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Ponte Winery Announces New Winemaker and Executive Chef

ponteA wine aficionado for more than twenty years, Mark Schabel brings passion and heart to the Ponte winemaking department. As Head Winemaker, Mark oversees every aspect of every wine that Ponte Winery produces. Before entering the world of winemaking, Mark was selling wine for a distributor.  He eventually became more interested in the process of making wine than selling it.

The obvious next step for Mark was to enroll in the UC Davis Viticulture and Enology program where he obtained his degree and began his career at the Napa Wine Company as a lab tech working on “wet” chemistry and blending trials for many of the small “cult” wineries such as Pahlmeyer, Crocker, Star and La Sirena. Mark joined Ponte Winery after years of working as the Assistant Winemaker for Scheid Vineyards where he was in charge of their premium label of over 20 different products. 
As Executive Chef for the Smokehouse Restaurant, Chef Clay Blake is focused on bringing the best of the area’s offerings to the table by working with local farmers and purveyors. Building on the winery’s  ‘A Day in the Country’ theme, Chef Clay brings the menu back to its Italian heart and soul offering rustic and comforting cuisine that is sure to please any palate.

During Chef Clay’s enrollment at the Cincinnati Culinary Arts Academy, a boutique program co-instructed by Culinary Institute of America’s chefs, Blake began his career at The Maisonette. There, under classically-trained chef and restaurateur Jean-Robert de Cavelle, he was exposed to Mobil 5-Star service and dining at the city’s most exclusive restaurant. Upon graduation came Chef Clay’s professional turn under Chef John Neumark at Café Juanita, which, to this day is one of Seattle’s most revered dining destinations.