INGLESIDE’S BILL AND MARIA SWAIN:
A PASSION REVEALED
It was once said that Ingleside Winery was Westmoreland County’s best kept secret. However, when one takes a good look at the wine operation there, it is evident that the real secret is Bill and Maria Swain, wine maker and assistant, respectively.
Bill, who started as a geology major at UC Davis, was fortunate enough to have roommates from the Napa Valley who introduced him to the wines of California. Finding that wine and wine production fit his personality extremely well with the emphasis on science and art both found in the process and development of wine, he graduated with a degree in wine from UC Davis. The sparkle in Bill’s eye when he talks of his life’s work reveals the strong passion for wine that exists for this quiet hard working man.
“Wine is a way of life. No one comes into this business to make money, the lifestyle living in a rural farm area, working hard, seeing what you work so hard at come to fruition are all attractions. The people with money in what we do have made it somewhere else,” replied Bill when asked why one would want to work in a vineyard and winery.
In 1973, Bill Swain began working at Charles Krug wineries as a cellar rat and eventually made his way up the food chain to assistant winemaker, where in 1977 a head hunter discovered him and Bill became the winemaker at Fresco Blanco Vineyard in Mendocino. Eventually starting his own winery, the Hood River Winery, in the Columbia Gorge, proved to be profitable for the next seventeen years until the education of his three girls made him reconsider his rural surroundings.
Selling the Hood River Winery, the Swains moved to the Seattle, Washington area where for the next three plus years Bill worked for a group of vineyards owned by the American Tobacco Company in the Woodenville, Washington area that included Chateau St. Michelle and Columbia Crest. Bill worked as a production coordinator for large wineries in the area which included Round Hill Winery where his brother Mark was the winemaker, until again a head hunter found him and referred him to a company in Venezuela.
With his adventurous spirit in high gear, Bill went to work for Bodegas Pomar (a joint effort of Polar Brewery and the French Martel Brandy) who was looking for a winemaker with a more scientific outlook as opposed to the previous traditional way making wine which it was reported had caused some detriment to the winery by the previous winemaker.
The rise of Chavez in Venezuela and the tragedy of 911, after four years, made it apparent that his time in Venezuela best be over. Returning to Napa and finding very little that seemed to suit, Bill came to the East Coast at the suggestion of his daughter and after interviewing at some of the wineries in Virginia, came to Ingleside where he has been since 2002.
Maria, born in Venezuela, lived in Houston, Texas from the age of five until thirteen when she returned to complete high school and college at the UCLA (not related to UCLA in California), graduating with a degree in food science. Working as a lab technician for a research microbiologist at Polar Brewing, in 1999, she became a lab tech intern at Bodegas Pomar working directly for Bill because she spoke fluent English and could help the Americano.
In February, 2002 when Bill left for Napa, Maria followed. His first marriage long since over, Bill and Maria were married on May 3, 2002. Returning to Round Hill Winery, again as an intern, Maria took advantage of education benefits to take classes that fed her growing passion and fascination for wine.
Arriving at Ingleside, Maria jumped into production, working again under her husband and mentor, Bill, as a cellar rat doing whatever was needed. Now in sales, she still keeps a hand in production as needed. And her passion grows. Whereas Bill has a sparkle in his eye when speaking of wine, Maria has a flame in hers, coupled with the intensity of her voice shows a passion for wine that belies her Venezuelan heritage.
Two expressed passions working together in one winery. How much better can it get? Bill and Maria Swain, Westmoreland county’s best kept secret.