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.

MacLaren Wine Company

2016-04-02 12.45.00

Six months later, I finally found myself in the tasting lounge with winemaker and Scotsman, Steve Law. He said to me, “Did you know you have an accent?” My reply, “No, you have an accent.” The ice was broken and from that point on, I was enamored with the wines and story of MacLaren.


A Year in Burgundy: A Film Review

Gorgeous Burgundy
Gorgeous Burgundy

A Year in Burgundy follows San Francisco-based wine importer Martine Saunier and seven of her wineries – Domaine Leroy, Domaine Perrot-Minot, Domaine Morey-Coffinet, Domaine Bruno Clavelier, Domaine Mortet, Domaine Michel Gay & Fils, and Dominique Cornin – across the 2011 vintage year. Saunier is unique in her business, as she only imports wines from people and wineries she knows personally and visits frequently, some of which have been making wine for five generations.

The film begins with a wine trade show in San Francisco to introduce us as to why wines from Burgundy are some of the best in the world: they’re a balance of nature, terroir, and human artistry.

Lalou Bize-Leroy of Domaine Leroy
Lalou Bize-Leroy of Domaine Leroy

From that point on, the film itself resembles the birth, growth, and development of a Burgundian wine – a delicate balance of education, history, humanity, nature, and personalities – as we learn about each winemaker-artist’s approach to both life and winemaking and follow them through the four seasons of the year: spring, summer, harvest (not autumn or fall), and winter. The 2011 vintage year was a challenging one, which began with an early heat wave and bud break, continued with a summer drought, and then concluded with wet, cold rains at the end of summer close to harvest that precipitated the risk of mildew and rot to the grapes.

Tastevinage at Château du Clos de Vougeot
Tastevinage at Château du Clos de Vougeot

The viewers also learn a little about French culture especially as it concerns the importance of meals, as they witness a four-generation family meal at Domaine Morey-Coffinet, the annual Tastevinage of the Chevaliers du Tastevin at Château du Clos de Vougeot, and one of 14, four-course harvest meals at Domaine Morey-Coffinet prepared by Thibault Morey’s mother, Fabienne.

An added treat is that the movie’s music is composed by one of the younger-generation winemakers, Thibault Morey of Domaine Morey-Coffinet.

Composer and Winemaker Thibault Morey of Domaine Morey-Coffinet
Composer and Winemaker Thibault Morey of Domaine Morey-Coffinet

Like life and wine, the movie is very cyclical and circular, and holds you in its spell until the end when all comes to fruition, both literally and figuratively.

As someone who studied abroad in France and had my first wine moment in Beaune at age 21, as well as someone who has been tasting and studying wine both formally and informally for five years, this film is not to be missed, especially by Francophiles, those in the wine business, or those who study and/or love wine.

The cellar at Domaine Morey-Coffinet
The cellar at Domaine Morey-Coffinet

Information about the DVD release of the film can be found at this link, while the VOD version will be released Tuesday, November 5, 2013 via Amazon Instant Video, iTunes, and other VOD platforms.

(All photos courtesy of www.ayearinburgundy.com/gallery/film-stills/)