The Jonata estate has 84 acres under vine. The majority is planted with Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon as well as Cabernet Franc, Petite Sirah, Petit Verdot, Merlot, Sangiovese, Viognier, Sémillon and Sauvignon Blanc.
All the vineyards are planted on Careaga sand. Despite the sand’s low water holding capacity, low nutrients and low compaction qualities – ideal for quality grape growing, it is not an easy terroir to get vines to establish in or manage. However, once established, the light sandy soils allows the vines to easily dig deep to find water. Matt Dees believes the sand has a unique effect on the tannin profile of the wines and, when carefully managed, produces grapes of exceptional quality and complexity.
Sustainable farming plays a central role at the estate. No fertilizers or pesticides are used and the property has incorporated a principled approach to farming – integrating and revolving livestock throughout the farm to naturally fertilize the soil. They also manage olive groves, fruit orchards and a communal garden.
Matt Dees, originally from Kansas, first started making wine in Vermont before a wine drinking experience was set to change his life forever. His brother bought him a bottle of 1995 Staglin Napa Cabernet.
He was so amazed by the quality of the wine that he turned up at the winery begging for a job. He went on to work with celebrated winemaker Andy Erickson (owner of Leviathan winery and previously winemaker for Harlan Estate, Screaming Eagle and Staglin). Erickson has been a mentor to Dees for 20 years and he introduced Dees to Stan Kroenke’s new project Jonata in 2004. He joined the team and has worked with them ever since. He is assisted by Drew Pickering in the cellar and Rubens Solórzano in the vineyard.
The red wines are typically kept on their skins for 18-24 days, followed by a seven-day cold soak. Very minimal extraction is carried out on the skins with just daily, two-minute pump-overs. Following fermentation, the wines are racked to French barriques (typically around 25% new) and matured for 18-24 months prior to bottling.