the camaraderie and collaborative spirit of a winery, being in the vineyards, and the constant focus on refinement through trial and experimentation.
After working in the cellar at Oyster Bay in New Zealand, and honing her craft alongside noted winemakers Mick Schroeter and Cara Morrison at Sonoma-Cutrer, Heidi joined MacRostie, where she spent two years as our assistant winemaker working side-by-side with Founder Steve MacRostie. “I love working with Heidi,” says Steve, “and I love what she has brought to our wines. She is a rare talent who is constantly pushing the envelope in pursuit of the extraordinary.” Like Steve before her, Heidi brings inquisitiveness and an absolute attention to the details that are essential for great winemaking to her role. “At MacRostie, I found a winemaking home that embraces my desire to innovate. As a scientist by training, I am constantly running small-lot trials in areas that include extraction levels, whole clusters, tannin management, cold soak durations, yeast strains, barrel versus tank fermentation, and more.”
Heidi is equally active in the vineyards and has established an incredibly diverse Vineyard Partner program that has grown from MacRostie’s roots in the Russian River Valley and Sonoma Coast to Carneros, Fort Ross-Seaview, Redwood Valley, Santa Lucia Highlands, Sta. Rita Hills, the Petaluma Gap, and Mendocino County’s acclaimed Anderson Valley. Focusing on America’s most acclaimed wine regions, the vineyards that Heidi sources grapes from include sites farmed by legendary winegrowers like the Duttons, Sangiacomos, Martinellis, Bacigalupis, Kent Ritchie, and Bill Price. Heidi also completely reimagined MacRostie’s Pinot Noir program, helping to design and build a new small-lot Pinot Noir winery for MacRostie that has elevated the winery’s Pinots to the world-class levels of MacRostie’s iconic Chardonnay. To achieve this, Heidi switched to small 1-ton fermentation bins and does as many as 130 fermentations each vintage. Leveraging her background in biochemistry, she applies the rigor of a scientist with the soul of an artist in her approach to winemaking.
Heidi also oversaw the design and planting of our new 74-acre Nightwing Vineyard in the up-and-coming Petaluma Gap AVA, where she serves on the board of the Petaluma Gap Winegrowing Alliance. Heidi personally selected all of the rootstocks and clones for Nightwing Vineyard, which were planted as a mosaic of 35 different blocks featuring 44 acres of Pinot Noir and 30 acres of Chardonnay. As a result of Heidi’s vineyard-driven approach to winemaking, MacRostie is recognized for making the finest wines in its history and has earned more than 200 scores of 90 points or higher from major publications since Heidi’s debut vintage, while also being honored by San Francisco Magazine as “Best Overall Winery” in 2017.
A dedicated environmentalist, Heidi also spearheads MacRostie’s sustainability efforts, helping to make it one of less than 150 California wineries (out of more than 5,000) to hold the Certified California Sustainable Winegrowing accreditation. As part of MacRostie’s commitment to the environment, and its relationship with the James Beard Foundation, Heidi has helped to promote sustainable food systems through support of the Beard Foundation’s pioneering Impact and Smart Catch programs. Building on the success of these programs, Heidi produced the debut vintage of Dough Wines—a special collection of wines made in collaboration with the James Beard Foundation to support systemic changes in the culinary arts and beverage professions. In just two years, Dough Wines has grown to become a 25,000-case brand distributed in all 50 states, online, and exported to Canada and Asia. To date, Dough Wines has earned well over $100,000 in support of restaurant recovery, equality in the kitchen, food sustainability, and scholarships for culinary students.
As a member of Women of the Vine & Spirits, Heidi is active in the areas of diversity and inclusion and supporting the careers of women winemakers. Recently, Heidi became a mentor for a young female wine professional through the Bâtonnage Women in Wine Mentorship Program, which supports individuals who have traditionally been overlooked in the industry. “Having been both a mentee and a mentor, I have always believed in the power of mentorship, and the importance of helping to open doors for the next generation of talent in the wine industry,” says Heidi, “especially for those who have been historically excluded or underrepresented.”