Raised in what he calls the “grimy industrial city of Oakland - home of the Hells Angels, the Black Panthers and the law office of Haas & Pahlmeyer,” Jayson Pahlmeyer’s earliest dream was to become a lawyer. “I loved everything about it,” he says. With an advanced law degree (LLM) from George Washington University, Jayson focused on trial law – fitting for a larger-than-life man who thrives in the spotlight.
His fascination with wine began in 1963. “I was completely enthralled by the idea that you could take a grape and create these unbelievable colors, aromas, flavors. And the differences from vintage to vintage – amazing!”
“There were very few California wines available, but I managed to get a Beaulieu Vineyards Pinot Noir to compare to another Pinot Noir in a blind tasting. I was very methodical. Once I determined that I preferred one over the other, I got another bottle of the winning wine and a different bottle to compare to it, and kept on going. I knew what I loved."
Jayson started a wine tasting club at law school and kept meticulous tasting notes in binders including where he was when he conducted the tasting, the date, whom he was with and predictions of when the wine would peak. “I’m sure I hit that 10,000 hour rule Malcolm Gladwell says makes a master. In a blind tasting, if I’d had the wine before, I could tell you exactly what wine and vintage it was.”
He kept tabs on everything happening in Northern California wine and bought 12 cases of magnums of Robert Mondavi’s inaugural wine – 1966 Cabernet Sauvignon. (When Mondavi launched Opus One with Baron Philippe Rothschild, he came to Jayson for reserves of the ’66 Cab.)
“My epiphany moment was in 1980. It was a 1952 Cheval Blanc in a big Riedel glass. The aroma alone was unbelievable – you didn't even need to drink it, it had such depth of character.” It wasn’t a Cabernet Sauvignon, a Merlot or a Cabernet Franc, he asserts. “It was the synergistic effect of the classic Bordeaux varietals. That stayed with me. And years later, that's how I knew what to plant in the vineyard.”
Obsessed, Jayson studied every book about wine he could find – from French and Australian to German and South African wines – and never took a single class. Between voracious reading, methodical tasting and a heap of passion, he was able to harvest his first vintage in 1986 and put his label on it just a few years later. “When our first wine was finally blended, I thought I'd died and gone to heaven,” he says.
Read more about the inception of Pahlmeyer Winery – the story of Jayson’s partnership with vineyard owner John Caldwell and their pursuit of the finest Bordeaux clones...
Today Jayson remains the winery’s visionary, yet sees in his daughter, sons and son-in-law, the same devotion and passion to wine that compelled him to start Pahlmeyer. “One of my proudest moments as a vintner and father was when, after 2 years working at the winery, my very talented daughter Cleo came to me and said, ‘Dad, when it comes to the future of Pahlmeyer, I am all in!’”
Daughter of Jayson Pahlmeyer, Cleo grew up with the family business but never visualized herself actually joining the winery. Her education took her to the East Coast where she received her BA in Art History from the University of Virginia and went on to earn a Master’s Degree in Connoisseurship of Fine and Decorative Art at Sotheby’s Institute of Art in London. After landing a job at Bonhams auction house in London, she discovered that it was not only the art auctions that fascinated her, but the wine auctions as well. “Seeing our wine in London auctions I realized, Pahlmeyer’s a big deal in the wine world!” she admits. “It was an epiphany for me and I began to consider how I could help propel the company my father had built.”
With Napa’s California cuisine and world-class wines in her DNA, Cleo comes by her love of wine and the wine industry naturally. She returned to the U.S. in 2006, began working at the winery in sales and marketing in 2008, and with characteristic Pahlmeyer exuberance has infused the winery with new energy. Layering her own exceptional passion on what she has learned from her father, she is excited to pursue her role in the Pahlmeyer legacy.
An avid cook, Cleo and her husband Jamie Watson frequently entertain friends and family and enjoy spreading the gospel of Pahlmeyer around the country when they travel. “I meet people everywhere who are eager to share wonderful, often hilarious, stories about my dad as well as their passion for Pahlmeyer wines,” she says. “It has been an incredible journey so far but what really excites me is the future of Pahlmeyer.”
Cleo oversees winery communications and is at the center of all long-term planning.
Kale Anderson’s passion is producing wines with a sense of place – balancing science and artistry. As Pahlmeyer’s Director of Winemaking – Napa Valley, he oversees the production of Pahlmeyer’s Napa Valley wines, including the iconic Bordeaux-style blend, Proprietary Red and the winery’s Waters Ranch Vineyard high above the Napa Valley.
With more than 10 years of winemaking experience working with luminaries such as Mark Aubert, Philippe Melka and David Abreu, Kale’s connection to the craft is deeply rooted. A California native reared in Santa Rosa, his interest in the wine industry led him to earn a B.S. in Viticulture and Enology from U.C. Davis in 2002. After graduation, Kale held an internship at Colgin Cellars’ Pritchard Hill Estate, and served as assistant winemaker at Terra Valentine where he also managed an extensive custom-crush program.
In 2005, Kale joined Cliff Lede Vineyards where he was promoted from assistant winemaker to winemaker for the winery’s Poetry and Cliff Lede labels.
Joining Pahlmeyer in 2012, Kale took note of the footsteps he's be following - those of such esteemed winemakers as Randy Dunn, Bob Levy, Helen Turley and Erin Green. "It was an honor and challenge I was thrilled to take on,” says Kale. “With Jayson's excitement and commitment, and the phenomenal team here, we are making great headway in taking the winery’s incredible success to new levels. It's Pahlmeyer 6.0!"
Bibiana González Rave
Bibiana González Rave, a native of Colombia and specialist in Burgundian varietals, brings over 15 years of winemaking experience to her new role as Pahlmeyer’s Consulting Winemaker – Sonoma Coast. Her passion for creating exceptional wines has taken her around the world, creating a deep appreciation and knowledge of the industry.
To make her winemaking vision a reality, Bibiana moved from Colombia to France to study viticulture before she had ever seen a vineyard. There, she earned two degrees: one as a technician of Viticulture and Oenology in Angoulême, and one in Oenology from the University of Bordeaux. Before moving to California, Bibiana furthered her viticulture expertise and gained invaluable hands-on experience working in world-renowned regions such as Côte-Rôtie, Alsace, Burgundy, Cognac and Bordeaux. Bibiana credits her time in France for her keen understanding of viticulture. Working with the best producers, she gained deep respect for the concept of terroir and its reflection in the wines, handcrafted with her own artistic interpretation.
In California, she honed her passion for Pinot Noir even further by working with Au Bon Climat, Qupe, La Crema and Peay Vineyards. She was most recently the winemaker at Lynmar Estate.
Joining Pahlmeyer as consulting winemaker in 2012, Bibiana manages the production of Pahlmeyer’s Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from Wayfarer Vineyard in the Fort Ross-Seaview AVA, as well as other best-in-class Sonoma Coast vineyards with whom Pahlmeyer has long-standing grower relationships. Her commitment to focus exclusively on Pahlmeyer is due to the winery's estate vineyard and Jayson's support.
“Wayfarer Vineyard is an extremely special site, and we are on the threshold of presenting some truly exceptional wines,” says Bibiana. “The wines are already displaying extraordinary balance, complexity and soul because we have stayed true to the site's incredible terroir.”