The Proust Q&A: Jesse Katz

Not only was Jesse Katz the youngest ever hired head winemaker in the US when he joined Lancaster Estate in 2010 by way of Screaming Eagle, he also counts singer-turned-actor Justin Timberlake among his friends, helping the curly-haired crooner craft a wine for his wedding to actress Jessica Biel. To celebrate the nuptials in Italy, Katz created Blue Ocean Floor 2009, a red blend from Sonoma County. He recently launched a solo project, Devil Proof Vineyards, where he makes a single vineyard Malbec from the Alexander Valley. His photographer father, Andy Katz, took the black and white photo that graces the label of a Cuban woman smoking a cigar. The name Devil Proof comes from the Cuban theory that if you live well and drink well then the devil can’t get you.

Jesse with a photo his father took of a cigar smoking Cuban lady that graces the label of his single vineyard Malbec from Devil Proof Vineyards

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

Traveling to unique parts of the world with family and friends.

What is your greatest fear? 

Rejection and failure.

Which living person do you most admire?

 Malala Yousafzai, the Nobel prize winning activist for female education.

What is your greatest extravagance?

Food, wine and adventures.

What is your current state of mind? 

Happy and busy.

What is the quality you most like in a woman? 

Intelligence and drive.

Who or what is the greatest love of your life?

My fiancé, Sarah Marikos.

Which words or phrases do you most overuse?

Balance: it’s very important, always talked about, but not always found.

When and where were you happiest?

Traveling with my family or at the tail end of a great harvest. It’s one of my favorite times of year because I only have to focus on one thing.

If you could change one thing about yourself what would it be?

My stubbornness.

Which talent would you most like to have?

To be an accomplished musician.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

In my work, I’ve been blessed to work in some of the world’s best wineries and appellations. This has allowed me focus my passion and skill on winemaking dedicated to reflecting the land, vineyards, and climates that grow the fruit, while keeping it natural by using native or indigenous yeasts. In my personal life, getting engaged to Sarah.

Where would you most like to live?

Outside of Healdsburg? I would like to spend some extended time in Bordeaux at some point in my life, but Healdsburg is at the top of my list.

What is your most treasured possession?

My art collection from my father, Andy Katz.

What is your most marked characteristic?

Passion and drive.

Who is your favourite writer?

Hunter S. Thompson.

Who is your hero of fiction?

Atticus Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird.

What is it that you most dislike?

Untrustworthy people.

What is your greatest regret? 

I don’t have many but I wish I had documented my travels, particularly as a child, in a better way.

What is your motto?

Make everything I am a part of better.

Who would be your ideal dinner party guests and what three wines would you serve?

My dinner party would be a meeting of mighty minds, so I’d ask along Winston Churchill, Charles Darwin and Leonardo da Vinci. We’d begin with a vintage Champagne, probably Pol Roger as it’s Winston’s favourite, and would move on to my Devil Proof Malbec 2012, ending on a high note with Domaine de la Romanée-Conti 1949.

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