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Million-dollar rockstar winemaker with a nigh unbelievable track record
A winemaking wonderkid who spent his formative years working with legendary names like Bordeaux’s Petrus and Napa Valley’s Screaming Eagle, before becoming America’s youngest head winemaker at just 24, Jesse Katz has been named as ‘One of wine’s fastest rising stars’ by Decanter… and that’s putting it mildly.
The definition of a rockstar winemaker, Jesse’s wines have sold for up to 1 million dollars at auction, and he was even named on Forbes ‘30 under 30’ list in 2014, the first winemaker to ever do so. In 2009, he launched his own winery in Alexander Valley - Aperture Cellars - and since then, he’s set the record for highest-rated wine ever produced in Alexander Valley THREE times. While Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate has given his wines the highest-rating in the world three times as well.
After riding to his rescue during the Covid pandemic, Jesse’s been making wines for US Angels since 2020, and he’s now thrilled to be able to share his acclaimed Alexander Valley kit with UK Angels too. “Angel support is amazing," says Jesse. "Working with Naked Wines is a wonderful way to be creative and we’re excited about a growing partnership now and in the future.” The feeling's mutual, Jesse. We can't wait to see what you have in store.
Jesse Katz's Story
Jesse Katz's Story
Jesse's winemaking story began with adventures led by his father, Andy. Andy Katz wasn’t a winemaker, but a photographer in search of the world’s most distinct and breathtaking vineyards and wineries of the world.
"Having spent my youth travelling the world with my photographer father in search of the greatest wine growing regions to photograph, I fell in love with the concept of terroir and how location - soil, sunlight, aspect, rainfall and elevation - paired with the craft of winemaking can all diversely influence the end bottling."
He was enamoured with the craft before he was old enough to truly enjoy any glass of wine, legally! While many winemakers fall into the industry after putting in corporate time and realising their passions lie elsewhere, Jesse was lucky enough to decide on the wine industry at a young age. He studied enology and viticulture as an undergrad, and immediately began finding ways to get his hands dirty.
"There’s exquisite balance and restraint that Sonoma’s cooler-climate regions are able to provide, and it’s my mission to seek out these sites for Bordeaux varieties to unlock their ultimate potential."
He followed his passion to the farthest reaches of the Earth, and filled his passport along the way. He now has 20 harvests under his belt and went out of his way to learn from the best of the best: Pétrus in Bordeaux, a harvest with Screaming Eagle in Napa, Robert Foley Winery in Napa Valley, and Viña Cobos and Bodega Noemia in Argentina. After seeing what exists in the wine world, and crafting stellar wines in a panoply of methods, he settled closer to home - in Sonoma.
"I love working specifically with cool climate Bordeaux varietals from some of the most spectacular vineyards in Sonoma County."
Jesse founded his own brands, Aperture Cellars, Devil Proof Vineyards, and The Setting Wines which focus on using cool climate fruit to craft nuanced wines that capture everything about a place that photography cannot. He’s developed quite a palate, tasting a number of the best wines throughout his career, and knows that his bottles have that indescribable quality that makes the best, well, the best.
"One of the most memorable winemaking experiences I ever had was during my studies in Bordeaux where I had the unique opportunity to have Aperture and Devil Proof served to the winemaking team at Pétrus during one of our harvest lunches. Sitting on the grounds of one of the most famed Châteaux in the world while sipping my wines and discussing Petrus and Aperture with this wonderful team was surreal. I had to pitch myself a few times. I still pinch myself!"
In 2010, Jesse was the youngest-hired head winemaker in the U.S. at Lancaster Estate where, during his five-year tenure, he orchestrated the building of the new Roth winery, production facility, and tasting room; received 90+ scores on every wine scored by the Wine Advocate; and garnered Lancaster Estate’s inclusion on the list of Wine Spectator’s Top 100 Wines. In 2013, Wine Enthusiast named Jesse one of its 40 Under 40 Tastemakers and he was also the first winemaker on the Forbes 30 Under 30 list in 2014. He's functioned as a consulting winemaker for some of the biggest names in entertainment, including Ellen DeGeneres, Von Miller, Tony Hawk and Justin Timberlake. And if all that somehow wasn't enough, in 2017, Jesse’s wine collaboration with Shep Gordon, a 2015 Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc blend called The Setting, shook the wine world as the most expensive 750 mL bottle ever sold. He has set the record 3 times for highest rated wine ever produced in Alexander Valley and was tied for the highest rated in the world last year from Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate with one of his single vineyard Cabernets from Aperture. His Devil Proof Malbecs are the highest rated in the history of American Malbec and have been the highest in the world twice.