Jill DelaRiva Russell’s love of food and wine began when she was working as a server for a winery in Livermore, CA while in high school. Having taken trips to San Luis Obispo growing up and while visiting her older brother at California Polytechnic State University, she knew she wanted to attend school there, too. In 2005, Wine and Viticulture had just become its own major at Cal Poly, and the school’s motto, “learn by doing,” had Jill exploring wine regions around California and making wine with classmates early on in her college career.
Interested in experiencing winemaking abroad, Jill spent a quarter studying wine in Adelaide, Australia, after which she spent another quarter working at Phase 2 Cellars and Tolosa Winery on California’s central coast. Having become truly
enamored with winemaking, and looking to take on more responsibility, she soon met Stephen Ross Dooley, the winemaker for Edna Valley Winery prior to starting his own brand, Stephen Ross Wine Cellars. The winery was growing, and “Jill of all trades” quickly turned into an assistant winemaker role. Working with Steve provided a valuable foundation of winemaking fundamentals, and an introduction to the world of quality wines.
After five years, a dream opportunity to work in France came along, which brought Jill to Menetou-Salon, near Sancerre in the Loire Valley. During harvest, she worked alongside the winemaker and rounded out her trip by tasting her way through the iconic wine growing regions throughout France. She came back even more determined to craft only the highest quality wines, and to do so in her beloved Santa Barbara County. She was introduced to Paul Lato, who believed she had not only had the skills, but the right energy to help make some of the best wines that the Central Coast had to offer. At Paul Lato Wines, she specialized in wines sourced from prestigious vineyards of the Santa Maria and Santa Rita Hills regions, but found herself particularly drawn to the uniquely characteristic vines of Santa Maria Valley.
Years later, the opportunity of a lifetime presented itself, and Jill knew it was her destiny to take on the role of winemaker at Cambria Winery, one of the quintessential wineries of Santa Maria Valley known for their renowned estate vineyards and selection of expressive Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Jill is thrilled to work alongside former Cambria Winemaker and General Manager Denise Shurtleff, a long-time inspiration and true regional expert. Jill has lived in San Luis Obispo for more than ten years, and shares a love of the Central Coast with her husband Torrey. They are newlyweds who enjoy hiking, cooking, eating brunch, and researching new wines.