Alicia Sylvester, Winemaker
Raised on her family’s almond farm in California’s Central Valley, Alicia Sylvester’s strong work ethic and love of agriculture was cultivated at a young age. “Harvest time has always held a special significance in my family.” She fondly remembers spending time as a child following the picking crew with her red wagon on her family owned 20-acre Zinfandel vineyard. Having this connection with grapes from childhood is what sparked the seed of interest for the world of wine.
Alicia attended California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo where she began to explore the wine business through her studies and summers full of viticulture and enology internships. She graduated in 2011 with a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture Business with a marketing concentration, minoring in Wine & Viticulture. While her studies were more business-oriented, winemaking really stole her heart when she obtained her first winemaking internship at Provenance Vineyards — and she hasn’t looked back since.
Inspired by travel and differing winemaking techniques from around the world, Alicia went on to work back-to-back harvests around the globe including notable regions of Australia, Italy, Argentina, and South Africa. The work didn’t stop once stateside — Alicia stayed busy with domestic harvests as well, including at Chateau Montelena where she was the second woman ever to receive the “golden shovel” award, and at Sonoma Cutrer, where she dialed in Chardonnay winemaking practices. Her breadth of experience has given her an opportunity to have her hands on numerous wines from Wine Spectator’s famed Top 100 list, including those from Hewitt Vineyard, Mollydooker and Fincas Patagonicas.
Alicia joined the winemaking team at Lancaster Estate in 2015 as an enologist and was quickly promoted to Assistant Winemaker a year later while earning her winemaking certificate from University of California, Davis. The tradition of excellence continued as she helped develop some of Lancaster’s own Top 100 wines while making a superb impact on wine quality and the winery’s sustainability and safety programs. When the head winemaker position at Merus became available in March 2019, she was thrilled to accept the position and express her passion for Bordeaux-style luxury winemaking. As of January 2021, Alicia now crafts site-specific, authentic wines for Banshee, with a focus on Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir, that are true to style and character, on which Banshee Wines has built its reputation.
Alicia is an active member of Women for WineSense where she is on the planning committee for the Winemaker’s and Viticultural RoundTable. She resides in Healdsburg CA, where you might find her running, baking, hiking, crafting, and improving her yoga skills. If she has any down time after that you might find her donating platelets at her local blood bank.