Southern California Winemaker Profiles

This page takes a peek into the lives of a sample of winemakers in Southern California. I’ve asked the questions. The winemakers have supplied the answers.

John York, Hellandback Ranch & Vineyard

John York, Hellandback Ranch & Vineyard

Question: One word that describes the reason you are making wine?
Answer: Fascination
Question:  Ok, explain that one word, just a little.
Answer:  I find the process of turning a grape into wine fascinating, almost obsessive. I love making wine.
Question:  Why should someone visit you at your winery?
Answer:  Our location is rustically beautiful. I love to meet people, talk to them about wine, and hear their opinions and experiences (and you can honestly say that you’ve been to Hellanback)
Question:  What’s your favorite varietal?
Answer:  I enjoy any wine well made. Favorite depends on the time of day, my mood and the occasion
Question:  What’s your favorite wine that you make? Why?
Answer:  Purgatory Pink, which is Sangiovese Rose’. That must sound weird, but it’s light, dry, refreshing, flavorful, and easy to drink. Estate Syrah if I want red.
Question:  What part of your personality do you put into your wine?
Answer:  I am enthusiastic, optimistic, and confident. I like to please others and I think that my wines might reflect some of this. I try to make wine that I think most people will like, and that requires specific choices in the vineyard and in the winery.
Question:  Your name and title.
Answer:  John R York, Co-Owner and Winemaker

Jon McPherson

Jon McPherson

Q:  One word that describes the reason you are making wine?

A:  Money. Well, okay, let’s face it, no one gets rich in this business, so, not money. Lunacy. It helps if you are slightly crazy, which I am way beyond, so that’s out. Okay, maybe not lunacy. Hmmm, maybe Debauchery. No, that seems a bit too Dionysian. Okay. Passion, or possibly Dedication. That really sounds too rote and slightly corny. I guess the one word  that I would pick would have to be Family.

Q:  Ok, explain that one word, just a little.

A:  I got into winemaking because of my father and his pioneering efforts pursuing grape growing in West Texas. I realized at an early age that the wine business is a very cool lifestyle. This lifestyle revolves around agriculture, and agriculture revolves around the seasons. The seasons remind us of our place on this planet and our relationship to nature and what’s important. Family. Throughout all of this, your friends, co-workers (who become like family) and family, all whom you have around you and are part of the process, evolve. They share the work, the rewards; the good times and the bad times.  Thus, they become entrenched in what the end product actually represents. A small piece of history in a bottle.  Which truly gets better with age, and when it is opened and consumed, it is done so with friends and family and those moments that were shared throughout the process are relived and remembered.

Q:  Why should someone visit you at your winery?

A:  We are a family owned winery operation and the sense of ownership is actually something that we (the employees) all share.  We are proud of what we have to offer and believe it to be the best in the valley. Our commitment to service and delivering a wonderful experience is always our primary goal. So come to South Coast because you can expect the best.

Q:  What’s your favorite varietal?

A:  There are just too many to pick only one. Grape. Is grape okay? It is a flavor, so I choose grape. Vitis Vinifera.

Q:  What’s your favorite wine that you make?  Why?

A:  When you make as many wines as we do here at South Coast, it is hard to have a favorite. Because if it is sunny and warm, a crisp white may be my favorite, or if it is hot, maybe a rose or sparkling wine. Is it cloudy and cool? A nice red is in order. Am I eating a salad or having tri-tip? Am I happy or introspective? Is it daytime or nighttime? Mood, time and place are everything when it comes to deciding what to drink and if it is my new favorite thing.  I will have to remain decidedly non-committal on this. I plead the fifth. Or I’ll take a fifth, preferably un-opened…..

Q:  What part of your personality do you put into your wine?

A:  This is kind of interesting to think about: there are over 600 identified personality traits. Check out this link: (  After reviewing the list, I would have to say respectful. I try to respect the grape, its origin and history, as well as the wines that are made from it.  There is so much to consider when you select a varietal and endeavor to make a wine.  Obviously, there is nothing new under the sun, and when you think that making a sweet Chardonnay or sparkling Touriga Nacional is a new thing that hasn’t been done before you discover there are several producers, in various countries, already making it quite possibly for centuries. Certainly you can put your own twist on it, and your region will give a certain character to the grape, but understanding the grape’s potential and what the consumer will ultimately accept as a wine style is the one thing that you must always bare in mind.

Q:  Your name and title.

A:  Jon C. McPherson, Master Winemaker

Adam Carruth of Carruth Cellars
Q:  One word that describes the reason you are making wine?

A:  Beer

Q:  Ok, explain that one word, just a little.

A:  I started as a brewer.  After 7 years of crafting ales I moved to Sonoma and switched to wine. I’ve been fermenting for over 23 years…. jeez!

Q:  Why should someone visit you at your winery?

A:  We source fruit from very special appellations all over the North Coast. The staff is fun and knowledgable and we are open until 9pm.

Q:  What’s your favorite varietal?

A:  Syrah

Q:  What’s your favorite wine that you make?

A:  Syrah! It’s very bold, fruit forward but structured and well rounded….. Why?

Q:  What part of your personality do you put into your wine?

A:  Love

Q:  Your name and title.

A:  Adam Carruth Owner/Winemaker