Many on our team have been together in the vineyard and wine industry for decades. Brice founded Sonoma-Cutrer and led the company for nearly 30 years as President, with Kirk as the Vice President of Vineyards, and many others from the vineyard crew to the back of house accounting, sales, and more. When Brice sold Sonoma-Cutrer, they followed their captain to his new venture in 1999.
The next generation, including current president of Emeritus Vineyards, Mari Jones, is just as committed to Brice’s vision of estate grown, terroir driven Pinot Noir. In fact, many began as E-club members themselves! We’ve all been drawn to the Emeritus vision because it’s not only about taking care of the land; it’s about the people as well.
Pinot Noir is a world where most of the greatest wines come from wineries where generations have dedicated their lives to caring for their vineyards. I want Emeritus to outlive me. That means that we need to be sustainable in every sense, from the way we care for our land to making sure that our employees have healthy families. These things aren’t separate from what goes into the bottle; they are essential.
– Mari Jones, President (of Fun)
As the son and grandson of West Point officers, Brice learned to fly when he was just 13 years old. He attended the brand new Air Force Academy and graduated as part of the second class ever in 1961. In 1965, after serving as a fighter pilot in Vietnam, Brice was appointed aide-de-camp to the general in charge of the Vietnam air war. The general also happened to be an avid wine enthusiast.
One of the things I learned from him was how little I knew about wine. But the hook was set, and when I retired from the Air Force, I left with a passion for wine.
Returning to the United States, Brice attended Harvard Business School for the knowledge needed to establish his own vineyard. After earning his MBA in 1972, he founded Sonoma–Cutrer Vineyards. Within the year he was planting estate vineyards in Sonoma County, focusing exclusively on Chardonnay. This made him an early pioneer in the white wine boom that quickly reshaped the American wine landscape. Over the next quarter century Brice established more than 1,000 acres of Chardonnay and built Sonoma–Cutrer into one of America’s most acclaimed wineries. He also developed enduring friendships with some of the most esteemed vintners in Burgundy. In 1999, he was inducted into the Confrérie des Chevaliers du Tastevin at a special ceremony at Clos de Vougeot.
That same year, Brice sold Sonoma–Cutrer Vineyards. Some might have embraced the moment as an opportunity to enjoy the fruits of their labor. Brice, however, immediately began writing a remarkable new chapter in a story that has already seen him go from being an Air Force pilot to one of America’s most respected vintners.
He purchased Hallberg Ranch and founded Emeritus Vineyards with no intention of planting the grape he had built his reputation on. Instead, he had his heart set on creating a new benchmark for New World Pinot Noir. Unlike many California vintners, he has no qualms about citing Burgundy as the inspiration for Emeritus.
Over the years, the things I have learned about growing and making Pinot Noir from my friends and colleagues in Burgundy have been incredibly eye-opening. While it’s been amazing to see what North America has accomplished over the past 50 years, the French have been refining their methods for more than 1,300 years.
As the founder of Emeritus Vineyards, Brice has dedicated two decades to establishing one of California’s finest Pinot Noir estates. Today, his daughter Mari and the Emeritus Team makes some of the New World’s most dynamic and complex Pinot Noirs from more than 140 acres of vines spread between two grand cru-caliber, dry-farmed vineyards.
Emeritus means to earn through service. I chose the name because Emeritus is the culmination of everything I have learned about wine throughout my life. But I also chose it because what we are striving to achieve is something unique and special. It is a goal that has to be earned. Everyone here believes passionately in what we are doing. This spirit is an essential part of our wines.
Kirk Lokka has a well-earned reputation as one of the most accomplished and respected vineyard managers in North America. He has brought a meticulous level of detail and thoughtfulness to planning and planting Emeritus’ estate vineyards. This visionary approach includes dry farming at both vineyards—further elevating the remarkable quality of our California Pinot Noir fruit.
