To be inspired. One of the greatest marvels of human nature. In 2012, Erin Brooks was inspired by the unique character of wines coming from what is now the West Sonoma Coast AVA and a few pioneering winegrowers in extreme conditions. Ernest Vineyards was born to harness that inspiration and explore what might be possible in cool-climate, marine-influenced wines from California’s rugged northern coastline.
In 2018, Joseph Ryan joined the Ernest family as Winemaker, bringing focus and finesse to the low-intervention method and style of Ernest wines. The long, cool growing season along the coast allows for wines of restraint with naturally bright acidity and engaging complexity. Joseph’s thoughtful approach during fermentation and aging allows for transparency of time and place of the vineyards.
Ernest Vineyards’ sustainable and respectful approach to both organic farming and vinification of wines can be traced back to Erin’s agricultural childhood in Texas, and her husband Todd Gottula’s Central Valley farming roots. Today, under Joseph’s leadership, Ernest farms 35 acres in Sonoma County using organic and regenerative methods and sustainably dry-farming where possible. Ernest is committed to positive stewardship of the land and crafting pure, honest wines that celebrate health for and in all.
Embracing our ethos of innovation in 2014 we launched Edaphos – meaning ‘soil’ in Greek. The wines under this brand celebrate alternative varietals in California while continually exploring winemaking techniques. Curiosity leads the way with all Edaphos wines and that adventurous spirit is captured in the varied bottlings from each vintage. The beautiful Eugenia wines are in honor of unique approaches to Rose from California.
Our wines are a testament to the inspiration, exploration, and respect that make up Ernest Vineyards. We invite you to be part of our story, to explore our wines and celebrate the extraordinary spirit of the West Sonoma Coast.
Todd’s grandmother was a professional artist and is the source of the original “Ernest” portrait that currently hangs in Todd and Erin’s house. We drew inspiration from her work and have crafted the following portraits of our own, which is the best way to experience the people and places behind our wines.
Erin Brooks Founder & CEO
Co-founder Erin Brooks always has considered herself somewhat of a country girl. Sure, she’s had jobs in the software and communications industries, but she grew up on a farm in rural Texas, and knows how to run tractors and swing hay bales. She even speaks with a little twang.
Naturally, then, in 1999, after she moved to San Francisco, the first time Erin drove up to Sonoma County, she spotted rolling hills lined like corduroy with vines, and thought to herself, “You’re home.” From that point forward, getting involved with a winery was only a matter of time.
Today Erin oversees day-to-day sales and operations of Ernest and masterminds plans for all the label’s big adventures. She also spearheads storytelling for the Sonoma Coast region, painting a picture of where our grapes are grown and sharing that information with the world.
Todd Gottula CFO
Our co-founder, Todd Gottula, credits Grandpa Ern (a.k.a., Ernest) with introducing him to every aspect of good food, good service, and good wine. Over these shared meals, Todd developed a love for fine wine; as soon as he was in a position to afford to buy it on his own, he did. As Todd embarked on a career in the technology industry, he found himself spending more and more of his free time expanding his palate. In 2007, Todd bought a four-acre vineyard and planted pinot. The wine-lover and collector had become a grape-grower. A new career was born.
That first wine was an early label; before Todd met co-founder (and wife) Erin Brooks. One of the things that brought the two together was a shared passion for wine. They devised a plan to get serious about a label of their own—a label named after the man who sparked Todd’s inspiration in the first place. Today Todd and Erin pride themselves on making Burgundian-style wines with bright acid, low alcohol, and balanced flavor; quality wines that their families can afford, even without the family discount. Ernest Vineyards has built its reputation on integrity, restraint, and beauty. Grandpa Ern would be proud.
Joseph Ryan Winemaker & Vineyard Manager
Ernest winemaker and vineyard manager Joseph Ryan always has had an understanding of the agrarian lifestyle. He grew up on a farm in Iowa. He knew about land stewardship before he learned algebra. With this experience came the awareness that great product begins with careful, conscious work in the soil. This is the foundation for Joe’s approach to vineyard management.
Joseph carries this perspective into the winery, where he applies minimal intervention to his winemaking. Over the last decade he refined these techniques as assistant winegrower at Porter Creek, a family-run estate in the Russian River Valley. He also worked as director of grower relations for Flowers Winery. This experience on both sides of the bottle gives Joe the mentality of a European vigneron.
The road to wine was circuitous for Joseph. He went to a theater conservatory in New York and discovered wine while working in restaurants during that time. Looking back, Joseph credits a handful of sommeliers with opening his eyes to his true passion in life. We’re glad they did.
Chad Walsh Global Sales Director
Our Global Sales Director, Chad Walsh, grew up on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, where his father owned a couple of small restaurants, but it wasn’t until he had a “switch flipped” by a special Chablis while working at Charlie Palmer’s Aureole that he realized he wanted to become a sommelier.
