Sometimes, career paths take unexpected turns. Dawna Darjean Jones loves science, but after several years of working in research, she learned she didn’t want to spend her life in a lab. Her journey to winemaking took her through multiple states, and to the highest rungs of education. Her goal was to find a career that challenged and excited her, introduced her to new people, and worked for her family. Today, she’s accomplished all of that, and created some delicious new wines in the process. Read about her journey, and then find her Chenin Blanc and a robust rosé on the Blue Apron Market.
Q How did you ultimately choose winemaking as a career?
A When my family relocated to Texas, it was time for me to make a career change. I wanted to find something that made me feel just as my last job in National Security did. The only thing that I kept coming back to was wine. I had spent time on vineyards doing research, and I loved it there. I felt free, the air was clean, the sunshine was good for me, and I loved meeting the people. I missed California, and I wanted to be part of that again, even though I was moving to Texas. Things fell together when I figured out a way to balance traveling back and forth to California while primarily living in Texas with my family.
Q What’s your favorite part of your job?
A My favorite part of the job is harvest, and the smell of fermentation. I can’t get past that smell, it was one of the things that drew me into winemaking. I got my first whiff of fermenting wine in 2010, the year my daughter was born. I simply fell in love with the aroma of fermenting wine while I was pregnant with her. I think I loved it so much because all I could do at that time was smell wine! To this day, I still love that smell. It signifies the beginning. Fermentation is the beginning of everything for wine.
Q How would you describe your approach to winemaking?
A I wish I could say winemaking was just about understanding science, but there is a lot of art there, too. My wines are inspired by tradition, but not bound by it. When I blend a wine, I like to really taste each component individually, and think about what would enhance it. I want to make wines that you’d be happy drinking on their own, long after you’ve finished dinner. My wines are something both a connoisseur and a novice would enjoy.
Q: What impact would you like to have on the wine world?
A I want to feel like I’m opening up the wine world to those for whom it has been invisible. It’s really fulfilling to feel like you’re passing the torch to someone else. I feel like I have passed the torch by generating some interest—especially for minorities and women. For African Americans, winemaking isn’t traditionally a field that people think about going into, or even consider as an option. Since beginning my wine career, so many young women have reached out to me to ask how I got here. I do my best to answer them, because I want them to understand what’s possible. There are a lot of young women who now think about winemaking as a valid scientific career option.