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Screaming Eagle’s sister winery, Jonata, soars skywards

on 18/04/15 at 12:21 pm


indexThe odds might have been stacked against Screaming Eagle’s sister winery Jonata in the beginning, but that hasn’t stopped it from becoming one of California’s top producers.

In his own words, Jonata winemaker Matt Dees is “obsessed with dirt.” As a young boy growing up in Kansas, he was more interested in closely examining plants and insects than playing sports, so as soon as he could, he left the flat plains of Kansas to study soil science at the University of Vermont. “I eventually realised I was on the wrong side of the country for making wine,” he says so Dees ended up in Staglin, Napa Valley via a spell at Craggy Range working with the young fellow American winemaker, Doug Wisor – “was one of the greatest winemakers on Earth.”

Luck was on Dees’ side as Staglin’s Andy Erikson who had just started to consult at the newly established Jonata in the Santa Ynez Valley in Santa Barbara recommended to Jonata’s owners to hire Matt as their full time winemaker which he became in 2004.

“I love being on something from day one. It has allowed me to take a certain amount of pride in what we do. The odds were somewhat stacked against us and we were in a way underdogs when we started but I liked the scrap. We had all the raw materials in place and we had a patch of land that we loved but you never really know what you’ll get in the end. You’re always rolling the dice. We have sandy soil and we were told we I’d be better off planting asparagus.”

With a focus on Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Cabernet Franc but also planting Sauvignon Blanc, Petit Verdot, Semillon, Sangiovese and Merlot, Jonata is a thriving 600 acre estate with 83 acres given over to the vines.