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Meet the Founders

Meet the Founder: Jerry Lohr of J. Lohr Vineyards & Wines

Jerry Lohr on the farm

Jerry Lohr is a farmer at heart who also happens to have a passion for winemaking. Founded in the early 1970s, J. Lohr Vineyards & Wines blends tradition, experience, and innovation to produce some of California’s most beloved bottles.

J. Lohr began with 280 acres of grapes in Monterey County. Today, their San Jose-based empire spans over 2,000 acres with exceptional vines of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and more. Much has changed over the years, but the family-owned business continues to deliver complex flavor profiles at a palatable price point.

Recently, we caught up with Jerry to learn more about his journey and hear his advice for fellow entrepreneurs.

Lohr Family

1. Why did you start J. Lohr Vineyard & Wines?

After a successful career in civil engineering and Bay Area home development in the late 1960s, I wanted to return to my farming roots. Growing up on the Lohr family farm in South Dakota, I had learned the value of carefully matching site and climate to specific crops. I was interested in translating my interest in fine wine to the science and the art of winegrowing. I began researching potential new wine grape growing areas on the Central Coast. I planted our first vineyards in Monterey County in 1972. And in Paso Robles in 1986. Today, both Monterey and Paso Robles have become recognized as world-class winegrowing regions.    

2. What obstacles did you face along the way?

Besides the normal infrastructure and financial challenges of starting a new company, the initial learning curve for wine grape farming in Monterey and Paso Robles was very steep. Unlike France or Italy where you have thousands of years of accumulated knowledge, on the Central Coast, for the most part, there was no track record. We and a few other producers were having to “write the book” as we went along. This year marks J. Lohr’s 50th anniversary – I am very proud that we have maintained our reputation for quality on all vintages, are still family owned, and continue to supply our loyal customers with fine wines that we grow, craft, cellar, and bottle ourselves. 

Meet the Founder Jerry Lohr on the farm

3. What lessons do you have for other entrepreneurs?

Invest in people! Over our first 50 years, J. Lohr has been very fortunate to hire some of the wine industry’s very best and brightest. Many of our J. Lohr vineyards staff, winemakers, and cellar, warehouse, and office associates have been with us for decades. There is no substitute for the kind of caring, successful, sustainable team effort that comes from having the right people in the right positions.

4. What’s on the horizon for J. Lohr Vineyards & Wines?

I am very happy that my three children are fully involved in every aspect of J. Lohr and are leading us into our next fifty years. Steve, Cynthia, and Lawrence have grown up in our family wine business; they’re now bringing their own ideas and expertise to continue the story – to add their own chapters to our history as sustainable winegrowers and our role as one of America’s most trusted fine wine labels.  

Meet the Founder: Jerry Lohr

5. How do you keep work/life balance? What drives/inspires you?

There is always something new. That’s the fun part of the wine business. There is always some new innovation to explore or some traditional method to revisit – all in the constant effort to continuously improve quality. We are sustainable farmers first – every growing season, every vintage is different. Mother Nature always keeps you on your toes! That is the common denominator, reaching all the way back to my childhood on the family farm in South Dakota through to our beautiful J. Lohr estate vineyards today. 

Meet the Founder