A winding path through the world of wine brought Johnson in January 2001 to Pepi (owned by Kendall-Jackson Wine Estates in Napa Valley). Chris went to work in 1996 for Kendall-Jackson Wine Estates. Less than two years later he took on the job of winemaker at the original Kendall-Jackson winery in Lake County.
Pepi is something different, however, Chris said he loves its spontaneous, risk-taking approach to wine. He favors the crisp, unfettered and natural character of those varietals in his Pepi bottlings. And his experience with Pinot Grigio in New York and Sauvignon Blanc in Lake County prepared him to master two of Pepi's leading wines. It's all part of forming a closer kinship with the creative magic/science of winemaking. "The natural cycles, the creatively, skill, great people, beautiful land - all the connections come together in wine," Chris said. "Just punching down, you see the skins, the red juice bubbling away. There's something about that whole transformation. It's cool."
A major force on the global playing field, California is the world’s fourth largest wine-producing region on the planet and the majority of land under vine here is devoted to red varieties, covering nearly double the vineyard acreage of whites.
While the state’s incredibly diverse terrain and microclimates allow for countless red wine styles, the one factor unifying all California red wine is the abundance of sunshine and a long, consistent growing season, which leads to well-developed and fully ripened fruit.
Sonoma County, nestled between Napa Valley and the Pacific Ocean, claims great variability in geography and microclimates. Here world-class Pinot Noir is possible from Sonoma’s cooler sites while old, gnarly Zinfandel vines survived Prohibition.