Retiring President/COO Jeff Meier Leaves a Legacy of Experimentation and Innovation
UC Davis College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences Recognizes Contributions With Highest Honor, Award of Distinction
San Jose, Calif. – Nov. 16, 2021 – J. Lohr Vineyards & Wines President/COO Jeff Meier, one of the Central Coast wine industry’s most well-respected figures, is retiring this December after 37 years with J. Lohr Vineyards & Wines. For nearly four decades, Jeff has been an integral part of J. Lohr’s success, working closely with Founder Jerry Lohr, the Lohr family and their teams to help build one of the world’s most heralded wineries. Known for his wide-ranging acumen and comprehensive attention to detail, Jeff has fueled a spirit of experimentation and innovation that is his legacy. In recognition of his industry leadership and contributions, Jeff was recently named one of two Alumni of the Year for the UC Davis College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences’ 32nd annual Award of Distinction event. This accolade is the highest honor within the college.
A San Francisco Bay Area native, Jeff would often accompany his parents on wine tasting trips to Napa and Sonoma, where he fell in love with the beauty and tranquility of the vineyards and subsequently developed his lifelong passion for wine. This passion led Jeff to the University of California, Davis, where he earned his degree in viticulture and enology, studying under legendary professors Dinsmore Webb, James Cook, Mark Kliewer, Ann Noble, Carole Meredith and Cornelius Ough.
Jeff worked his first harvest at J. Lohr in 1984 and was named winemaker in 1995 after following in the footsteps of colleague and mentor Barry Gnekow, who instilled in Jeff an appreciation for the artistry of winemaking, as well as a deeper understanding of the direct relationship between vineyard conditions and wine quality. During Jeff’s 25-year tenure as winemaker and later director of winemaking, he has championed a holistic approach to crafting wines that uphold long-standing mentor and leader Jerry Lohr’s original vision to grow, produce and bottle wines with a distinct sense of place from J. Lohr’s more than 4,000 certified sustainable estate acres in Monterey County’s Arroyo Seco and Santa Lucia Highlands appellations, Paso Robles, and St. Helena in the Napa Valley. True pioneers of Central Coast grape growing and winemaking, Jerry, Jeff and their teams introduced the vineyard-driven wines from J. Lohr Estates in 1987 and later, J. Lohr Vineyard Series in 1998, to a global audience and to critical acclaim. In 2014, Jeff was named J. Lohr President/COO, overseeing operations, production and marketing, while also working closely with Director of Winemaking Steve Peck to ensure continuity in the stylistic direction of all J. Lohr wines.
“Our vineyards are at the core of our identity,” said Jeff. “Because we have complete control over farming, we can develop each block with the appropriate clones, rootstock, spacing, trellising and yields to maximize flavor.”
This company-wide commitment to maximizing flavor, ‘the-devil-is-in-the-details’ focus on phenolic and data analysis, investment in barrels and state-of-the art equipment, and innovation in packaging helped nurture Jeff’s creative side to experiment – and innovate – with new tiers, varietals and blends. After trips to the Left and Right Banks of Bordeaux, France, Jeff and his teams began to blend J. Lohr’s Paso Robles-grown Bordeaux varieties, chiefly Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc, to create the J. Lohr Cuvée Series, which debuted in 2002 and to date has received some of J. Lohr’s most significant industry praise. In 2009, after grape growing trials of Rhône varieties, Jeff and his teams launched the limited-release J. Lohr Gesture.
“It’s been incredibly rewarding to see the growth of J. Lohr – from having two wines in the
J. Lohr Estates tier reflected in the Nielsen Top 10, to the birth of the J. Lohr Vineyard Series, the Cuvée Series, Gesture, J. Lohr Signature Cabernet Sauvignon, J. Lohr Pure Paso™, even our 40th Anniversary wines,” said Jeff. “I am very proud to have worked alongside Jerry and the family in developing an industry-best roster of talented winemakers, enologists, and production team members.”
“Jeff has established many standards of excellence within J. Lohr and throughout the industry over his many years, and on many levels” said Founder Jerry Lohr. “Jeff’s impact and legacy will endure long after his retirement and his work will continue under the leadership of the second generation of the Lohr family, which includes CEO Steve, CBO Cynthia, and COO, Vineyards Lawrence. We collectively cherish Jeff for all he has brought to our wine quality and production capabilities, to our wine education and marketing, and to our family of colleagues and communities.”
Jeff remains a tireless advocate for industry research and experimentation, attending and presenting at technical conferences around the world. He is also an active member of the American Society for Enology and Viticulture, the Executive Leadership Board at UC Davis, and the American Chemical Society.