Kirk was born and raised in Sonoma. He first decided on a career in farming at age eight, while riding the tractor at his grandfather’s farm. After receiving his degree in plant science from Fresno State University, he worked on a large cotton farm in Corcoran, California. There, he learned two important things: he did not want to grow cotton, nor to work in the Central Valley. As soon as he could, he moved home to Sonoma County and took a job as a foreman at Sonoma–Cutrer in 1981. His knowledge and dedication quickly earned him the promotion to vineyard manager.
During his 23-year career at Sonoma–Cutrer, Kirk oversaw over 1,200 acres of estate vineyards, including the planting of acclaimed Vine Hill and Owsley Ranch vineyards. Throughout this period, Kirk also helped found the Russian River Valley Winegrowers association, where he served as two-time president. Sonoma County named him “Agri-Business Person of the Year” in 1997.
While at Sonoma–Cutrer, Kirk became good friends with the winery’s founder, Brice Cutrer Jones. They discovered Hallberg Ranch in the mid-90s and coveted it until 1999, when Brice sold Sonoma–Cutrer. When founding Emeritus together, Brice and Kirk did so with the goal of establishing the finest Pinot Noir vineyard in California. Several members of Kirk’s vineyard crew followed him to Emeritus, forming the core of our acclaimed 17-person, full-time vineyard team.
As a vineyard manager, it is incredibly rare when you are given the perfect piece of land to plant a vineyard, and all of the resources necessary to do it exactly the way you know it should be done.
In 2007, Kirk and Brice took inspiration from their friends in Burgundy began transitioning into dry farming at Hallberg Ranch. The following year, Kirk began planting Pinot Hill, a smaller estate vineyard located in the Sebastopol Hills. Dry farming both vineyards established Emeritus as a viticultural leader. Today the two vineyards combined give Emeritus over 140 acres, forming the largest dry-farmed Pinot Noir estate in Sonoma County. Possibly in all of California! In acknowledgment of his pioneering work at Emeritus, the Sonoma County Winegrowers Association honored Kirk as the “Sonoma County Grower of the Year” by in 2017.
Kirk lives on Hallberg Ranch with his wife. He raises sheep and goats at his house, occasionally running the sheep in the vineyard to mow and fertilize. A firm believer in passing on his knowledge to future generations, Kirk avidly supports local 4-H clubs and wine country ag programs.
As president, Mari Jones oversees all aspects of Emeritus Vineyards, with guidance of her father, Brice Cutrer Jones. Like her father, Mari believes in a collaborative approach that empowers the talented Emeritus team. She works closely with Vineyard Manager Kirk Lokka and Winemaker Dave Lattin to cultivate high standards of excellence at Emeritus.
Mari grew up playing, camping, and even learning to drive on the Sonoma–Cutrer Estate. At the age of 12, she took her first trip to Burgundy with her father to buy barrels. It was there where Mari discovered Pinot Noir. In a centuries-old cellar, she turned to her father with a glass of Pinot in hand and told him, “This wine is better than yours. You should make wine like this.” Brice was speechless (and in complete agreement).
That experience gave me a new perspective on my family business. It was also when I fell in love with Pinot Noir.
Though an early passion for wine had been instilled in Mari, she was eager to chart her own path. After earning a philosophy degree at Colgate University, she moved to Colorado and worked at the Telluride Adaptive Sports Program. In 2012, after years of giving her father advice from afar, he invited Mari to return to wine country to build a tasting room. Over the next three years, Mari oversaw the design and construction of the Emeritus tasting room, and in 2017, USA Today named Emeritus the “#1 Winery Tour in the USA.” She also founded our E-Club, which in the years since has grown into a thriving community of wine enthusiasts.
From the beginning, we’ve strived to create experiences and build relationships that are personal and meaningful. More than just sharing our wines, we want to share who we are, what we do, and why we love doing it. The more I focused on these goals, the more I knew that Emeritus was something that I wanted to be a part of for decades to come.
