Stéphane Vivier

The Lazy Winemaker


To Stéphane, the best winemaker is one that largely keeps his hands to himself, allowing the alchemy of nature to do what it does best. As he says, “Being a lazy winemaker is all about being patient, letting the place talk, and being gentle with the grapes. Making it simple.” He learned this laissez-faire method of winemaking while growing up in Meloisey, Burgundy, at the feet of an elderly neighbor whose family had been making wine for centuries.

After obtaining degrees in viticulture and enology from Université de Bourgogne in Dijon, he worked in Switzerland, Sonoma and New Zealand. There, he discovered the difference between Old World and New World winemaking. The vineyards were young, as were the winemakers, giving free reign for them to put their own stamp on the wines they crafted.

In Napa, Stéphane became the winemaker at HdV (Hyde de Villaine) in 2002, under the tutelage of a great Burgundian winemaker. In some senses, he had come full circle. In other ways, he was just getting started. Because that’s where he met…

Dana Sexton Vivier

The Adventurous American


Dana became swept up in the enthusiasm for wine in eastern Washington’s emerging wine country while attending college in Walla Walla. A year studying at La Sorbonne in Paris gave her a far more discerning palate, fluency in French and a deep appreciation for nice, long meals.

After post graduate study at UC Davis in Finance and International Management, Dana combined her interests and landed a job working for an investment management company that specialized in high-end vineyards, which moved her to Napa. Shortly thereafter, she met Stéphane, a wine lover who hailed from the Burgundy region of France. It wasn’t long before the two realized that they belonged together, as both partners in life as well as in the establishment of their winery, Vivier Wines.

With Vivier wines, Stéphane and Dana are able to blend their respect for tradition with their enthusiasm for emerging winegrowing regions, and their love of Pinot Noir. It’s family owned and operated, which means the kids are in the vineyard almost as much as their parents, wine deliveries are family road trips, and case production is extremely limited. There are no angel investors or rich relatives, in fact the whole enterprise was bankrolled on a single credit card. But they are doing what they love, making wine that you’ll love. La vie est belle.