I’m Denise Gardner
I’m a winemaking consultant and educator who has a passion for helping winemakers craft high-quality wines. And I also just love talking about wine!
Welcome to a refreshing take on the wine world – where pretentiousness and high costs take a back seat. Hey, I get it. I’ve been in the wine industry for decades. That’s why I want to invite you to join me in making the wine experience more enjoyable, fun, and accessible on a regular basis.
My mission is simple – I want you to find joy in selecting wines you love and feel confident in serving them to your friends and family. Unlike most wine experts who focus on flashy, expensive brands, I strive to provide you with wines that are accessible, affordable, and delicious. Every wine that makes it to my table can now grace yours.
I’m thrilled to have you here to savor the joys of wine and I’m looking forward to sharing unique wine experiences with you!
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The Denise Gardner WineLover Story
My winemaking journey started when I was a sophomore in high school. Yes, high school.
As an active member of our school’s FFA program, I delved into agricultural-themed public speaking competitions, where my speeches always revolved around grapes, wine, and wine science.
Fueled by the knowledge gained from the program, I went on to participate in science fairs, and internships in both France and California and ultimately earned a B.S. in Food Science from Penn State University and an M.S. in Food Science and Technology from Virginia Tech University.
My official venture into the wine world came when I joined Enartis Vinquiry (now Enartis U.S.A.) as their Sensory Scientist, engaging in sensory trials, evaluating new wine-making products, and immersing myself in the California wine industry. However, my heart yearned to return to my roots in the Eastern wine industry.
In 2011, I got my dream job!
I accepted the position of Penn State Extension Enologist, where I had the privilege of meeting winemakers from all over the U.S. and nurturing the next generation of winemakers through research and education. Along the way, I completed certification programs through the Society of Wine Educators (SWE) and Wine and Spirit Education Trust (WSET), deepening my tasting skills and appreciation for wine.
Eventually, I took the leap and start Denise Gardner Winemaking, a consulting service that embraces technology to meet the growing needs of winemakers and wine lovers.
I’m a Millennial mom who has been immersed in the world of grapes and wine.
While I cherish and enjoy wine, I established Denise Gardner Winemaking in 2017 to find a better work-life balance while starting a family. Despite the demands of the wine world, I’m a proud mom to a young daughter and two adorable four-legged fur babies!
The wine world has played a significant role in shaping my life and has taken me on a journey across the globe, where I’ve met fascinating people and tasted extraordinary wines.
The wine that graces my table can now find its way to yours, too.
At Denise Gardner Winemaking, I’m not just a consultant; I’m a wine lover. I’m eager to share my love for wine with all of you through the Wine Lovers Community. Whether it’s discussing things we love (or things that are weird) about wine, offering wine expertise for your next selection, or even talking about wines featured in TV shows or movies, this is the place to be!
So, if you’re ready to embark on a journey of delightful wines without the complexity, join me in this exciting wine adventure. I’m here to talk, explore, and share my passion with all of you!
The Wine World Has Been a Big Part of My Life
It has shaped my life experiences in unique ways. My interest in wine has also taken me all over the world and granted me opportunities to meet a lot of fascinating people and taste some extraordinary wines. If you want to find out a little bit more about me, please feel free to read through. It’s a longer version of my story…so, pop a bottle and enjoy!
Phylloxera: The Story That Got Me Hooked
The wine industry entered my life when I was just a high school freshman, and it all started with an unexpected encounter with a tiny insect called Phylloxera. Native to North America, Phylloxera wreaked havoc on European vineyards in the 1800s, devastating entire crops of wine grapes and threatening the winemaking industry. However, American grape vines came to the rescue through grafting, saving European varieties. This captivating tale ignited my deep love for wine grapes, and ever since, my heart has belonged to the world of winemaking.
A Thirst for Exploration
My love for learning and my thirst for exploration drove me to delve into the world of wine. As a member of FFA, I participated in public speaking competitions centered around the wine grape industry, which sparked my interest in wine chemistry, grape growing, and its history. Mark Chien, my mentor and Penn State Extension Viticulturist, introduced me to the wine industry, connecting me with experts in grape tissue culture, vine disease research, and winemaking. Together, we established “Grapery Hollow Vineyard” at our high school, where I tended to Chardonnay and Chambourcin grapevines while pursuing phylloxera research.
Working Abroad in France
My passion for research led me to win state science fairs and even compete in the National ISEF competition. At the end of high school, I received an invitation to work abroad via an internship at Lallemand in Toulouse, France. Thus, in the summer between high school and college, I was introduced to enology (winemaking), participating in industry-led research on Oenococcus oeni fermentations. This is the wine bacteria that is commonly used to complete malolactic fermentation, a second fermentation in wine in which the bacteria convert the harsh tasting malic acid into a softer tasting lactic acid.
