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 awakening 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.
Bibiana González Rave
Bibiana González Rave brings an adventurous spirit, international perspective and deep passion to her role as winemaker. Trained in Bordeaux, she earned her Diploma of Oenology with honors from the University of Bordeaux. Bibiana went on to work at Chateau Haut-Brion, La Mission Haut-Brion and Chateau la Dominique in Bordeaux, as well as other wineries across France including Michel & Stephane Ogier, Domaine Clusel-Roch, Domaine du Scheidecker, Domaine du Devevey. She has made wine in California for the past two decades, for wineries including Lynmar Estate, Peay Vineyards, Au Bon Climat and Qupe. In 2012, she joined Pahlmeyer to grow and make the Wayfarer Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from the winery’s estate vineyard on the extreme Sonoma Coast.
“I consider it to be a privilege to be a part of the next thirty years of the Pahlmeyer legacy,” says Bibiana. “Our goal is to honor the exceptional fruit we have the advantage of working with—grapes from our longtime grower partners and from our estate vineyard. The whole winemaking team is driven by details. We treat every single block as a different entity, giving laser focus to its unique quality and tailoring our winemaking to enhance its individual personality. As it is in Bordeaux, at Pahlmeyer we believe that when we understand the distinct components of each varietal, each block, we are able to blend for full, powerful expression of Napa Valley.”
From her global experience, Bibiana considers Napa Valley one of the finest places in the world to make wine. “There are no limits here,” she says. “Nobody can deny that Napa Valley is one of the most exciting appellations in the world. And with the resources of Pahlmeyer—the best vineyards, the best vineyard crew, the best winemaking team—we are uniquely qualified to make wines that truly represent the best of this region.”
Bibiana lives in Sonoma County with her husband, Jeff Pisoni, who makes wine for Pisoni Vineyards, and her son Lucas, whom she hopes will become a winemaker, too.
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!’”