Emeritus Vineyards

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Nicolas Cantacuzene

Nicolas Cantacuzene

Born and raised in Paris, wine was an integral part of Nicolas’s formative years—though a career as a winemaker had never occurred to him. Midway through his chemistry studies at the University of Paris, fate intervened in the form of a student exchange opportunity in California. Nicolas completed his Bachelor’s Degree in Chemistry at Sonoma State University, but the allure of continuing to live and work in Wine Country sparked a new career path.

He took his first step in that direction with a job in the wine cellars at Benziger and then at Cline Vineyards. Smitten with winemaking, Nicolas obtained a Master’s Degree in Enology at Fresno State University while working at Quady Winery. Upon graduation in 2003, he furthered his oenological education as cellar master at David Bruce winery. There, Nicolas began his journey learning the fine art of Pinot Noir under the tutelage of Don Blackburn. The two began a professional and personal collaboration that lasted the rest of Don’s life.

In July 2004, Don Blackburn became the Winemaker at Emeritus Vineyards, and a few weeks later brought Nicolas aboard as Assistant Winemaker. Nicolas and Don exemplified the “opposites attract” adage: Nicolas is French born and American trained. Don was American born and French trained. They each approached winemaking very differently but always had the same objective: a Pinot Noir that is charming, elegant, and well suited to food. The wine should complement the meal, not overpower it. Nicolas’s scientific background and French sensibility was a natural fit for Don’s American upbringing and French training. Together they questioned every assumption, scrutinized every process, improved on existing methods, and obsessively listened to what the wine was saying in order to capture the exquisite and elusive essence of Pinot Noir.

Nicolas became the Emeritus Winemaker in 2009, and continues the quest he and Don had started.