As the dedicated second generation to our family-run winery, Mari is active in the Sonoma County Vintners New Gen Committee. The committee works to create a collaborative environment for young winemakers and owners, and to promote Sonoma County to the next generation of wine enthusiasts. She also works on the International Committee to sell and promote Sonoma County wines all over the world.
At the winery, Mari works with the team to produce the most elegant expressions of Pinot Noir from our vineyards. These wines match the complexity and depth of the ones she first fell in love with in Burgundy, but with a style that’s all California (much like herself). She approaches her role with a long-term vision of sustainability in every sense, from the land to our Emeritus family and beyond.
When not at the winery or traveling the world to share Emeritus, you can find Mari snowboarding or hiking with her husband Brian and her dog Mocha.
Though acclaimed Emeritus Winemaker David Lattin has made a wide variety of wines at renowned wineries like Merus, Storybook Mountain, and Kuleto Estate, he began his career at Acacia Winery in 1984. That was where he first fell under the spell of Pinot Noir.
Pinot Noir is the variety I cut my teeth on, and it is still the one I love the most. Making a great Pinot Noir—one with nuance, elegance and a deep and meaningful sense of place—is incredibly difficult, and to me is the ultimate challenge.
Since joining Emeritus in 2017, Dave embraced this challenge and dove intp working with Founder Brice Cutrer Jones, Vineyard Manager Kirk Lokka, and President Mari Jones to make profoundly vineyard-driven Pinot Noirs of uncommon purity and aging potential.
Dave grew up in Corvalis, Oregon, and spent two formative years living in Europe, where his father taught university. From his first memorable sip of Mosel at the age of six, he has cultivated a keen palate and a passion for wine. After earning his bachelor’s degree in microbiology from Oregon State University, Dave moved to California to pursue a master’s degree in enology from UC Davis. While at Davis, Dave met the winemaker for Acacia, who convinced him to join the winery’s team as an intern.
The work inspired him beyond his expectations and he quickly fell in love with winemaking. After turning in his thesis, Dave followed his girlfriend (now his wife) to Paris, where he developed a deep appreciation of French wines. On a shoestring budget, and at times living out of a tent, he regularly traveled to the great wineries of Bordeaux in search of work, ultimately landing a cellar job at Troplong-Mondot.
After returning to the U.S., he worked as the enologist at Robert Pecota, and later as the cellar master at Storybook Mountain, before rejoining Acacia, where he was promoted to winemaker, and to general manager/winemaker five years later. After eleven years at Acacia, Dave became the winemaker for Kuleto Estate and earned a reputation for making some of Napa Valley’s most alluring and sophisticated mountain-grown wines. In recognition of his skill, whenvintner Bill Foley aquired Kuleto Estate, Dave also became the winemaker for Napa Valley’s acclaimed Merus Wines. In early 2017, Dave left Kuleto Estate and Merus to join the team at Emeritus.
I spoke with Brice and he said the magic words: ‘all estate, all dry farmed, all Pinot Noir.’ Before I accepted the job, I drove back up to Hallberg Ranch on my own, and just stared at the vineyard. It is such a remarkable piece of land—like a gorgeous green flying carpet. It was so clear to me that the vines had found something deep down that they loved. I knew that I wanted to make its wines.
At Emeritus, Dave works to preserve the clonal diversity of different estate blocks by doing as many as 50 individual fermentations each vintage. He also focuses on assessing the maturity of different clones at different Brix levels. Because we dry farm, the grapes develop full color and flavor at lower sugar content, while also gaining sophistication and finesse.
Working with Brice, Dave is also refining Emeritus’s barrel program. The team visits Burgundy every year to look at the wood for our barrel staves, and to guide how it is seasoned before it’s put to use. Emeritus sources barrels from three different coopers, each family owned for multiple generations. Dave is very thoughtful and restrained in his use of new oak, but acknowledges that each barrel brings something different to the wines. His goal is to make wines that are pure, elegant and aroma-driven, with succulent acidity, excellent texture, and length.
