August "Joe" Briggs- Consulting Winemaker
Joe Briggs’ path to becoming a vintner began rather by chance while he was a student at Chico State University.
“I went home for the weekend with a roommate whose family owned a winery in St. Helena, and I was just blown away by the wines, the farming, the sense of community, everything,” Joe says. He then returned to school, energized by his new experience, and immediately set about transferring to Fresno State to study enology.
Following graduation in 1984, Joe moved to Oregon’s Willamette Valley along with his new bride Sally, where he took a position with Alpine Vineyards and began a love affair with Pinot Noir. After a year spent learning the ropes, Joe returned to California to take an assistant winemaker position at Sierra Wine Corp, a leading Central Valley bulk wine producer.
Within three years Joe became head winemaker and plant manager, overseeing a cellar crew of 70 people and an annual production of 500,000 cases. “It was an amazing opportunity and I learned a great deal about both the craft and business of winemaking,” said Joe. The biggest thing Joe learned was that he preferred the craft.
In 1987 he left Sierra to pursue his passion for Pinot Noir as winemaker for La Crema Winery. He was recruited by Keenan Winery three years later, a then small Napa Valley startup. That experience, combined with his growing reputation, inspired Joe to strike out on his own as a consulting winemaker.
“As a consulting winemaker, I enjoyed incredible access to many of the north coast’s finest vineyards and cellars; valuable resources that I knew one day I would tap for my own label,” Briggs said.
That day came in 1995 when August “Joe” Briggs began making wines for his own label. Those inaugural wines – a Carneros Chardonnay, Napa Valley Zinfandel and Russian River Pinot Noir – made in borrowed space at Honig Winery alongside the likes of Patz & Hall, Lewis and Littorai, caught the attention of Wine Spectator, which dubbed the wines “outstanding” and deemed Joe as a “winemaker to watch.”
In 2011, Joe and his wife Sally handed over the reigns of their namesake winery to nephew and co-winemaker Jesse Inman along with partners and longtime August Briggs employees Colette Milliman, Matt Gacso and Lisa Salling. Together their new team continues the August Briggs tradition of offering an eclectic selection of classic and lesser known varietals sourced from longstanding partner growers. Alongside his nephew Jessie, Joe continues his commitment to the Jeff Gordon Collection brand as our consulting winemaker that began with our first vintage in 2004.