Stephen Test is a veteran of nearly three decades of winemaking in Sonoma and Napa. Entering the business in 1980, in the early years of a north coast wine boom, Steve was one of many colleagues who came out of U.C. Davis and had to learn by trial and experimentation how to use traditional, old-world winemaking methods that have proven essential to many of the great wines of California today. From the vineyard, where site, clone and careful attention to viticultural details have made huge advances in wine quality, to the cellar, where techniques like native yeast fermentation and careful handling without filtration have elevated complexity and concentration, Steve has been learning and practicing his craft. He has explored the subtleties of the production of many wine types, not just table wines but sparkling and fortified wines also, and made countless lots of most of the main grape varieties and some of the obscure ones, too. Every new wine type and grape variety has been an opportunity to refine his skills. Steve has always claimed to just make wines that taste good to him, and hope the wines then find an appreciative audience. He has also served as consulting winemaker for several new Napa Valley and Sonoma County wine projects.
Steve was raised on the San Francisco peninsula and received a degree in Biological Sciences in 1973 from Stanford University. An interest in food, wine and agriculture led to his enrollment as a graduate student in the Department of Viticulture and Enology in 1978.
In 1980 he began as winemaker at Domaine Laurier in Forestville, Sonoma County, in the heart of the Russian River Valley. He spent the next seven years there specializing in Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, experimenting and learning. His last crush in 1987 was completed in the first phase of a new winery building, now expanded and remodeled into Hartford Court.
In January 1988 he was named winemaker at Stephen Zellerbach Vineyard in Sonoma County's Alexander Valley and assumed responsibility for managing the winery and sixty-five acre Merlot and Cabernet vineyard. He stayed on as winemaker and general manager when Jess Jackson purchased the property in August 1989 and re-named it J. Stonestreet and Sons Vineyard and Winery. Over the next decade he headed a team that established Stonestreet as a leader in wine quality and style in the Alexander Valley.
In 1998 Steve was offered the position of director of winemaking at Merryvale in the Napa Valley. He was responsible for acquiring grapes and supervising wine production as the winery doubled in size and added new facilities over the next few years.
Steve's wines have received substantial acclaim and recognition from critics and publications. Under Steve, Stonestreet and Merryvale were both recognized as Wineries of the Year multiple times by Wine and Spirits magazine. He has been the subject of numerous articles and interviews over the years, as well as a panelist and presenter on technical subjects at many tastings and seminars.
When he isn't working Steve likes to garden, tend his fruit trees, cook and play golf.