Jon Priest, Etude Senior Winemaker

He might be the only winemaker to run 100 miles in one day over the Sierras, and then do it again riding his horse, Merlin. His style as a winemaker is to work closely with his viticulture team, bringing real meaning to the elegant notion that wines are made not in the winery, but in the vineyard. He offers boots covered in fine vineyard dust as evidence. He’s surely earned his reputation as one of the most accomplished winemakers in California, with a special touch for Pinot Noir, although he’s made wine from at least 50 different varieties (although Pinot Noir holds the top spot in his personal cellar).

For more than a decade Jon has fashioned Etude wines with a simple creed. Inspired winegrowing diminishes the need for a winemaker to intervene in the cellar. Whether sourcing from the Grace Benoist Estate Ranch in Napa’s Los Carneros, or vineyards like Fiddlestix and North Canyon in famed growing regions of California’s Central Coast, his focus is on coaxing the very best from the vineyard. It shows in every glass of Etude.

Jon headed early to the Northwest, attending Whitworth College in Spokane, Washington, but soon returned home as his architect father helped create memorable Central Coast wineries. He worked briefly in a tasting room, and at the legendary Wine Cask in Santa Barbara before joining Wild Horse, beginning a career that led to Adelaida Cellars, to Pinot Noir focused Taz, and on to Etude, where he has spent nearly a dozen years creating memorable wines that tell you where they came from in every sip.

With a passion for endurance horseback riding over long distances, which requires a certain stubbornness to get things done right, Jon has a secret to share with his Napa neighbors: the hoof prints you might find in the vineyard could very well be from Jon’s horse, as he and his wife Kim ride along through the vines, keeping a watchful eye.

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