Jon Priest

On December 6, 2023, we had a chance to interview Jon Priest. Jon is the senior winemaker and general manager for Etude Wines. In our Zoom interview, we covered his new-release Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, and three Pinot Noirs. Then we covered three of his stunning 2019 Cabernet Sauvignons. We also had a chance to learn about Jon’s background and the history of the winery. Check out everything we learned from Jon.

Before we get to the wine reviews, I thought I would share a few new tidbits we learned during the tasting with Jon.

  • Jon’s path to Etude started at the legendary Wine Cask Company in Santa Barbara.
  • He then joined, Wild Horse Winery in 1989 where he worked for Ken Volk as a cellar rat for $6 an hour. 10 years later became the winemaker in 1999.
  • He then moved on to winemaking roles at Adelaida Cellars and Taz.
  • He finally landed at Etude in 2005 where he would take the torch from the founder, Tony Soter.
  • Tony Soter, sold the brand in 2001. He stayed until 2005.
  • Jon has had 34th vintages so far.
  • He became a winemaker because of Pinot Noir.
  • Etude made a Pinot Noir from Central Otago, New Zealand from 2012-16. That was interesting.
  • Any plans to do something unique down the road? Yes, a Pinot from Yamhela Vineyard in Oregon.
  • Jon’s philosophy is that winemaking begins in the vineyard, long before the grapes are harvested.
  • His winemaking style is very elegant. “We just need good grapes.”
  • We do not get tied up with technology. “We just need good grapes.”
  • As general manager and winemaker, he runs the winery operations and wears a lot of hats.
  • Etude produces 35,000 to 40,000 cases per year. Mostly Pinot Noir.
  • Jon loves acidity in wines.
  • Their Pinot Gris is a nod to Alsace. The grapes are Alsatian clones.
  • Grace Benoist Ranch is on Sonoma side of Carneros. It gets more of an ocean effect and has volcanic and rocky soils.
  • Grace “Ben Wa” vineyard was planted in 2001. There are 121 parcels in the vineyard. 514 acres are planted over 1,500 acres total. 2/3rds of it is planted to Pinot Noir.
  • Trevor over at BV Winery, uses some of the Grace Benoist Ranch grapes for his Reserve Pinot Noir.
  • Durell Vineyard is their neighbor to the north.
  • Etude’s first year making wines from the Fiddlestix vineyard was in 2012.
  • Fiddlestix Vineyard is close to the ocean. It is very cool. Soils are calcareous and sea bed. Sea Smoke vineyard is across the river.
  • Cab for the “Napa Valley” blend comes from benchland vineyards such as Meteor Vineyard, Vinehill Ranch, and Morisoli Vineyard.
  • The “Oakville” Cab comes 100% from Vinehill Ranch.
  • The “Rutherford” Cab comes 100% from the Morisoli Vineyard.
  • Fun final fact, that I can relate too. “Every time I have a glass of wine, I’m trying to deconstruct it.”

Below is a summary of the Etude wines that we covered with Jon. The links below are to our full reviews. If you are interested in ordering and trying these wines, you will find many of these wines via your favorite fine wine shop or on top quality wines lists. You can also purchase Etude Wines directly from the Etude website.

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1. Etude 2021 Pinot Gris (Carneros) $32 (KWGTP 90.5)
2. Etude 2021 Chardonnay “Grace Benoist Ranch” (Carneros) $40 (KWGTP 92.5)
3. Etude 2020 Pinot Noir “Grace Benoist Ranch” (Carneros) $47 (KWGTP 91)
4. Etude 2020 Pinot Noir “Heirloom Grace Benoist Ranch” (Carneros) $95 (KWGTP 94)
5. Etude 2020 Pinot Noir “Fiddlestix Vineyard” (Sta. Rita Hills) $50 (KWGTP 94)
6. Etude 2019 Cabernet Sauvignon “Napa Valley” $100 (KWGTP 93.5)
7. Etude 2019 Cabernet Sauvignon “Rutherford” $155 (KWGTP 94)
8. Etude 2019 Cabernet Sauvignon “Oakville” $155 (KWGTP 97)

You can find reviews of past and future Etude wines that we cover on the KWG Etude winery page on our website. We hope you enjoy these terrific wines as much as we did. Cheers! – Ken

By Ken

Ken launched in November 2006.

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