The finest Pinots inspire the senses and stir the soul. They are also wines that transport you to the place they were grown. These things are the essence of Emeritus.
Keith Hammond was born and raised in Sebastopol, a true Sonoma County native. He studied mechanics and music in college but became infatuated with wine, so he started in the wine industry managing wine clubs and pouring in tasting rooms around Sonoma County.
Keith first began at Emeritus in 2007 working for our original winemaker Don Blackburn, followed by Don’s successor Nicolas. He and Nicolas worked together until 2015, when he took a short leave to experiment with different varieties and terroir. Most recently he has been making wine with Philippe Bascaules (managing director of Chateau Margeaux/Inglenook).
From the start, Russian River Valley Pinot Noir has set a high standard for Keith and has largely shaped his vision and expectations for fine wine. He is ecstatic to be back at Emeritus continuing the tradition of crafting unique Pinot from the very special vineyards here.
When he’s not making wine, he loves to explore new places, new wines, and new food with his wife Amber. He also has a particular affinity for sipping Chartreuse.
Born and raised in Sonoma County, Riggs Lokka was raised in the wine industry—from going to work with his dad at Sonoma Cutrer to going with his mom to Glenn Ellen Winery. When Emeritus Vineyards was established, he was out planting vines with the crew and has been a piece of the puzzle ever since.
When the Lokkas moved to the ranch in 2004, Riggs enrolled at El Molino High School and began taking an agriculture class. This is where he found his love for animals and began sprouting the seed for teaching. He was an active member in 4H but flourished in FFA where he excelled in career development events. While in high school, Riggs competed in Livestock Judging and Grapevine Pruning. His skills and hard work paid off there, propelling him towards being a State Champion Livestock Judge in 2007 and three-time Sonoma County Pruning Champion.
After completing high school Riggs moved on to Santa Rosa Junior College, where he earned associate degrees in Animal Science and Vineyard Management, and then to Fresno State for a degree in Teaching as well. While at Fresno State he was the vegetable crop unit manager, sheep unit manager, and in his spare time was also a meat cutter in the 100% student-run Fresno State Meat Lab.
Riggs went into teaching in 2013 at Santa Rosa High School, instructing students in Animal Science and Viticulture. Three years passed, and, deciding to try something different, he moved south to Stockton and taught Agriculture Mechanics (welding and woodshop). Every summer, when not attending fairs and helping kids with projects, Riggs returned home to work alongside his father Kirk at Emeritus.
In July of 2020, Riggs decided that while teaching for seven years had been incredibly fulfilling, he was ready to transition to his final career. He moved back to Sonoma County and joined the Emeritus Vineyards crew full time, and these days can be found either out in the vineyards, popping into the tasting room to provide a laugh, or with his wife-to-be Emily, Mini Heeler dog Jade, and cat Ivy.
As national sales manager, Michael Burton leverages a quarter century of experience in almost every aspect of the wine industry to guide the sales program for Emeritus Vineyards. A dynamic and accomplished executive, he was drawn to Emeritus by the opportunity to work at a singularly focused, family-run winery.
It is a rarity when a winery dedicates itself to doing one thing exceptionally well. The commitment Emeritus has made to focus exclusively on dry-farmed estate-grown Pinot Noir reminds me of the great wineries of Burgundy. My role is to help give voice to this exciting story.
Michael was raised in Boston, MA, and spent a decade serving in the U.S. Army as a non-commissioned officer before returning to Boston. There he joined the founding team at Chef Todd English’s acclaimed restaurant Olives. At English’s invitation, Michael relocated to Las Vegas in 1998 to take on the role of beverage manager at Olives Las Vegas, where he worked alongside noted Master Sommelier Jay James. Following Olives, Michael spent four years at Las Vegas-based distributor Breakthru Beverage Group. Then he joined Wilson Daniels, where he served as a divisional vice president. Mentored by visionary executive Win Wilson, Michael spent the next decade representing an elite portfolio of clients, including Schramsberg, Silverado, Ponzi, Royal Tokaji, Dujac, Salon, Biondi Santi, and Domaine de la Romanée-Conti.
