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Acquiesce Winery: From Dream to Reality

Cover Image for Acquiesce Winery: From Dream to Reality
By Sophie Brochu

Acquiesce Winery was a dream long before it was a reality. Sue Tipton and her husband wanted a place to settle down, enjoy the sunset, and dabble in winemaking. After falling in love with a particular Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Tipton embarked on a quest to craft world-class white wines—and she succeeded.

Where did the name ‘Acquiesce’ come from?

My husband was in the corporate world years ago, and we lived all over, including in Europe for a while. He just had several days of travel, eight countries in 10 days. We were living in Portland, Oregon at the time, sitting on the patio drinking a glass of wine, listening to K.D. Lang, who’s a Canadian singer with a song called Acquiesce. He turned to me and said, ‘One day we’re going to have a place and we’re going to call it Acquiesce. We’re going to watch the sunrise and set.’ So when we found our place in the Lodi wine region of California, we called our ranch home Acquiesce because of his vision. Several years later, we decided to plant these white varietals on our property and open a winery.

Were you experts in wine at this time?

When we moved here, it was kind of our thinking that this was going to be our last move. I was in my 50s at the time, and we were playing around with zinfandel grapes on the property, just as home winemakers. But I fell in love with a white Châteauneuf-du-Pape, I thought it was the best white wine I’d ever had. Subsequently, I realized how rare the varietals were in France and in the US.  I decided to plant grenache blanc to start. I was thrilled by how it worked in Lodi, which is a Mediterranean climate wine region, so I decided to plant more grapes. We’ve been open now for ten and a half years.

What was that learning curve like for you?

I didn’t graduate from UC Davis or take an enology class, so early on we hired a consultant in the industry, Heather Pyle-Lucas, who worked for Mondavi for 18 years. She was one of the founding winemakers for Opus One Winery in Napa. For a 10 year period, she monitored what I was doing during harvest. She was a great mentor. She taught me how to be a woman winemaker in a male-dominated world.

“I could just be myself and keep a path and not be swayed from it.”

Any advice you care to pass on? 

Well, first she said, ‘Are you sure you want to do this?’ Opening a winery, it’s not only time intensive, it’s money intensive. But it was something that we loved doing. Watching her navigate the system helped me realize I didn’t have to try to be or fit in with the guys. I could just be myself and keep a path and not be swayed from it.

How would you describe your winemaking style?

I’m focused on bringing out the aromatic qualities of these white varietals. Everything is in stainless steel, whole cluster pressed; there’s no oak in the winery. We spend a lot of attention on our vineyard. Everything is estate grown. We have an 18-acre property, and everything is hand picked. There’s a lot of attention to detail. It’s all about acquiescing to the grapes by taking what nature is giving us and making it the best we possibly can, and making sure that the wines showcase that. We’re making premium wines here. We’re not sold in any stores. Everything is sold out of the tasting room.

What makes Acquiesce Winery special?

Everything that we do is here on the property. Our grapes are on the property. We hand pick, hand sort. We have a 120-year-old barn we converted to a tasting room. When people come here, they can see and feel it all happening.

We don’t have big heavy wines here. They’re not over oaked, they’re not high in alcohol, and they’re all super food friendly. We offer an elevated tasting experience with four wines and rotating bites.

 You and your husband started the Lodi Appellation Inclusion Collective in 2021. Tell us a little bit about it.

My husband and I are originally from Chicago, so we’re kind of outsiders in an area that has fifth, sixth, even seventh generation farming families. And we were welcomed in Lodi. Lodi is a great place because it welcomes people from the outside, it’s very inclusive. But knowing the challenges of trying to get into the wine world, especially if you’re a person of color, is a huge hurdle. So we partnered with about 20 different wineries in Lodi and we’re working with an organization called The Roots Fund. They bring scholars to us and we set up enrichment trips where the scholars might ride a harvester, go out in the vineyard, or participate in a blind tasting. Ultimately, it’s an opportunity to make connections. We recently had five scholars, all of whom were offered jobs in Lodi.

Is there a particular bottle that we must have for the holiday season?

We have a grenache blanc sparkling, which uses the méthode champenoise technique, that a lot of people enjoy during the holidays. We also have a grenache rosé that’s really popular around Thanksgiving.

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