Having grown up in Los Banos on a family farm surrounded by apple orchards, Johnson fell in love with wine while a student at Cal Poly. In 2007, he worked as a harvest intern for Talley Vineyards, and became winemaker for that pioneering winery in 2010. Ann Albert is his side project with his wife, Cait.
Did you have a wine epiphany moment? I feel like I have had so many wine epiphanies, but it definitely started with some Raveneau Les Clos that Brian Talley shared with me early on in my career. That’s when I knew what great chardonnay could become. I also remember when I was just 21 having a taste of Sine Qua Non, and the texture blew my mind. I never knew something so grand could be so silky smooth.
The greatest epiphany I have ever had, though, was more a conversation I had — while drinking wine, of course — with Frédéric Mugnier in Burgundy. He talked to me about the impact the vintner can have on a wine and kept saying, “You always achieve more when you do less.” Those words have stuck with me ever since. Doesn’t hurt that he makes some of the best red Burgundy in the world.
What’s Ann Albert all about? Ann Albert is a combination of my wife’s and my middle names — I’m the “Albert” and she’s the “Ann.” My wife, Cait, is very passionate about wine and has worked in the wine industry in the past. We love chardonnay, specifically Chablis, and we wanted to make chardonnay in that fresh, vibrant style that we love so much.
Where are you buying grapes? We are currently getting chardonnay from Bien Nacido Vineyard in Santa Maria Valley and Zotovich Vineyard in Sta. Rita Hills. We chose Bien Nacido because of the great site and old vines — our block was planted in 1973, and that is something that is very important to us. I have always been in love with Zotovich Vineyard because of its sandy soils. It’s like a beach out there, and it makes killer chardonnay.
In 2017, we brought on gamay from Martian Ranch & Vineyard. We are huge gamay fans, and Martian Ranch is the best vineyard around with gamay. We are lucky to have the opportunity to work with it.