Following his tenure at Wilson Daniels, Michael transitioned to the winery side of the industry, applying his knowledge and experience as the general manager for Oregon’s Rose and Arrow Estate, and as the general manager and head of national sales for Walla Walla Vintners. In addition to his numerous professional accomplishments, Michael holds a degree in business administration and management, and an MBA, from California State University, Fullerton. He is also a certified sommelier through the Court of Master Sommeliers, a certified specialist of wine, and a certified sake professional.
Michael lives in Greater Los Angeles with his wife and two rescue dogs. Animal welfare and activism is an important part of their life. Together they also enjoy the Los Angeles lifestyle including the art scene, music, revitalized restaurant movement, and of course the beach!
Jessie Johnson’s passion for hospitality and connecting with people naturally led her to the wine industry.
From my earliest experiences with wine, I’ve always loved its ability to bring people together. Along with amazing wines, that sense of personal connection is what makes a great winery.
Jessie grew up in Calabasas, CA, and earned both her Bachelor of Arts in international studies and a Master’s in business administration from Humboldt State University. While attending university, Jessie had her “a ha!” wine moment over a glass of Pinot Noir during a dinner with friends.
Inspired to learn more, she began hosting wine dinners with friends, and went on to write a strategic winery plan as her master’s thesis. That launched Jessie into her career in wine running wine clubs, tasting rooms, and more at wineries like Francis Ford Coppola, Dutton-Goldfield, and Gary Farrell.
Since joining Emeritus, Jessie has applied her love of hospitality to guide every aspect of how we communicate and connect with our community and members.
I love wine, but people are my passion. Wine provides a way for us to slow down and savor those special moments, while connecting with friends. With so many wineries out there, when people choose Emeritus, I want them to feel honored and appreciated—I want them to feel like they’re guests in our home.
Jessie lives in Bodega with her husband, Peter, and their two young children, Violet and Paul. While she loves traveling, when she is at home she loves to spend time at the beach, hanging out with friends, or cooking up something fun in her kitchen.
Steve Morvai has been navigating his way through the wine world for the past twenty-five years. Throughout his career he has been a leader of integral teams in all channels of distribution.
Wine has been an integral part of my life. It has created so many wonderful long lasting relationships.
He began his career in the wine business in Colorado at one of the largest fine wine shops in the United States. There he was responsible for over 5000 skews and $8 million in inventory. From there, he took an amazing opportunity to travel on buying trips with importers and distributors throughout Europe, South America, and Australia.
Seeking a change of pace in 2005, Steve relocated to California to become involved on the winery level. Roshambo Winery welcomed him as their general manager. At the same time he also started a brand of his own, producing three thousand cases annually and distributing them throughout the world. In 2018, Steve turned the next page by selling his brand. He leapt back into the hospitality arena, eventually landing in the Emeritus Tasting Room as our Tasting Room Manager.
I jumped at the opportunity to be a part of the Emeritus team that is so dedicated and focused on one goal: producing world class Pinot Noir. I look forward to creating many more relationships by providing top notch hospitality and educating our loyal guests on the Estate grown, single vineyard, dry farmed Pinot Noir of Emeritus Vineyards.
Steve lives in Penngrove with his wife Alison and children, Devin and Zaron. With two growing boys sports seem to consume a large portion of their lives. There is always adventure, fishing, tennis, golf, ATV’s, snowboarding, and traveling.
Maia Talmor’s love for hospitality started at a young age while growing up in Connecticut. When tall enough to reach the counters, she helped her mother in the kitchen, preparing for the large dinners her family often hosted.
