Glassmaker Wine Co.
Location: Forestville, California
Owner & winemaker: Jonathan Walton
Vineyard area: variable selection of vineyards in Sonoma, Lodi, Contra Costa, and Monterey counties
Vineyard management: practicing organics or biodynamics
Soils: wide range depending on vineyard – sand, loam, pebbles…
Main varietals: Zinfandel, Grenache Blanc
Winemaking: Spontaneous fermentation only, neutral barrels, no fining, no filtration, minimal sulfur additions.
Annual production (approx.): 500-800 cases
- The winery was founded in 2015, taking Jonathan’s mother’s maiden name as its title
- Jon’s reasons for making wine aptly sum up the ambivalent and communal nature of the natural wine world: “It’s something about loving hard work and getting dirty, then cleaning up and pretending to be fancy. It’s something about participating in a community of food and wine and friends and strangers that I love and admire.”
- He’s working with various vineyards around California, trying to find the ones that “speak to him the loudest”, as he puts it. All of the vineyards are farmed organically or biodynamically, some by Jon himself.
- Jon’s other big passion is photography, another way to capture nature’s beauty!
Jonathan got his start in wine in the tasting rooms of the Salinas Valley “as a bored toddler eating oyster crackers off the floor while his father and friends casually imbibed glass after glass of the local red”, he recalls. From organic foods and fine cheese to the wines of France, Spain, and Italy, his curiosity in quality products led him to the soils of the vineyards of Sonoma, Marlborough, Lodi, CoCo. and Monterey. After a bit of blood and sweat at Brooklyn Oenology, Jonathan figured “it was time to put my money where my mouth was… and Glassmaker Wine Company is what happened!”
Founded in 2015 as a tribute to his mother’s maiden name and Jon’s family farming tradition (although that was more grains than grapes), the boutique winery allows Jon and his girlfriend Emily, who co-designes the labels, helps Jonathan around the winery and “generally helps out with farming when I beg her”, to reimagine California. “I’ve done this before; it might be the reason I keep living here. The geography and the communities of this large end of the continent are broad and strange, malleable and diverse. I loved wine when I left this place, and returning four years ago to farm the land has given me a new way to interpret both the past and future of these places. I am thankful yet aware that there is much more to feel, understand and imagine in this golden state.”
Jon himself farms a small plot in Healdsburg – the McGaraugh Vineyard in Alexander Valley, planted with Zinfandel and Petite Sirah. The rest of the wines come from a fluctuating selection of vineyards, as Jon is on the quest of trying to find the “terroirs that speak to me the loudest!” Their respectful management is a matter of course and includes organic or biodynamic practices and dry farming. This minimal input approach obviously extends to the cellar (at the time of writing, the wines were made in the Subject to Change winery, where Jon also works as assistant winemaker). The wines are all spontaneously fermented (both primary and malolactic fermentation), aged in old oak barrels, unfined and unfiltered, and made without any addition save for a tiny bit of sulfur.
Jon on this wine: “This is a tiny angry vineyard I farm myself with absolute minimal inputs, on the southern end of the Alexander Valley. The Vineyard is a 2-acre northwest-facing bowl that is planted to about 80 percent of middle-aged Zinfandel vines. They are in conversion from double cordon to something more resembling bush trained, with the intention of allowing a more balanced canopy.”
Grape: Zinfandel with a touch of Petite Sirah
Vineyard: McGaraugh Vineyard, Alexander Valley, Northern Sonoma AVA. Dry-farmed by Jon himself
Making of: picked twice to balance the ripeness of different parcels and the tannic structure of the small amount of Petite Sirah. Destemmed and fermented in open-top vats, alternating between gentle pigeages and pump-overs every 48 hours till dryness. Aged 15 months in old oak before racking under nitrogen to bottling tank. Bottled without fining or filtration, 15 ppm total of SO2 received (5 ppm on its 1 year birthday and 10 before bottling).
Personality: “The bowl shape causes the vineyard to ripen unevenly which translates into blazing raspberry acidity. A friendly, chill-able expression of Zinfandel, less ponderous more joyous!”
Jon on this wine: “Grenache Blanc holds a special place in my heart and lineup as it was the first white wine I ever picked and made, from a small organic Chalk Hill vineyard that has since been lost to fire.”
Grape: Grenache Blanc
Vineyard: Preston Vineyard, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County
Making of: the grapes are hand-harvested and macerated on skins for 4 days. The wine then ferments and ages in neutral oak barrels (14 months with no battonage), then racked to tank to resettle for 6 weeks before bottling. Bottled without fining or filtration.
Personality: ripe caramelized fruit mingles with more light-headed notes of flowers, green almonds and some bright citrus lift. Super approachable and versatile kind of orange wine with mild tannins. And what a color!
Jon on this wine: “In the hamlet of Talmage, where an impressive number of old vine vineyards thrive, I have the fortune to work with some really beautiful old vine dry-farmed fruit.”
Vineyard: Hillside Vineyard, Mendocino. Alluvial bench planted in the early 70s, dry-farmed.
Making of: The wine combines 3 different fermentations and two different ripeness picks. The first small portion of the grapes, about 20%, is a classic carbonic maceration, the next 20% is a structured whole cluster open-top fermentation, and the final 60% is a destemmed, very gentle, very cool open-top fermentation. Blended together and aged in old oak barrels for 15 months before racking under nitrogen to bottling tank. Bottled without fining or filtration, 20 ppm total of SO2 received (5 during elevage and 15 before bottling).
Personality: as Jon puts it, “a haunting wine that speaks of this calm, dry vineyard and translates the many of the redolent aromas I love from the inland Mendocino mountains!”