J. Christopher is owned by Ernst “Erni” Loosen, the internationally acclaimed winemaker behind Germany’s Dr. Loosen and Villa Wolf estates. Erni has a lifelong passion for Pinot Noir, and he recognized in the early 1990s that there was something very special going on here in Oregon’s Willamette Valley. He became an avid collector of Oregon Pinot Noir, visiting the state often and establishing his U.S. import company here in 2003.
Erni was particularly drawn to the wines of J. Christopher. Here, he saw, was a New World wine made in the unhurried Old World style with finesse, a clear expression of terroir, and excellent aging potential. A collaboration soon followed with a finely selected, high-end Pinot that Erni named Appassionata, after the Beethoven piano sonata. A few vintages later, Erni cemented his investment in Oregon by purchasing 40 acres on Chehalem Mountain in Newberg, planting the Appassionata Vineyard, and building the winery where we continue to produce Appassionata and J. Christopher wines today.
Over the last decade, J. Christopher has earned international acclaim and has been named a Wine & Spirits World Top 100 Winery in multiple years. Today, under the experienced hand of winemaker Timothy Malone, our Pinot Noirs, Sauvignon Blancs, Chardonnays, Rosés and Rieslings continue to showcase the Old-World style that first attracted Erni to J. Christopher – a style that Erni has always maintained in his German wines. It’s a patient approach to winemaking that gives each wine the opportunity to fully express where it comes from, whether it’s the Old World or the New. We hope you’ll come visit the J. Christopher tasting room and garden patio to enjoy a glass or two.
Meet the Team
ERNST LOOSEN, OWNER
“A great wine begins in your head.” So goes the philosophy of Ernst “Erni” Loosen, owner of the J. Christopher winery in Oregon’s Willamette valley and the 200-year-old Dr. Loosen winery in Germany’s Mosel River valley. To Erni’s mind, a great wine should be true to its roots, vividly expressing its grape variety, geography, soil and climate. In Germany, Erni raised his family estate to near cult status by adhering to this clear vision – the same vision that guides the winemaking at J. Christopher.
Driven by an insatiable curiosity about wine, Erni loves to start new projects in new places. In 1996, following his passion for Pinot Noir, he took on the Villa Wolf winery in Germany’s Pfalz region, where the warmer climate would allow him to make Pinot for the first time. (Incidentally, 1996 is the same year that J. Christopher produced its first Pinot.) Three years later, his friendships in the Pacific Northwest led to his first U.S. winemaking venture: the high-end Eroica Riesling, which he makes in collaboration with Washington’s Chateau Ste. Michelle. Named after a Beethoven symphony, Eroica celebrated its 20th vintage in 2019.
With Eroica in Washington and a U.S. import business based in Oregon, Erni soon had both feet planted firmly in the Pacific Northwest. It wouldn’t be long before he planted vineyards here, as well. In 2005, he launched his first Oregon winemaking venture, a high-end Pinot Noir cuvée made in collaboration with J. Christopher. For this passion project, he looked to Beethoven once again and found a fitting name: Appassionata. In 2009, Erni followed his passion to its inevitable conclusion, purchasing 40 acres in the Chehalem Mountains, planting the Appassionata Vineyard, and building the winery where both J. Christopher and Appassionata wines are made today.
Under Erni’s leadership, recognition for J. Christopher wines has grown worldwide. At J. Christopher, as in all of his ventures, Erni emphasizes sustainable farming and gentle cellar practices to allow each wine to develop naturally to its full potential. The result: wines that represent the best possible expression of their grape variety from the place where they’re grown.
TIMOTHY MALONE, HEAD OF WINEMAKING AND VITICULTURE
Tim has been elbow-deep in our wines for years. A native New Yorker, he sold J. Christopher wines for a high-end East Coast distributor before we lured him west in 2006 with an offer of harvest work and learning opportunities. Over the next couple of years, he learned from some of the best, including Cameron Winery in Dundee and Flowers Vineyards & Winery in Sonoma, before joining us full time as our assistant winemaker. Tim helped drive every aspect of our winemaking from 2008 until 2015, when he left to focus on his own label, Timothy Malone Wines. Happily, we lured him back as our head winemaker in 2020. Today, it’s a best-of-both-worlds story as Tim directs the J. Christopher and Appassionata production and continues to produce his own brand at the J. Christopher winery.
As much as he loves wine, Tim’s first love was music. A graduate of the Berklee College of Music in Boston, he finds that many of the lessons he learned in his pursuit of music also apply to winemaking. “I was a self-taught bass player as a kid,” he says, “and then I went hard core into getting properly trained. It became very technical, but after a while, it grew kind of stale.”
Ever since then, says Tim, “I’ve been trying to return to that earlier sense of amazement, mystery and wow.” At J. Christopher, Tim maintains the wow in his winemaking by trusting his senses. “To make really good wine, you have to use your nose, to listen to the fermentation, to watch the wine’s progression, to hold your hands over the pumice,” says Tim. “The sensory has to take priority over the purely technical.”
Years ago, you might have heard Tim play his bass in the winery or around town. He hopes to find time for that again. Until then, “I still keep a guitar and ukulele around and play for my kids,” he says, “but these days, it’s pretty much wine and kids, and a little exercise when I can get it.”
General business and financial management for the winery are provided by the executive team of Erni’s Oregon-based import company, Loosen Bros. USA: Kirk Wille, President and David Yang, Executive Vice President of Sales.