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Wowing the Wine World

Jesse Katz Aperture Cellars and Devil Proof Wine

Photo by Andy Katz

At just 35, winemaker Jesse Katz is wowing wine critics and A-listers with his stellar Bordeaux-style California wines.

Oenophiles know that fine wine gets better with age. One can only imagine if that adage holds true for wine makers that Jesse Katz is going to be wowing the wine world for a long time to come.

The now 35-year-old Katz was the first winemaker named to Forbes 30 under 30, and was honored by Wine Enthusiast as a Top 40 under 40. Today, Katz is the owner and winemaker for Aperture Cellars and Devil Proof, and consulting winemaker for The Setting. His Devil Proof Malbec was called the best Malbec ever made in California by none other than Robert Parker, and a bottle of his 2015 The Setting Cabernet Sauvignon holds the record for the most expensive bottle of wine ever sold at $350,000. Every Aperture vintage has rated more than 90 points by the top critics in the wine world.

Aperture Cellars Vineyard California Andy Katz Photography

Photo by Andy Katz

Katz’s wines have achieved a cult-like following, sold through an exclusive list where there can be upwards of a two-year wait to get your hands on certain vintages. The quality of his wines has attracted celebrities. He made the wine for Justin Timberlake and Jessica Biel’s wedding, and partners with celebrity agent Shep Gordon on The Setting.

With all of his wine brands, Katz is bridging the Old World and the new, crafting Bordeaux style wine in Sonoma Valley. The signature Aperture Cellars wine is Cabernet Sauvignon. Other varietals include Bordeaux blends, Malbec, Sauvignon Blanc and Chenin Blanc. Besides a degree in viticulture from Fresno State, Katz honed his trade working at some of the top wineries in the world including Pétrus, Screaming Eagle, Robert Foley and Bodega Noemia.

“There are a lot of different things that can make a winemaker great, but in my opinion above all a great winemaker must possess great attention to detail and a passion for the craft,” said Katz.

Katz’s wines have achieved a cult-like following, sold through an exclusive list where there can be upwards of a two-year wait to get your hands on certain vintages.



Katz’s love of wine was instilled at an early age. While other tween boys played baseball with their dad, Katz’s father, famous photographer Andy Katz, let Jesse tag along as he went to wine countries around the world to shoot the top vineyards (Each label of Aperture features an Andy Katz image). Exposed to winemakers and great wine from Tuscany to Burgundy and beyond, Katz gained an appreciation and passion for wine.

“Like my father’s ability to tell amazing stories through his photography, my greatest joy is bringing together and interweaving the intricacies of space, place and time, in essence, the terroir, that makes a stellar bottle of wine,” said Katz.


Photo by Andy Katz

Aperture Cellars Winery California

Rendering by Signum for Aperture

Katz has an unrelenting eye for terrior. Part of his success is his exacting approach to the vineyards he owns and how the grapes are cultivated. It starts with volcanic and clay soil found in the Eastern part of Sonoma’s Alexander Valley. Add to that the age of the vines, the clone, the rootstock and the health of the vines as the launching point to great vintages. Aperture Cellars controls more than 140 acres of vineyards. Katz recently acquired the historic Ponzo vineyard in Healdsburg, and it will become the site of Aperture Estate, a winery and tasting room opening in spring, 2020. The 42-acre estate is home to 10 acres of old vine Zinfandel dating to 1912 and new plantings Katz added including Merlot clones from Pétrus, Sémillon clones from d’Yquem and a collection of his favorite cool climate Cabernet clones.

With terroir at the forefront of Katz’s wines, climate change and its effect on viticulture is never far from his mind.

Aperture Cellars Vineyar Andy Katz Photography

Photo by Andy Katz

“It is affecting all aspects of grape growing and winemaking on a global level. Seasons are getting warmer and extremes are elevated to new levels. With this in mind we have been focusing on finding the best sites in Northern California and the world to plant Bordeaux varietals that are in slightly cooler sites,” he said. “We have found a lot of success with this in the Sonoma side for Cabernet, Malbec and Merlot that have longer growing season and cooler nights then Napa. With this I’m able to still make wine of incredible intensity and richness but at the same time have some wines that have more freshness, restraint and elegance.” With changing weather patterns effecting wine worldwide, Katz consults for several wineries.

With terroir at the forefront of Katz’s wines, climate change and its effect on viticulture is never far from his mind.


Photo by Andy Katz

“In my consulting, I’m focused on vineyard development and design, and farming to bring out the best in a site,” said Katz. “In addition to creating a winemaking style to fit to the vineyard site and the style of wine desired, barrel program, blending and bottling.

To keep fresh and current, Katz continues the wine travels he started as a child. To date he’s been to more than 100 countries. Surprisingly, South African wine country is still on his bucket list.

“It’s a place I’ve always wanted to go because of the beauty, wines, landscape, people, and adventure,” he said. “Also, two of my dearest friends, Ken and Teressa Forrester, live out there and we make an Alexander Valley hillside Cabernet together called The Bridge.”

Other wine makers Katz admires include David Ramey, Jean-Claude Berrouet, Zelma Long and Olivier Leflaive.

Devil Proof Malbec Jesse Katz

Photo by Andy Katz

“These are all winemakers who are creating wines of place and not chasing a style which I appreciate,” he said. While Katz can quickly name the wine he’d most love to try—a 1945 Cheval Blanc—he has a harder time picking the favorite wine he makes.

“These wines are like my children,” he said. “I am truly proud of every one I have ever put into bottle. I wouldn’t have released the wine if I weren’t. Favorite? Whatever is in my glass, I guess!


Montage Laguna Beach brings one-of-a-kind culinary experiences to Laguna with its 2019 Wine & Spirits Series. Meet Jesse Katz in person at the Aperture Cellars Wine Dinner at The Loft Saturday, June 29; reception at 5:30 p.m., dinner at 6:15 p.m. Chef Joosung Lee welcomes Katz for a five-course dinner expertly paired with Aperture Cellars wines. The second course of Roasted Duck Breast with corn pudding and blackberry jus will be complemented with Aperture Pinot Noir, Dry Stack Vineyard, Bennett Valley, California, and the fourth course of Roasted Lamb Loin with smoked polenta cake and cherry-balsamic jus will be paired with Aperture Cabernet Sauvignon, Alexander Valley, California.

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