Winemaker Jesse Katz has a resume for which most would work a lifetime. The founder of two wine brands, Aperture Cellars and Devil Proof Vineyards, Katz spent much of his early career circling the globe to learn the nuances and growing characteristics of wine regions worldwide.
Katz found a passion for winemaking through his father, photographer Andy Katz, who creatively captured the process through his camera lens. The son’s diverse winemaking resume included time at Pétrus in Bordeaux, Robert Foley in Napa and the acclaimed cult winery Screaming Eagle. Katz then went on to become the youngest head winemaker ever hired on at Lancaster Estate, where he also oversaw the development of the new Roth wine brand, before breaking out on his own.
Through his work at Aperture Cellars (the name chosen as an homage to his father’s work) and Devil Proof Vineyards, Katz has claimed an ever-growing list of accolades and awards for his nuanced high-quality wines. He was named a Wine Spectator 40 Under 40 Tastemaker and the first winemaker ever to be named on Forbes 30 Under 30 list. Katz found the honor kind of funny.
“I think I have to be the poorest person to ever make that list,” Katz said, laughing. “I mean, I was on there with Lebron James.”
Katz has worked extensively with nonprofits and charities through his winemaking, donating a percentage of each of his large format wine sales. He also has the distinction of being the winemaker for the highest selling bottle of wine in history, coming in at a cool $350,000 take. The bottle of 2015 Setting Wines Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon was created by Katz for legendary manager Shep Gordon, who has managed Emeril Lagasse, Pink Floyd and Blondie among many others. Gordon isn’t Katz’s only celebrity customer—he created a custom wine for Justin Timberlake and actress Jessica Biel’s wedding, and collaborated with NFL star Von Miller on a wine project.
Wine critics agree with Katz’s acclaim. Robert Parker scored Katz’s Malbec the highest in the state for its varietal five years running before calling it the best in the world of its varietal. He tweeting that the latest incarnation was the best Malbec they’d ever tasted. Even with the accolades, Katz takes it in stride with his low-key Sonoma County vibe. He looks forward to completing construction on a new winery and tasting room project in Healdsburg for Aperture Cellars.
Check out the full Rock’N Vino podcast conversation with acclaimed winemaker Jesse Katz on the player below.