Jesse Katz, Winemaker Aperture Cellars and Devil Proof Vineyards
A good photographer has an eye for detail that brings all the elements together to convey the right vision. Little did Andy Katz, world-renown photographer, know that his eye for detail in the vineyards would spark a passion for wine for his son, Jesse Katz, Winemaker of Aperture Cellars and Devil Proof Vineyards, that would change both of their lives.
Jesse Katz spent his teenage years in some of the most famous vineyards in the world from Burgundy to Tuscany to Napa. Not because his family was involved in the wine business, but because his father took his family with him to more than 80 countries on assignment photographing all kinds of people and situations.
Andy’s career skyrocketed after photographing well-known musicians like Dan Fogelberg for albums and his images appear on six million album covers and he has received countless awards.
Vintner Robert Mondavi decided to publish his “Portrait of Napa and Sonoma” book and saw Andy’s photos. He convinced Andy to be the photographer. Andy fell in love with photographing wine and started getting global jobs when Jesse was about 12. That’s when Jesse started to see the link between wine and culture in these different countries. “You’d pour a glass of wine and it was an immediate link to culture,” Jesse said.
He told us that his parents knew that he had a unique palate from a young age, so it was not a surprise when he pursued his passion and became the first winemaker in the family. He choose Fresno State because it had a working winery on campus and received two degrees in viticulture and oenology.
Since then, he’s worked at some of the top wineries in the world where he was the youngest winemaker ever at Lancaster Estate, worked at Pétrus in Bordeaux and spent time at Screaming Eagle Winery, Robert Foley Winery, Viña Cobos and Bodega Noemia in Argentina. He was the first ever vintner on the Forbes 30 Under 30 list in 2014
Father and son decided to start Aperture Cellars and Devil Proof Vineyards together and that changed both of their lives. It was a yin and yang situation. The two see the world very differently – one through his photographs and one through his wines. It was funny to hear Jesse describe how a photo shoot for a bottle may happen during our lunch at Salum. “Sometimes it’s frustrating, he said. “My dad captures the perfect moment, the perfect image. Like winemaking it takes time and cannot be rushed. And it’s always perfect.”
The name of the winery, Aperture, is named after a space through which light passes in an optical or photographic instrument, especially the variable opening by which light enters a camera. Jesse chose Healdsburg because of the soil types, the cooler weather and the quality of the wineries.
Aperture focuses on Bordeaux varietals and Devil Proof Vineyards, consists of two dry-farmed 100% Malbec single vineyards, and is the highest rated Malbec ever by multiple critics. In 2015, Aperture expanded its production to the winery and recently opening its new hospitality center.
We tried several wines that reinforced Jesse’s passion for showing the terroir and texture of the vineyards. He also talked about his passion for Bordeaux Blanc that he learned at Haut Brion and some of the other varieties he learned to love, like Chenin Blanc, during his time working at other vineyards. You’ll see a few pictures below of the bottles shot by Andy because there is no way that I was going to put my sad photos in a story about a world famous photographer and his incredibly talented winemaking son.
Photo Credit: Andy Katz, Aperture Cellars
2018 Aperture Chenin Blanc – this was a special white with notes of stone fruit, floral notes and a nice minerality. This barrel fermented, unfiltered wine is made from some of the oldest vines in Clarksburg and is dry-farmed.
2018 Aperture Sauvignon Blanc – this blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon had lots of tropical, citrus and floral notes. This was adapted from Jesse’s experience at Haut Brion and is delicious and has been rated as one of top Sauvignon Blancs in the world.
Photo Credit: Andy Katz, Aperture Cellars
2017 Aperture Bordeaux Red Blend – this blend of 52 percent Malbec and 48 percent Merlot is full of red fruit, violet, earth, cigar and mocha.
2016 Aperture Bordeaux Red Blend – this blend of 52 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 30 percent Merlot, 11% Malbec and 7 percent Cabernet Franc shows more black fruit, earthiness, spice and herbal notes. It’s a gorgeous wine that could benefit from some more cellar time to soften.
2016 Aperture Cabernet Sauvignon – this wine comes from four hillside cabernet vineyard sites and is a blend of 93 percent Cabernet Sauvignon and 7 percent Merlot with lots of black cherry, plum compote, cigar, dark chocolate, earth and cranberry. It’s bold and elegant.
2016 Aperture Oliver Ranch Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon – this single vineyard wine was a blend of 89 percent Cabernet Sauvignon and 11 percent Cabernet Franc from the best soils in the vineyard, I tasted black cherry, cassis, purple flowers, chocolate, spice, licorice and cigar. It was a big wine and had a velvety elegance. It benefited with time in the glass.
2016 Aperture SJ Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon – notes of black fruit, earth, herbs, chocolate and spice. This small vineyard made headlines when a custom bottling from Jesse set world records as the highest-selling wine bottle ever to sell at auction.
Photo Credit: Andy Katz, Devil Proof
2016 Devil Proof – this is the highest rated single vintage expression of Malbec in the world and that’s for a reason. I also love the label. This is Andy’s most famous photo taken in the 1990’s in Cuba when Jesse was 10. She’s so sassy and works perfectly for the wine.
Clearly this father and son story is one of passion and storytelling.
Note: I was uncertain if I was going to post this week due to the wildfires hitting Sonoma. I spoke to many friends who are currently evacuating, and they encouraged me to post – especially since this is a Sonoma winemaker story about Jesse Katz. I donated here. You can also donate to the local Red Cross chapter here. Or go buy Sonoma wine locally.