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Winemaker John Clews in the Cellar

Wine barrel

Winemaking

Overview

Kuleto Estate wines are 100% estate-grown, produced and bottled. With 82.9 acres of vines planted between 800 and 1,450 feet, each of the 100+ micro-blocks must receive individualized treatment to maximize their potential. Winemaking team, David Lattin and Giovanni Verdejo have been working side-by –side since 2002 and together they have mastered the art of cultivating the unique personalities of each block into some of the finest mountain estate wines in the Napa Valley.

John Clews, Winemaker

For Winemaker, John Clews, Kuleto wines embody the complex diversity and understated elegance of this unique mountaintop estate. With over 25 years of experience in the wine industry, John’s belief in being a steward of the land coupled with his painstaking quality standards are a leading force for Kuleto’s small portfolio of exceptional wines.

John started his career as a London accountant, but his passion for wine led him to swap his note pad for a crush pad and life as a full-time winemaker. Having received his degree at University of Cape Town, the Rhodesia native discovered his passion for wine while attending college and quickly became enthralled with the art of winemaking. In pursuit of his dream, he attended the University of California, Davis where he was awarded the prestigious M.A. Amerine Research Scholarship from the Wine Spectator and earned his M.S. in Viticulture and Enology. “While I attended Davis, I worked almost full time for the best wine shop in Sacramento, Corti Bros, where I thought I learned as much as I did at Davis.” After graduation, John went on to work harvest at Preston, Dry Creek, then at Newton in St. Helena as cellar master.

With a well-rounded background working with various appellations and varietals, John earned a position as winemaker at Konocti in Lake County. He has since worked at Steele winery in Lake County as General Manager/ Chief Enologist, Clos Du Val in Napa as Head Winemaker/Chief Operations Officer and most recently, E & J Gallo as Red Wine Manager. John believes the varying topography, soil types and exposure make Kuleto wines so special. “Ten acres up here need to be broken into ten or so little vineyard blocks. Each block is so different, like the patchwork on a quilt. This makes blending these different lots very interesting and exciting.” John looks forward to continuing the Kuleto tradition of producing interesting, flavorful and food friendly wines from this unique mountaintop estate. His typical day at Kuleto begins with meeting with the cellar crew and vineyard manager, working in the cellar, and anticipating and planning for future vintages and bottlings. When time allows, he enjoys walking through the vineyards and interacting with guests in the Kuleto tasting room.

In his free time, John likes to stay active in the outdoors by hiking, cycling and playing tennis in addition to reading and listening to classical music. His favorite place to travel is Europe because of the varied cultures, food and wine. John lives in Napa with his wife, Lisa, and three cats, Bruiser, Zam Zam and Tempest.

Giovanni Verdejo, Cellarmaster

Before Kuleto was even built, Cellarmaster, Giovani Verdejo, fell in love with the property. The rolling hills and sweeping views drew Gio to the mountainside estate where he started work constructing the winery’s foundation at just nineteen years old. When harvest arrived in 2000, Gio helped out in the cellar, working on the fermentation tanks that remained outside while the winery was still under construction. He’s been hooked ever since.

Being of Basque descent, Gio was introduced to wine at an early age at family gatherings. His culture and love of wine drew him to study Winemaking and Viticulture at Napa Valley College after high school. Since then, Gio has become Dave Lattin’s right-hand-man, helping craft some of the best estate wines coming out of Napa. Praised for his refined palate, Gio is involved in every part of the winemaking process and final blending decisions. 

The most enjoyable time of year for Gio at the estate is the arduous harvest season, oddly enough. “The long hours seem like minutes when you’re doing something you love,” he says. During harvest Gio spends most of his days working in the lab, monitoring all the changes the wine goes through during fermentation, experimenting with different blending techniques, and taste-testing all of the clonal varieties picked that year. “I enjoy harvest because it’s the beginning of it all. It’s a time where we can direct the style of all the new wines being made for that year.” As Cellarmaster, Gio loves nothing more than the smell of new wine barrels being filled and fresh yeast on his hands.

When he’s not playing maestro in the cellar, Gio spends his downtime with his wife and three children. “You’ll be hard-pressed to find me at home on the weekends,” he says, keeping a busy schedule filled with outdoor activities, salsa dancing, and bike rides. As foodies, Gio and his wife love to explore Napa’s fine dining scene, as well as kick-back at home with a cold beer watching football.