Meet Vineyard Manager Norman Kobler
We’re thrilled to introduce our new Vineyard Manager Norman Kobler! Last week, Norman was able to step away from the busy harvest season to answer a few questions we had. We can’t express how excited we are to have him join the Lula team, and we hope you enjoy getting to know him a little better!
Q: How did you get started in the wine industry?
A: My parents. After immigrating from Switzerland in the 1950s and spending years in the restaurant business, they bought the property that became Lazy Creek Vineyards in 1973. I was seven years old. So I grew up helping my parents establish and run what was then a small family vineyard, winery, and tasting room.
Q: A lifelong Anderson Valley resident, you have been working in the valley on some of its most iconic vineyards—tell us something about those vineyards and what you’re most proud of with respect to the vineyard?
A: At one time or another, I’ve worked on over 27 vineyards in the Anderson Valley, but I’m probably most proud of Ferrington. I have been involved with Ferrington since Kurt Schoeneman bought it back in 1997. We took a derelict, mostly abandoned vineyard, replanted it, and turned it into what it is today. Our focus has always been on producing high-quality grapes that produce high-end wines. Rich Savoy was one of the pioneers in producing high-end Pinot Noirs in the valley. He had his own ideas on how he wanted things done, and I learned from that. Working with the likes of Ted Lemons and William Selyem further reinforced the goal of quality rather than quantity.
Q: The owner of Ferrington Vineyard credits you as a big reason for the success of that vineyard—what have you done to get such high praise?
A: The success of Ferrington Vineyard is very personal to me. My wife and I raised our kids there. I tend to keep the welfare of it foremost in my mind. Kurt Schoeneman has been very good to my family and me. I hope I pay him back with my dedication and hours of night-harvesting and frost protection. Even though Ferrington is a fairly large vineyard, each winery that buys grapes has its own row allocations that they want to be farmed to their particular specifications. I am happy that we can provide that to them year after year.
Q: What is one of your favorite varietals to work with and why?
A: Gewürztraminer. The flavor is wonderful and very forgiving.
Q: What do you enjoy most about working in wine?
A: Working outside with the challenges of Mother Nature. No two years are ever the same.
Q: What’s one of the hardest parts of vineyard management?
A: Recently, getting enough labor and dealing with the unknowns.
Q: What vineyard management practices do you follow?
A: I try to farm more sustainably to the conditions of each site. I’m not inclined to spray unnecessarily.
Q: What are you most excited to do as the Vineyard Manager at Lula Cellars in the future?
A: I’m looking forward to collaborating with Winemaker Matt Parrish and Proprietor Ken Avery to further improve the vines and, thereby, the wines from Lula. That would give me a lot of satisfaction.
Q: What is the most rewarding thing about your job?
A: Being able to work outside every day and knowing that people are enjoying the wines.
Q: What are some of your favorite hobbies?
A: Fishing, gardening, cooking, and keeping bees.
Q: Any other fun facts we should know about you?
A: In addition to Vineyard Management, I’ve commercially fished for 29 years, mostly for Dungeness crab.
Q: Anything else we should know?
A: I’m a workaholic.