Later, upon graduating from Boston University’s School of Hospitality Administration, she worked in both large and small restaurants in the Boston area. Her first glimpse into the wonderful world of wine came at Del Frisco’s and continued while working under Master Sommelier, Brahm Callahan, at the Himmel Hospitality Group.
In 2018, Maia decided it was time for a change. While on a short visit to Napa and Sonoma to do research before moving cross country to pursue a career in the wine industry, she fell in love with Emeritus wines. Thanks to her experience managing busy restaurants she was a perfect fit for Tasting Room Lead. Now she’s happily settled into West Coast life and our tasting room, where she loves meeting club members and first-time guests alike.
When not in the tasting room, Maia enjoys visiting other wineries, traveling, cheering on the New York Rangers when they’re in town playing the Sharks, cooking, and baking.
Bill Caruthers is Emeritus’ Wine Wolf. He served in the Army before starting a corporate career where he worked in upper management. Over the years, his propensity for good food and wine at business dinners across the globe has only grown.
In his retirement, Bill’s love of wine and passion to educate brought him into the wine industry. He met our Assistant Winemaker at an industry event and was intrigued to hear about our dry farming practices. He knew he wanted to be involved! Shortly afterward he joined the Emeritus team in the tasting room, where he enjoys educating guests about dry farming and recommending mouthwatering dishes to pair with each wine.
Bill is a huge foodie, and he and his partner enjoy eating their way through Sonoma County restaurants and cheese shops. He also enjoys hosting food and wine events at his home on the Russian River, where each meal is part education and part indulgence as his love of educating is inescapable. Guests at his home and at Emeritus are always treated to warm hospitality.
Paige Hansen has been an E-Club member for years and is now our Ambassador of Fun! She has worked in hospitality for quite a while and has a degree in culinary arts.
When Paige and her husband moved to California in 2016, they spent their first day as Californians at our End of Frost Party. Drinking Emeritus and munching on pizza was a great way to wrap up their long drive from Pennsylvania.
Paige is an enthusiastic dog mom to two rescue pups, Zoey and Piper, and loves making them lots of treats and exploring dog friendly restaurants and wineries. She is also a fantastic photographer and often has her equipment along with her. In her free time, you will likely find her discussing the meals she is planning or sharing her homemade treats with dogs and humans alike.
Jean Flintsmith grew up in San Jose, California. With one parent in the wine industry, she’s been in and out of tasting rooms her whole life and can think of no more powerful sense-memory than the scent of a barrel room. She officially discovered her love of wine the first time she had a bite of dark chocolate immediately followed by a sip of Zinfandel. Although her main passion is creative writing, she has never lost interest in food and wine pairings.
After graduating with a BA from Sarah Lawrence College in New York, a chance move to Sonoma County gave Jean the opportunity to work for an estate grown hard cider company. There she learned about things like the expression terroir in a finished bottle, whether it’s made from apples or from grapes. One afternoon she visited Emeritus for a tasting, fell in love with Ruby Ruby, and signed up for her first wine club ever.
Six months later Jean jumped at the chance to join the Emeritus team and is loving every second of it, from helping out in the tasting room and with club shipments to running the company’s social media accounts and website. (Say hello to the writer of the E-Files!) When her husband proposed, Hallberg Ranch was the natural choice for their engagement photos.
Jean is a cat mom of three rescue girls, and will be more than happy to show off pictures and swap pet stories. Her second oldest cat is also a big fan of the Ruby Ruby, and rosé in general, despite being quickly shooed away from the glass every time. Apparently it runs in the family!
Thank you for your interest in our family-owned winery and dry farmed, estate grown Pinot Noirs! Joining our mailing list is the best way to stay up to date on all things Emeritus. You’ll receive notifications of new releases, events, special offers, and more. We look forward to sharing our wines with you in the future!