After earning a BA in biopsychology at Mary Baldwin and a master’s degree at the University of Richmond, Jessica Gatewood was working as a biochemistry research assistant at the University of Virginia when she reached a turning point in her professional life. Instead of staying in a traditional lab, Gatewood decided to leverage her background in biology and chemistry into a career as a winemaker.

She earned a certificate in enology — the study and science of winemaking — and interned with expert winemaker Gabriele Rausse at his Charlottesville winery. From harvesting and wine production to customer relations, budgeting, and sales, Gatewood immersed herself in just about every aspect of winemaking and vineyard operations.

In May 2014, Gatewood was hired as head winemaker at Barren Ridge Vineyards in Fishersville, where she especially loves the annual harvest season when she moves between tanks, extracting samples for chemical analysis and tasting, tasting, tasting. Her scientific training enhances her understanding of what is happening in the tanks, and, often, produces better wine.

“I’m grateful that my education kept me open to the potential that being a scientist does not have to mean wearing a white coat and safety glasses to work in a lab every day,” she said.

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