Fence Stile Vineyards and Winery’s winemaker Stephen C. Dollar joined the Excelsior Springs, Missouri-based winery in June 2017.
“Fence Stile is part of the booming Missouri wine scene. It gives me an opportunity to work in a small, family-operated winery dedicated to quality,” says Stephen. “I believe that at any winery, the focus should first be on the quality of the wines made there. I am excited to be part of the team that where Fence Stile continues to do just that.”
Stephen is a 2012 graduate of the VESTA-certified enology program at Arkansas Tech University/Ozark. The Viticulture Enology Science and Technology Alliance (VESTA) is a National Science Foundation (NSF) funded partnership between the Missouri State University system and colleges, universities, vineyards and wineries across America.
His practical winery experience began in 2010 at Wiederkehr Wine Cellars in Altus, Arkansas. Next, he worked as the winemaker at Chateaux Aux Arc, also in Altus, for the 2012 and 2013 vintages. He has also consulted and provided hands-on expertise on viticulture and enology matters at Circle T Winery & Vineyards in Charleston, Arkansas.
In 2014, he was hired as the founding winemaker at Sassafras Springs Vineyard in Springdale, Arkansas. There, he made wines that won awards from open competitions in New York State and California. Stephen also managed the tasting room and staff at Sassafras. He initiated a food and wine program at Sassafras and selected gourmet pairings for special events.
While in Northwest Arkansas, he began sommelier training, passing the first level of classes as well as the tasting test toward level 2 certification. He put this experience to use by leading tasting events at venues such as the Art Center for the Ozarks.
“At first, I was attracted to the technical aspects of winemaking,” says Stephen. “Once my tasting experience broadened, I realized that there was artistry to be combined with the chemistry. It is a balance of the two that I seek. My goal is always to find good fruit and allow its character to show through in the wine made from it.”
Stephen contributes his experience, skills, and energy to the Fence Stile team that includes owner-founder Shriti Hallberg Plimpton, general manager and culinary director Pete Dulin, and vineyard manager Shawna Mull.
As the 2017 harvest season approaches, Stephen is working closely with Shriti and Shawn to plan, prepare equipment, and assess the growth of the grapes. Along with Shriti, he is evaluating all aspects of the winemaking process that will shape wines produced from this year's vintage.
"Preparing for the 2017 crush also involves selection of yeast and bacteria, characteristics for oaked wine, and flavor profiles. As the grapes mature, we will conduct daily grape tastings," says Stephen. "It is important that we understand the sugars and flavors of the grapes as they progress."
As harvest season approaches from late August through October, Fence Stile Vineyards seeks volunteers to help with picking grapes. Experience the vineyards while among the vines of Vignoles, Seyval, Chambourcin and other grapes with fellow wine lovers and our team. Enjoy a harvest lunch prepared by our culinary director that includes wine from Fence Stile. Contact us at email@example.com to sign up and receive more details.