Barbara St. Amant Spencer – Owner
Barbara “St. Amant” Spencer founded St. Amant Vineyard in 1972 with her husband Tim Spencer. In 1979 they launched the winery with the release of their first wine, a dry Zinfandel rose. The winery was named St. Amant, Barbara’s maiden name. Over all those years, Barbara was always at Tim’s side providing guidance, support, and keeping him on track. She always managed the finances, regularly worked the tasting room, attended hundreds if not thousands of wine events over the years, and played an essential role in building the business. Today, Barbara still actively manages and operates the tasting room, meticulously manages the finances, and regularly represents St. Amant at wine events throughout the region. Like her husband, the wine and grape business is a way of life, and she shows no signs of slowing down.
Stuart Spencer – Winemaker
Stuart took over the winemaking duties when his father passed away in 2006, but having grown up with a family farm and winery, he has a long history with grapes and wine. When his parents partnered with others to open a fine wine shop in 1970’s, Stuart was drug along to countless tastings and events where he had the opportunity to taste, learn, and develop a passion for wine. Growing up in the wine business gave Stuart the opportunity to learn the craft from the ground up. Spending countless hours on tractors, leaf-pulling, sampling, harvesting, crushing, racking, topping, and endless hours of cleaning gave him insight into how fine wine is made. Stuart graduated from UCSB where he was member of their swim team. In 1999, Stuart went to work for the Lodi Winegrape Commission where he served as the Program Manager and helped develop many of the innovative programs that have shined the light on Lodi wines. Stuart is currently President of TAPAS (Tempranillo Advocates, Producers and Amigos Society) a trade association dedicated to the promotion of American grown Iberian varieties. Stuart is married to his wife Carrie, and they have two beautiful daughters who will be learning the business from the ground up as well.
Joel Ohmart – Assistant Winemaker
The foundation of any successful business is the people that work there, and we were fortunate to stumble across Joel Ohmart in 2008. Joel originally came on board for harvest, but quickly demonstrated an aptitude and passion for wine that we could use to help grow our business. Joel oversees much of the day-to-day activity at the winery from racking barrels, working the tasting room, coordinating shipments, driving the forklift, and most importantly feeding the cats their morning meal. It’s rare in the wine business to find an individual that can bounce from pumping over a tank of wine, to hosting a group of guests, to operating the cash register, to selling the finished product, and doing it all with such energy and passion. Joel is a UC Davis grad who loves to share his enthusiasm and passion for food and wine. In a small business like ours, that requires you to wear many hats, Joel has been a key component in helping craft our wines and making sure the finished bottles find your glass.
Tim Spencer (1938-2006) - Founder
Tim Spencer, owner and winemaker of St. Amant Winery, passed away on September 12, 2006 after a hard-fought two year battle with Lymphoma. He was 68 years old, and was remembered by many for his delicious wines, unique hospitality, and original personality.
In the years since his passing we have had the privilege of hearing countless stories about how my father made a difference in people’s lives. He was generous and honest as they come; he inspired many, and was loyal to the core. He had little patience for fools, but would spend hours with those willing to learn. He despised the pretentiousness and snobbery of wine, but insisted that wine was best enjoyed with good friends and family.
He chose his own path in life. He never bent to the winds of fashion or succumbed to the easy road. When others were planting Chardonnay, Cabernet, and Merlot he chose unheard of varieties such as Touriga, Bastardo, and Tinta Cao. He believed these more suitable to our soils and climate. When others dismissed Lodi as a backwater region incapable of producing fine wine, he embraced it, crafting thrilling wines that garnered prestigious awards and national attention.
The winery was not a romantic lifestyle choice, but one born of necessity. He often remarked that he had no intentions of ever opening a winery, but when a winery customer filled bankruptcy shortly after harvest, he had no choice. He drove down, reclaimed the best wine, and began selling it. That was 1981, and that was our first Vintage Port. He often said that he was quite capable of going broke himself, and that he didn’t need anyone else’s help.
Despite his original intentions, he was a natural when it came to crafting wines and sharing his passion. He believed that a wine’s first responsibility was not to please the critics, get high scores, or win awards, but to taste good. He was refreshingly honest, and would often tell customers that he didn’t care for one of his wines, but believed that he could do better. He was always trying to do better.
He worked very hard, and wore the scars of his toils with pride. He once drove a redwood grape stake through his arm, lost his wedding ring to a black widow, chopped the tip of his finger off, and was bitten by a rattlesnake – all in our vineyard. Through all of it he never missed a day of work until he was diagnosed with cancer.
He confronted his cancer with the same dry humor that endeared him to many. He often dismissed the annoying salesman’s greeting of “Hi! How are you today?” with a “Shitty! I’ve got cancer!” He loved the silence that followed.
For many years I had the pleasure of joining my dad for lunch nearly every day. He always asked about the grandkids. We discussed business, tasted wines, and shared our mutual passion for crafting delicious original wines. He taught me well, and now it’s my turn. My mother, sister, and I, our extended families, and dear friends are committed to continuing the vision my dad began nearly 30 years ago, and ensuring that St. Amant will continue to flourish in the years to come.