Family-Owned Lodi Estate Appoints New Head Winemaker and Acquires Promising New Upstart
Lodi, Calif., February 19, 2020 – Oak Farm Vineyards, owned and operated by husband-and-wife team Dan and Heather Panella, is thrilled to announce Sierra Zeiter as its new Head Winemaker. Sierra takes over the role of Dan Panella, who is now Director of Winemaking.
Most recently, Zeiter worked as Assistant Winemaker at Oak Farm Vineyards, where she managed and organized production on a day-to-day basis while running all harvest protocols, additions, samplings, and decisions, in collaboration with the rest of the Oak Farm winemaking team. Zeiter went to California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, to earn her Bachelor of Science degree in wine and viticulture with a concentration in enology. While in college, Sierra worked harvests at Estate Crush, Daou Vineyards and J. Lohr, and took a job at Oak Farm Vineyards shortly after graduating. Native to the Lodi area, Sierra’s goal is to help earn the Lodi wine region the credit it deserves by crafting the best possible wines from its unique terroir.
“I’m forever grateful to Oak Farm for granting me this opportunity to apply my expertise to help elevate our growing wine region,” says Zeiter. “The diverse portfolio, warm personalities, and passion for quality and authenticity here at Oak Farm embodies the spirit of Lodi, and I’m honored to continue that tradition as Head Winemaker.”
Filling Zeiter’s former position of Assistant Winemaker is new Oak Farm hire Marilia Nimis. Born and raised in Friuli-Venezia Giulia, a northeast region of Italy, Nimis’ passion for wine stems from her grandparents, with whom she cultivated 14 acres of vineyards in her home country. Before coming to California, Nimis expanded her knowledge of winemaking by working harvests at La Roncaia and Ferrari Fratelli Lunelli. Marilia and Sierra met last year while working a harvest in New Zealand, and Sierra was instantly impressed by Marilia’s unwavering work ethic and sought to bring her on to the Oak Farm team. At Oak Farm, Marilia brings a positive attitude, hard work, and innovative ideas, not to mention a passion for Italian grape varieties, which thrive in Lodi’s Mediterranean climate.
Co-owner Dan Panella now takes on the role of Director of Winemaking, overseeing all winemaking operations and spending more time in the market, sharing his wines with potential new buyers and consumers. A third-generation farmer, Dan’s agricultural roots trace back to the days of riding a tractor through his family’s cherry and walnut orchards. After growing a foundation and love for the industry, he blended his passion for wine with a desire for involvement in the end result and opened Oak Farm Vineyards in 2004.
“It’s amazing to see how far we’ve come over the past fifteen years, and Sierra has been a big part of our evolution as a winery,” says Panella. “I’m very proud of everything she has accomplished and can’t wait to see what she does next. Marilia is a go-getter, just like Sierra, and with those two working together, I’m confident that there are great things in store for Oak Farm in 2020 and beyond.”
About Oak Farm Vineyards:
William DeVries founded Oak Farm in 1860, and with a passion for farming and the land, turned it into one of the pioneering agricultural sites in rural Lodi, CA. Decades later, the Panella family arrived in the region, and in 1936 began an agricultural journey that ultimately culminated with the purchase of Oak Farm in 2004. Today, the 70-acre estate is home to its state-of-the-art tasting room, where they host an array of exclusive tastings and tours. Co-Owner and Director of Winemaking Dan Panella and Head Winemaker Sierra Zieter lead a talented team of agricultural specialists in building a diverse portfolio of balanced wines from a variety of Mediterranean, American, and Bordeaux varietals. The Panella family’s Italian and French heritage, along with Lodi’s Mediterranean climate and rich sandy loam soils, are at the core of the Oak Farm winemaking program. For additional information, please visit https://www.oakfarmvineyards.com/.