Blending chemistry and wine
As associate winemaker at Arrowood Winery in Sonoma County, Heidi von der Mehden may have a more unusual job title than most of her chemistry peers from Santa Clara University. But her background is perfectly suited to her job: a deep understanding of the chemistry of grapes and soil informs her decisions on producing the most balanced, tastiest wine.
As an undergraduate, von der Mehden interned at Almaden Research Center, assisting in the development of early-stage flat screen monitors, and helped set up the lab of chemistry professor Patrick Hoggard, known for his work on metal molecules.
“It was a great experience, getting a lab off the ground. It was turning book-work into legwork, putting what I’d found in books into practice,” says von der Mehden.
Today, as she considers a wine’s acidity or pinpoints ideal sugar levels, von der Mehden says critical thinking skills developed at Santa Clara guide her. “When everything goes right, the wine is awesome,” she says. And when it doesn’t…she puts those SCU problem-solving skills to work.
Currently associate winemaker at Arrowood Winery in Glen Ellen, California