After opening the new Aureole in that role, he later helmed all-American wine lists at The Dutch (“Restaurant of the Year” according to both New York Times and Eater, and Chad was named to Zagat’s “30 Under 30” in 2014 and Wine Enthusiast’s “40 Under 40” in 2015) and Michelin-starred Agern, with Noma co-founder Claus Meyer. He was named one of Food & Wine magazine’s Sommeliers of the Year in 2017 but was lured away from restaurants into the wholesale world by the venerable Skurnik family, where a market-facing role in the US portfolio was created for him.
He left only to take over as the US Portfolio Manager for T. Edward Wines & Spirits with its emphasis on family owned, minimal intervention wineries. It was a natural fit, and he went on to bring a broad set of new producers into, or back into, the conversation in markets like New York, Illinois, and California, including Ernest Vineyards.
Nicole Yasinsac Director of Hospitality
Nicole, a Sonoma County native, spent years honing her skills at Michelin-starred restaurants in San Francisco. Those varied and elevated hospitality skills are clearly demonstrated in her ability to craft the sophisticated experience guests can expect when visiting our new tasting lounge on the Healdsburg Plaza.
Her unwavering energy and attention to details that blend seamlessly into your experience, are vital to the success of Ernest's hospitality program. Nicole comes to Ernest after 5 years brilliantly running Hospitality and Events at our winemaking home of Grand Cru Custom Crush, for the over 15 brands.
When she's not fine-tuning the beauty that surrounds the next chapter of Ernest and Edaphos, Nicole loves spending time with her family and discovering new places to recommend to our guests throughout Sonoma wine country.
Paige Cole DTC & Digital Marketing Manager
Naomi McLeod Creative Director
Simplicity. Intention. Quality. Grace. All of these are touchstones for the Ernest brand, which means they all are ideals for which Creative Director Naomi McLeod will strive.
Naomi’s role is broad and wide; some of her everyday responsibilities include marketing, direct-to-consumer sales, tasting, fulfillment, and event creation and execution. She oversees our website and labels—the “look and feel” of the Ernest brand in every form. Naomi also is in charge of developing partnerships with other wineries to further engage the community.
The New Mexico native certainly has the chops to do great things; some of her previous gigs include sales director for a lighting company, event coordinator at several restaurants (including the now-shuttered SHED), and wine marketer. She also is an artist, and displays her work on a regular basis.
Eugenio Jardim Brand Ambassador
In many ways, Eugenio (pronounced you-JEN-yo) has played a critical role in the development of Ernest Vineyards. As wine director at Eos, a popular Wine Bar in the Cole Valley neighborhood of San Francisco, Eugenio introduced Todd to American pinot noir—a discovery that changed Todd’s life. Years later, the duo reconnected randomly at Jardiniere, where Eugenio was running the wine program; that time, Eugenio opened Todd’s mind to big, Burgundian reds.
Finally, in 2013, Todd and Erin convinced Eugenio to join them at the winery of their dreams, and he’s been brand ambassador ever since. On a day-to-day basis, that means Eugenio is the face of the brand, meeting with customers to answer questions and selling wine directly to restaurants. The native of Brazil wouldn’t have it any other way. “Todd and Erin are examples of people who don’t stop until they achieve something special, and I’ve been taken by their commitment to excellence,” he says. “In that case, we all win.”
Mark Malpiede Senior Advisor
Mark brings a wealth of knowledge, experience, and strategic forethought to the Ernest team. He was living in Boston when he first visited California wine country in 1991 and quickly fell in love with the area and, especially, the wine. A short six months later he moved to the Bay Area and joined a small direct marketing agency working with companies as diverse as Starbucks, Warner Brothers and Microsoft. He continued to feel the lure of wine however, and ultimately realized he needed hands-on experience to make a career move.
After working at a large wine company in Napa for a year, he joined the famed Williams Selyem Winery, acting as a guiding hand for the brand’s phenomenal growth: managing strategy and planning, marketing, hospitality, and all domestic and international sales. In his rare spare time, Mark’s inspirational leadership is an integral part of the Board of Directors of the Sonoma County Vintners and he is currently serving as President of the Sonoma County Vintners Foundation.
In the Fall of 2022 Mark and Erin met for a casual coffee, which turned into a serious conversation about joining Ernest Vineyards. Moved by the Ernest story and Erin’s passion, and discussing the future plans for the winery, he was convinced that joining the team would be a great next chapter in the growth of Ernest and his storied career. We’re honored to have him as a part of the team.
Ernest Vineyards has partnered to build one of the most sophisticated production facilities in Wine Country today. Located in northern Sonoma County, this winery represents the next phase for crush facilities—a facility for like-minded small producers to have access to the absolute best in production equipment combined with tasting rooms and event space for our guests. Opened in 2017, we call it Grand Cru.
Think of our Grand Cru like a cooperative; each of the brands have access to private barrel rooms, on-site hospitality, state-of-the-art technology, and a shared facility for hosting club events. Capacity for the facility is about 700 tons, which means we work with a select handful other brands. We selected these brands carefully; to qualify for consideration, wineries must make a minimum of 100 tons per year and must come with their own winemakers.