Sterling grew up in Southern California with a passion and skill for cooking at a young age. He thought about being a chef and having worked in some kitchens, found out about a major in Food Science. This major focuses on the chemistry, microbiology, safety and innovation of food products; which was definitely more his style. Shortly thereafter Sterling moved up to San Luis Obispo to attend Cal Poly and this is when his introduction to wine started. Although he started tasting a large variety of wines at Cal Poly, he did not think most people would have considered him a wine connoisseur since his tasting involved “drinking Franzia from a bag and Caro Rossi jugs.”
His real wine education began when he moved to Newcastle, Australia on a study abroad trip organized through Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. He spent a good amount of time on the beach, surfing, mountain biking, legally drinking wine, and trying to convince his current wife, another American student, that she should date him. The University was located near Hunter Valley, Australia’s oldest wine growing region. Here he was of legal age to taste higher quality wines. He was learning about the wine making process while wine tasting and it just clicked; the creation, sensory perception, art and chemistry. Wine encompassed each aspect of what he was most passionate about in life.
After a semester abroad, he returned to Cal Poly and was able to add a Wine and Viticulture minor to complement his Food Science Major. He graduated from Cal Poly and took an internship at Eagle Castle Winery in Paso Robles. He subsequently quickly moved his way up to Assistant Winemaker. Here, he started making his first wines and developing new blends. He was still studying and trying to learn what he could about the science of the wine, and also trying to convince that girl from Australia, Roxan, that she should now marry him.
After a few years at Eagle Castle, he decided he needed another wine adventure, so he took a job in Marlborough, New Zealand for Oyster Bay label wines. It was a factory more than a winery, but he learned a lot about large production winemaking. From there he moved onto Justin Vineyard & Winery in Paso Robles for the following harvest. It was while working at Justin in 2013 that we asked if he would like to come work for us as our Assistant Winemaker.
He spent the first harvest learning to produce wines in the Cass-style and learning Lood Kotze’s (our former winemaker) tips and tricks. He took a few month sabbatical from Cass in order to take a position as Vintage Winemaker in Margaret River, Australia where he helped run a large custom crush winery. There, he produced wines in a variety of quantities and qualities- from $100 high-end bottles to wine made for cows in China (you read that right).
After that, he came back to Cass with a few wine making tricks of his own. Confident in Sterling’s winemaking ability, Lood surprised us all by announcing his retirement from the wine industry and Sterling thus became the new Head Winemaker at Cass. In 2015, Sterling entered all of his first Cass wines into the Central Coast Wine Competition. Every single wine won an award and Cass was named Central Coast Winery of the Year! Cass continues to garner top awards and points in competitions and magazines.
Not only do Sterling and Roxan have a passion for wine, but for traveling as well! They have backpacked through Central America, South East Asia, Australia, New Zealand, South Eastern Africa, South America and are looking forward to adding this trip to their list!