Purnima Sreenivasan: A Physician Turned Entrepreneur Turned Winemaker
From the time she was little, Purnima Sreenivasan has moved through life following one passion to the next, immersing herself completely in each of her interests. She first started in medicine and healthcare, where she became a physician and earned multiple degrees and certifications. She then became an entrepreneur and launched a startup, utilizing her medical credentials to create a one-stop global company for healthcare. Even during her upbringing in India, Sreenivasan had a special interest in organic fruits and vegetables, driven by her love for heritage gardening and horticulture. “I always specialize in whatever I do in my life,” she says. Now, Sreenivasan is ready to embrace a new specialty—one that combines her longtime passion for gardening with her newfound love of wine. “I want to specialize in Bordeaux red, Provincial rosé and champagne.”
The Road to Winemaking
Growing up in India, Sreenivasan was mostly familiar with rum, whiskey and gin. The lack of vineyards made wine a rare treat. It wasn’t until 1996 when she relocated near route 29 in Napa, the heart of Northern California’s wine country, that she had the opportunity to frequent vineyards and wineries, ultimately merging her affinity for gardening with her new taste for wine. “I just fell in love with every wine tasting room and vineyard up through 29,” she says. “And every time I would travel in the U.S. or abroad, I would look up all the wineries.”
Sreenivasan started small by planting a vineyard of her own in 2007 and began harvesting the fruit to make raisins. “I fell in love with it so much. It became my favorite place, my favorite time of my life—my little vineyard,” she recalls. From there, her garden grew exponentially and now holds 22 vegetable beds, 20 vines, ducks and chickens.
With her vineyard established, Sreenivasan decided to take her dreams one step further and jumped feet first into winemaking by applying for UC Davis Continuing and Professional Education’s (CPE) Winemaking Certificate Program. “I have a growth mindset and I wanted to have a strong foothold and a good foundation so my winery wouldn’t fail,” she says.
According to Sreenivasan, her favorite part of the program was its research-oriented approach and the faculty. “Top quality faculty is important to me,” she explains. “I also liked the curriculum and depth of knowledge,” which she says helped drive her curiosity to learn more even after graduating from the program.
She also participated in CPE’s Wine Marketing Program, where she benefitted from guest speakers and the diverse mix of students. “I like that the program brought together a spectrum of people,” she says. “I was a novice coming from medicine and technologies, and then there’s people who have been making wine for 10 to 15 years and everybody was ready to learn more. It inspires and empowers you.”
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Sreenivasan says she’s learned valuable lessons during her winemaking education at UC Davis, which she intends to apply to her future endeavors. One of her most important takeaways is recognizing that every harvest and every winemaking session is different. “No matter if you’re 30 or 40 years into the industry, you’re always going to be a student. External factors and internal factors can change at any time.” she says, noting that this is where the importance of curiosity and adapting to change comes into play. Sreenivasan also underscored the importance of networking and understanding different perspectives in winemaking.
A New Startup
Now, armed with not only her own vineyards, but also the fundamental knowledge of winemaking and wine marketing, Sreenivasan envisions a new startup—her very own winery. “I want to have people experience the vineyard, to experience horticulture,” she says. Sreenivasan emphasizes that she wants more than just a wine tasting room, she wants to establish a winery with a vineyard where people can have an experience that’s reminiscent of the joyful times she spent as a child in the garden.