This question is interesting because I am looking at it from the lens of somebody in their 50’s. If you had asked me this in college I would have said doctor. Since my late 20’s I have taken an interest in wine that has grown into a passion. The more I learn and experience (drinking wine is an interactive event).. the more I want to know. This affection has pushed me and my wife to visit wineries all over the world. For example, hearing a winemaker (Carles Pastrana) from Priorat talk about his decision to grow wine in an underappreciated area in eastern Spain in 1979 and taste his wine in his own house/winery (Clos de L’Obac) and live his experiences and enjoy the fruits of his labor is inspiring. It is these unique experiences that lead me to believe I would be a winemaker.
The process of making wine is labor intensive at times and other times requires patience. Selecting the right area “Terroir” is vitally important……PLACE MATTERS. Since I am day-dreaming as I answer the question, I would pick an area in Spain or Italy or even Chile (if I could not afford California!). These areas are beautiful and have a long history of making wines. The culinary history combined with the enologic history makes these areas particularly attractive. From there you have to choose a varietal (type of grape). I am particularly fond of Reds from Cabernet to Tempranillo to Nebbiolo to Carmenere. Choosing the right varietal to match the terroir is very important. Not all grapes grow well in all locations.
Once you choose your grapes, you then have to grow them. Some new vines may take 4 to 5 years to become mature enough to use the grapes. The process of new grapes budding in the spring and mature in the summer to being harvested in the fall, is extraordinary. The excitement of harvesting the grapes and starting the process of wine. From the “crush” (squeezing the juice from the grapes) to the fermentation (yeast transforms the grape sugar to alcohol) to the aging process (stainless steel tanks to barrels); the grace and power of nature is in full view. There is an intoxicating smell associated with fermenting wine.
The next step of properly preparing your wine is also fascinating, the aging process or finishing school. Do I use new wood barrels vs used? Or do I use American Oak vs French or Hungarian Oak? Do I blend the wine with other wines and If I do at what percentage? These are important questions that help develop your wines personality. I almost liken the thought to raising kids! Your kids are a reflection of you as is your wine.
Finally, after allowing the wine to sit in barrels for perhaps a year or longer, you finally get to taste your finished product. The excitement of the tasting and finding foods that pair well is provocative and lifelong. Wines change and continue to mature with time, much like humans, and what food pairs well now maybe different 5 years from now.
I get very whimsical when I think of being a winemaker but ultimately, what attracts me the most is being outdoors and growing something that I can enjoy for many years. The art and practice of wine-making has been around for millennia and to be able to do that for a living would be time well spent.