Jeff Runquist Wines
"I truly believe that the grapes make the greatness in the wine"
The course Jeff Runquist has chosen for his Jeff Runquist family of wines hasn’t exactly followed the course of other successful wineries, and that fact sits perfectly well with the modest winemaker and owner.
Runquist, at present a youngish 48, was born in St. Paul, Minnesota, but moved west with his physician father and family and settled in the East Bay town of Orinda. When it came time for college, Jeff and a number of his high school classmates chose nearby University of California at Davis. A chance occurrence found Runquist enrolled in an Introduction to Winemaking class and the rest is history.
In 1977, Jeff served an internship at the sprawling Paul Masson Winery facility outside San Jose and prior to graduation in 1979, he began working for the emerging Montevina Winery in the Amador Foothills.
“It was a great time for the wine business and Amador County was where a lot was happening, “Runquist recently recalled. “It was definitely the era of the ‘biggest and the baddest’ when it came to wines and winemaking. Everything was geared to high tannins and those who made the most emphatic wines received all the rewards.”
Jeff returned to school and graduated in 1980. He immediately came back to Montevina and served there as oenologist. Two years later, at the tender age of 25, he was made winemaker where he produced a number of award winning wines.
After a three-year stint in the Napa Valley, Runquist became associated with Jerry Lohr and became winemaker for the burgeoning J. Lohr Central Coast winery. During his six-year tenure, Lohr’s production exploded to over 250,000 cases and Jeff Runquist’s reputation as a stellar winemaker grew accordingly.
“My experience at Lohr was really wonderful for me, “Runquist added. “ Jerry Lohr taught me the correct philosophy of growing the right grapes in the correct location. He had great flexibility. If the first grapes he planted in a spot didn’t work, he immediately changed the varietal. It certainly taught me a great deal.”
In 1996, Jeff decided it was time for him to begin making his own wine. Assessing his choices, he made a career decision to return to his basic roots region of Amador County. The first release of Jeff Runquist Wines, some 672 cases to be exact, occurred in 1997.
During his tenure in so many varying viticultural areas throughout California, Jeff Runquist has carefully befriended a number of extremely quality oriented grape growers. These growers provide the fruit for the wines Runquist makes, and are rewarded for their efforts by single vineyard designation on each Jeff Runquist wine.
“I truly believe that the grapes make the greatness in the wine,” Runquist explained further. “Each individual vineyard and grower bring a degree of uniqueness to my wines. I feel it is only fair to place each growers name on my label ahead of my own. Sometimes this is a bit confusing, but it has always worked out in the end.”
Runquist also admitted that he produces a great deal more wine than he bottles, and is very discriminating about the wines that make his final cut. He intends to produce around 7,500 cases this year but is excited about a new project that would mean a new winery facility for his wines.
“My future business plan is almost complete,” he confided. “It could all reach fruition sometime this year. I hope to purchase a production facility that is currently available in Amador County and have everything self-contained. I will even be able to do some direct sales, due to the fact that the location is right on the main road into Amador’s wine region.”
Runquist is today associated with the well-known McManis Family Vineyards in nearby Stanislaus County and uses that facility to make all the Jeff Runquist Wines. It is a highly practical mutual arrangement similar to others he has necessarily employed throughout his career that have allowed him to produce his own wines.
Jeff Runquist is a modest, self-effacing winemaker whose wines have always been on the cutting edge. He has chosen his career path carefully and has always enjoyed critical success with his wines.
We look forward to the continued successful evolution of Jeff Runquist Wines.
Dear Platinum Wine Club Members,
After twenty years of producing wines for others, most notably Monetvina and J. Lohr, I launched my label in 1997 with a Zinfandel from Amador County. I did so in order to play the wine game the way I wanted; calling all of the shots from grape selection to packaging to pricing. For years I admired Paul Draper of Ridge Vineyards and his philosophy of going to different regions of California to source distinctive fruit and unique flavors. So I returned to my favorite growers and Vineyards to source the fruit used to produce my wines. Today I produce Zinfandel, Sangiovese, Barbera and Primitivo from Amador County, Petite Sirah from Clarksburg, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon from the Napa Valley, and Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah from Paso Robles.
While with the J. Lohr Winery from 1990 through 1995 I had the pleasure of introducing Syrah into their portfolio of wines. We were successful in producing rich concentrated wines that in many ways resembled the Shiraz from Barossa Valley of Australia. Upon my departure from Lohr I longed to continue to produce wine from grapes grown on the Estrella River Plain, and in 1996, Jerry Lohr agreed to provide me with fruit from his vineyards. With the 1997 Vintage my Syrah edged out Rosemont Estate’s Balmoral Syrah for “Best of Show” honors at the San Francisco International Wine competition.
Using highly refined techniques of production we are able to coax great depth and richness into our wines without astringent tannins that require cellar time to soften and mellow.