Leoni Farms: Winemaker Jon by Joe Campbell

Jon Campbell of Leoni Farms. Photo Courtesy of Leoni Farms.

Leoni Farms: Winemaker Jon by Joe Campbell
(no relation to Jon)

On many a weekend in the lovely small town of Sutter Creek, California, on Main Street, visitors will walk by the tasting room of Leoni Farms and hear the hearty laugh of Jon Campbell holding court. Conversations will range from television episode recaps of Yellowstone, to politics,  to reminding you about how much he detests the Robert Parker point scale. “See this Rolling Rock I’m drinking? It scored a 97,” notes Jon, with a sarcastic smirk. During those summers and long harvests, cheap beer becomes a winemaker’s best friend. 

Above the great conversation and Cheers-like ambiance that Leoni Farms provides, a local sense of camaraderie and family permeates the building. After spending ten minutes with Jon, you feel like you have known him for the past 20 years. The Campbells are a fifth-generation family in Amador County. Some of the vineyard plantings on their property go back 50 years.

Jon Campbell of Leoni Farms. Photo Courtesy of Leoni Farms.

Jon began his career working in the cellar before moving up to assistant winemaker at Drytown Cellars.  He then took a job as a winemaker in Lodi running a processing facility.  

Jon would eventually return to his roots in Amador County to start Leoni Farms. Leoni is an old family surname and the farm part of the name is critical as well, because at the end of the day, Jon considers himself a farmer at heart. He indicated he would grow alfalfa if he could make money doing it.

Jon’s wines are a reflection of him: unpretentious and unafraid to try new things. Along with Amador County mainstays like barbera and zinfandel, he has also released interesting varieties like charbono and alicante bouschet.

Blend 16. Photo Courtesy of Leoni Farms

Blend 16
A blend of 75% cabernet sauvignon, 25% mourvèdre. Released in August. A meaty full bodied wine that is seductive, yet allusive, conjuring up images of sun-drenched Southern Spain while maintaining that beautiful, black-cherry nose. This wine would pair well with a juicy pork loin during a Sunday dinner with family or friends.

Humbug Hill Red. Photo Courtesy of Leoni Farms

Humbug Hill Red
100% Zinfandel.  13.9% ABV.  A nice, light, cherry red, and restrained Sierra Foothills beauty at a reasonable price point. Throw a couple of burgers and hot dogs on the grill. The Humbug Red is your casual weeknight grilling and chilling companion.

Leoni Farms Tasting Room
67 Main Street
Sutter Creek CA 95685
(209) 256-5175
Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday 1:00 pm–5:00 pm
Friday and Saturday 11:00 am–6:00 pm
Sunday 11:00 am–5:00 pm
Closed Tuesday

About Writer Joe Campbell
Based out of the Sierra Foothills of California, Joe Campbell, aka Sierra Wine Guy on social media, is an experienced software technology solutions consultant by day while spending his weekends and evenings working on the family farm and ranch properties while providing color commentary as well as insight within the wine industry both from the lifestyle consumer and business segments of the industry.
Bio Courtesy of The Vintner Project.

Bella Grace Vineyards, Sutter Creek

Bella Grace Sutter Creek

During the 2016 Wine Bloggers Conference in Lodi, California, I had the great pleasure of meeting Stephen Havill of Bella Grace Vineyards. During one of the conference lunches, he led me over to his table where he was pouring some of their wines. After tasting a few, I was immediately smitten and knew I had to plan a visit to Bella Grace in Amador County’s Sierra Foothills.


Ninth Annual Wine Industry Technology Symposium Welcome Wine Reception

This year's lineup for the 2013 WITS Welcome Wine Reception
This year’s lineup for the 2013 WITS Welcome Wine Reception

On Monday, July 15, I had the opportunity to taste three wines as a virtual taster during the Welcome Wine Reception of the Wine Industry Technology Symposium (WITS) Showcase that was held at the Napa Valley Marriott. This was my second year participating in this event.

Kudos go to WineTwits for organizing the event again this year and to the three wineries that provided samples: Garnet VineyardsRenwood Winery, and Wente Vineyards. I was humbled to be asked to participate a second time. During the event, I reconnected with some long-time friends and made some new friends. Below are brief tasting notes about each wine we tasted.

2012 Wente Morning Fog Chardonnay, Livermore Valley, retail $13.00 at the winery
To achieve a balance of fruit and oak, 50% of this wine is barrel fermented in neutral American, French, and Hungarian oak, while the other 50% is fermented in stainless steel tanks. This is such an aromatic, well-balanced Chardonnay, especially for its price point. It has fruity aromas and flavors of green apple, lemon, and tropical fruits combined with toasted oak flavors, a creamy texture, and nice acidity.

2011 Garnet Vineyards Pinot Noir, Monterey County, retail $14.99 at the winery
The vines for this Pinot Noir are planted on benchlands near the Santa Lucia Highlands AVA, where winemaker Alison Crowe and her team control production from vineyard to bottle. This is a ripe, yet elegant, Pinot Noir with a plush mouthfeel and good acidity. It is loaded with aromas and flavors of blackberry, cherry, cranberry, cocoa, earth, and spice.

2010 Renwood Winery Premier Old Vine Zinfandel, Amador County, retail $19.99 at the winery
This Zinfandel was a 2013 Los Angeles International Wine Competition Gold Medal Winner, receiving a score of 94 points and Best of Class designation. This is a big wine, 15.5% alcohol and 0.10% residual sugar, and is a blend of 92.5% Zinfandel, 5.8% Syrah, and 1.7% Souzao. It boasts aromas and flavors of dark berries, dust, espresso, and spice, with an ample mouthfeel and a bit of acidity on the finish.