Education in Winery
As a Food Science graduate from Penn State University, my college journey further immersed me in the world of wine. During my freshman year, I rediscovered my passion for phylloxera and had the opportunity to study this insect alongside a graduate student mentor in California. This experience not only introduced me to the California wine industry but also allowed me to explore Napa soils and participate in phylloxera harvesting. The dedication I poured into this project led to my first science publication, where I was granted authorship.
A Talent for Aroma, Flavor, and Taste
After graduating from Penn State, I pursued a Master’s degree in Food Science and Technology at Virginia Tech University, focusing on enology—the science of winemaking.
During My Graduate Studies, I delved into wine sensory and processing, honing my skills in making better wines and identifying wine-related issues through tasting.
Putting Wine Tasting Skills to Use
In graduate school, I learned how to identify wine problems through taste, smell, and analytical assessments. During my time at Enartis Vinqury (Enartis U.S.A.), I was hired as their Sensory Scientist to put this skill to use. Not only did I participate in regular wine sensory evaluations and provide suggestions for improvement, but I led cork aroma screens and professional sensory panels so that wineries and wine companies could make educated decisions on wine alterations.
Landing My Dream Job…
I was hired as the Penn State Extension Enologist in 2011. Because of my youth, I had never anticipated getting to this position so early in my career, but it was an exciting accomplishment for me! As the Extension Enologist, I traveled throughout most of Pennsylvania’s wine industry, educating industry members on current winemaking practices and wine quality improvement. I also spent a lot of time traveling to other winemaking regions throughout the U.S. to provide education speaking engagements on wine production practices.
Through this position, I traveled throughout most of Pennsylvania’s wine industry, educating industry members on current winemaking practices and wine quality improvement. I also spent a lot of time traveling to other winemaking regions throughout the U.S. to provide education speaking engagements on wine production practices.
Over the course of my career, I have also spent time learning classic wine styles and winemaking regions. I did this by accruing two industry accreditations:
• The Certified Specialist of Wine (CSW) through the Society of Wine Educators
• Level 3 Certification from the Wine and Spirit Education Trust (WSET)
I received both of these accreditations while I was working at Penn State Extension as the State Extension Enologist.
DG Winemaking is Born
During those 6.5 years, I was able to visit several winemaking regions throughout the U.S. and taste wines from all sorts of wine grape varieties: natives, hybrids, and European varieties. I also made some wine for research purposes. Having to coordinate my own harvests provided me with a lot of insight into challenges winemakers face throughout the U.S. It also gave me a profound opportunity to experiment with winemaking techniques and make some fabulous wines!
While I had a lot of really cool experiences and opportunities through my career, it was time to take a leap of faith and start a business that I had been mulling over for years: Denise Gardner Winemaking.
It started in my home, at the kitchen table, with nothing more than a name, a logo, and a book about running a consulting business. That first year was both terrifying and gratifying, and I’ve never looked back.
I eventually started this business: Denise Gardner Winemaking.
Enter in Wine Lovers
During the global pandemic, I started working on a passion project, which has become the Wine Lovers site through DGW and the development of the Sip & Swirl email newsletter. Although I have always enjoyed my professional career in winemaking, I also really enjoy sharing my love of wine with others that enjoy wine, too. One day, a friend of mine told me I should write down all the advice I gave her as she walked through a wine store looking for a bottle of wine… and that’s where DGW’s Wine Lovers originated.
A New Era for Wine Lovers
While the Sip & Swirl continues to be a focus for the DGW Wine Lovers, in 2023 I launched the first ever virtual tasting group, “Taste Wine with a Pro.” This is the first tasting group of it’s kind! You can taste from anywhere and select any wine that appeals to you within the wine theme for that tasting class. Unlike most tasting events, which are fueled to promote a specific brand, this allows you to explore whatever wine you want…
At Denise Gardner Winemaking, I’m not just a consultant; I’m a wine lover, too.
I’m eager to share my love for wine with all of you through the Wine Lovers Community. Whether it’s discussing things we love (or things that are weird) about wine, offering wine expertise for your next selection, or even talking about wines featured in TV shows or movies, this is the place to be!
If you’re ready to embark on a journey of delightful wines without the complexity, join me in this exciting wine adventure. I’m here to talk, explore, and share my passion with all of you!
Denise enjoys sparkling wine cocktails with her husband, Josh.