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Keith Hammond Promoted to Winemaker for Emeritus Vineyards

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RUSSIAN RIVER VALLEY, Calif. – FEBRUARY 22, 2023 – Emeritus Vineyards is excited to announce the promotion of Keith Hammond to the position of winemaker. Hammond will take on the winemaker role from his friend and mentor David Lattin, who will remain with Emeritus Vineyards in a consulting capacity. Hammond originally joined the Emeritus Vineyards team in 2007 and honed his craft working alongside all three of his winemaking predecessors—Don Blackburn, Nicolas Cantacuzène, and Lattin—in addition to gaining invaluable experience working with Château Margaux’s renowned managing director, Philippe Bascaules, at Inglenook. As winemaker, Hammond will work closely with the Emeritus Vineyards leadership team, which includes second-generation President Mari Jones and Vineyard Manager Kirk Lokka. Founded in 1999 by legendary vintner Brice Cutrer Jones, Emeritus Vineyards is dedicated to making estate-grown Pinot Noirs using grapes exclusively from its renowned Hallberg Ranch in Russian River Valley and Pinot Hill on the Sonoma Coast. 

“We are a true multigenerational winery,” said President Mari Jones. “I learned the Emeritus way from my father Brice, our assistant vineyard manager, Riggs Lokka, learned it from his father Kirk, and Keith learned from Don, Nicholas and David. That continuity of tradition and wisdom is invaluable. For over two decades, we have been focused on unlocking the full potential from our estate vineyards, and Keith has been an integral part of that process. His knowledge and experience, and his passion for Pinot Noir, make him the ideal choice to help write the next chapter in the Emeritus Vineyards story.”

Hammond, who was born and raised in Sonoma County and holds a degree in enology from Santa Rosa Junior College, began his career at Emeritus Vineyards as a harvest intern in 2007. Under the mentorship of founding winemaker Don Blackburn, Hammond played a key role in crafting some of the winery’s earliest wines. After Blackburn’s passing in 2009, Hammond spent six years working alongside Winemaker Nicolas Cantacuzène refining the Emeritus Vineyards style. In 2016, eager to augment his experience working with other regions and varietals, Hammond joined Inglenook as cellar master, where he worked with Philippe Bascaules, the managing director of Château Margaux and Inglenook. “Philippe showed me the Château Margaux way. He also cemented what I’d learned at Emeritus—that wines can shine when made in a graceful and restrained style.”

In 2017, Hammond was invited to rejoin Emeritus Vineyards as assistant winemaker alongside Winemaker David Lattin. In the years that followed, Lattin and Hammond forged a highly collaborative partnership as they worked to perfect the Emeritus style. This included converting fermentations to native yeast, adopting new methods for cold stabilization, adding new forests to the barrel program, reducing toast levels, and working to identify the most extraordinary vineyard blocks to create new small-production wines.

“My time away from Emeritus taught me that Pinot Noir is in my DNA,” said Hammond. “When I returned here, I knew that I wanted to spend my career crafting Pinot Noirs that explore the beauty and character of Hallberg Ranch and Pinot Hill. This belief has only grown over the past five years. The approach we have here—all Pinot Noir, all estate, all dry farmed—is so unique and special, as are the wines it produces. I’m proud to continue the work begun by Don, Nicholas and Dave, and to work alongside Mari and our amazing team to carry on the Emeritus Vineyards legacy.”     

ABOUT EMERITUS VINEYARDS

Founded by vintner Brice Cutrer Jones in 1999, Emeritus Vineyards is dedicated to making America’s finest Pinot Noir. Guided by a philosophy that great wines are shaped by three factors: soil, climate, and people, Emeritus established a grand cru-caliber estate program featuring 140 acres of dry-farmed Pinot Noir at two vineyards: Hallberg Ranch in Russian River Valley and Pinot Hill on the Sonoma Coast. Today, Emeritus is stewarded by second-generation President Mari Jones, Winemaker Keith Hammond and Vineyard Manager Kirk Lokka, who along with the experienced Emeritus team, craft Pinot Noirs of unparalleled elegance, integrity, and purity. 

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