The Winemaking Team
Wine is a shared passion at Trefethen. Our wines are made not by a single individual, but by a cohesive team of passionate winemakers and viticulturists dedicated to crafting the finest wines possible from our cherished Napa Valley estate vineyard.
Jon Ruel, Director of Viticulture & Winemaking
Since his arrival at Trefethen in 2004, Jon has played a key role in furthering our mission of making world-class wines that fully capture our estate vineyard’s unique terroir. Hired initially as our viticulturist, Jon quickly made small changes that had huge, beneficial effects on wine quality. Taking a horticultural approach to grape-growing, he insists that each sub-block, row and vine in our vineyard receives the attention it needs when it needs it, keeping our vineyard crew constantly on the move. With an approach blending ancient methods with modern technology, Jon now guides the entire process of crafting our wines from vineyard to bottle. He does so with a keen environmental awareness derived from his scientific background, which includes an M.S. degree in Viticulture and Enology from the University of California at Davis, an M.S. degree in Ecology, and over 10 years of ecological research spanning the globe from Antarctica to the Norwegian Arctic.
Jon serves on the Board of Directors of the Napa Valley Grapegrowers and the advisory council of the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, a regional agency entrusted with regulating air quality across all nine counties of the San Francisco Bay Area. He speaks frequently at wine industry events, where he often details Trefethen’s extensive sustainability programs, including La Huerta, the five-acre fruit and vegetable garden Jon created on our estate to provide free, delicious organic produce to our employees.
Zeke Neeley, Winemaker
Zeke earned his undergraduate degree in Biochemistry from UC Davis and worked for several years in the biotech industry in South San Francisco, focusing on cancer research. A love of wine led him back to school for his Masters degree in Viticulture and Enology at UC Davis, during which time he interned at Trefethen. After stints at wineries in Santa Cruz and Sonoma, Zeke returned to Trefethen and now serves as our winemaker. He is part scientist, part craftsman and part guidance counselor. The process of guiding wine to maturity requires a detailed understanding of microbiology and chemistry, a discerning palate, and plenty of creativity. Zeke’s goal each year is to fashion wines that perfectly showcase the superb fruit from our estate Napa Valley vineyard.
Bryan Kays, Assistant Winemaker
Bryan earned an undergraduate degree in English Literature from Cal Poly SLO and then, like any self-respecting English major, turned to wine as a career. For several years, he worked for a small winery in the Sierra Foothills and then earned a Viticulture and Enology degree at UC Davis before joining Trefethen in 2006 as a viticulture intern. Fascinated with estate-grown wines, Bryan worked his way into the cellar, and ultimately to the Assistant Winemaker position. His passion is creating balanced, true-to-type wines that embody his conviction that winemaking is as much about restraint as action.
Brendan Brambila, Viticulturist
Brendan’s passion for viticulture began long before he joined Trefethen in 2009. The son of a Napa Valley winemaker, he was immersed in the wine business at a young age. In 2006, Brendan graduated from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo sporting a degree in Agricultural Business, with an emphasis on wine and viticulture. He has worked in vineyards throughout Napa Valley and the Russian River Valley in Sonoma County and understands how terroir – the sum total of all the environmental factors affecting a vineyard – plays a crucial role in the crafting of world-class wines. Although a relative newcomer to Trefethen, Brendan already has a deep appreciation of the unique growing conditions that allow multiple varieties to thrive in our estate vineyard, and he is dedicated to optimizing their quality and distinctive character.