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World-Class Leadership Team Takes the Reins at Sullivan Rutherford Estate

Posted on May 21, 2020

(May 21, 2020; Rutherford, Calif.)—Sullivan Rutherford Estate is pleased to announce the latest developments at the historic Napa Valley estate, founded in 1972. Since acquiring the property in early-2018, Juan Pablo Torres Padilla, Managing Partner, has quietly assembled one of the valley’s most impressive leadership groups, which includes General Manager Joshua Lowell, Estate Director Lisa Barker-Mullen, Vineyard Manager Mike Wolf and National Sales Director Daniel Horsch. Jeff Cole, who joined as winemaker in 2013 under the tutelage of Scott McLeod, continues as winemaker. Together, with this world-class winery team, Juan Pablo endeavors to further elevate a nearly five-decade foundation of hard work by creating unique experiences that allow people to connect through shared passions. Their mission: to be at the forefront of innovation and quality in vineyards, produce memorable wines and experiences, while staying authentic to the classical winemaking traditions.

Born in Mexico City, educated in France and in the USA, Juan Pablo’s career in both the telecom and artificial intelligence software industries spanned from investment analysis and international sales, to Chairman and CEO. As a lover of wine, in France he made hundreds of visits to Burgundy, Champagne and Bordeaux, occasionally working harvests in the vineyard and cellar. During this time, he got to know many producers including Olivier Leflaive in Burgundy, Joseph Henriot in Champagne, and Daniel and Florence Cathiard in Bordeaux, owners of Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte in the Pessac-Léognan appellation. The idea of turning a lifelong passion into a profession came in 2006, during a memorable trip to Domaine de la Romanée Conti in Burgundy with co-owner Aubert de Villaine. After spending nearly a decade visiting wine regions in France and California, including multiple trips to the Napa Valley, where he toured over 120 wineries, he was convinced that "no other place in the world can match Napa Valley’s combination of history, world-class winemaking, passion, pioneering spirit, leadership and unique infrastructure, along with the U.S. culture and fervor for entrepreneurship, disruptive innovation, opportunity and ambition.” Visiting Sullivan Rutherford Estate in 2016, Juan Pablo recognized the vineyard was already producing excellent wines under the direction of winemaker Jeff Cole, yet it was clear there was greater potential. This potential, coupled with the rich history and beauty of the estate, guides his vision.

After acquiring the Sullivan estate in early 2018, Juan Pablo first looked to hire professional leadership, and after several months of searching, Joshua Lowell joined the endeavor as General Manager, bringing more than 20 years of experience leading top-tier Napa Valley brands. Most recently at Aubert Wines where he served as General Manager, Joshua helped position the winery, entering its third decade, to be a premiere producer of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir in California.  This work included the construction of new winemaking facilities, the development of two new estate vineyards, the assembly of a new production team, and upgrading its sales and marketing systems. Prior to that, as General Manager for 10 years at Futo Wines, Joshua led the development of every single aspect of the new project: from the estate’s vineyards in Oakville and Stags Leap District, to creating the brand identity and commercial strategies. There, he also had the opportunity to work alongside renowned architect Howard Backen in designing a state-of-the-art winery.

Under the tutelage of Scott McLeod, Director of Winemaking, Jeff Cole joined Sullivan in 2013. Having previously worked at Schramsberg and J. Davies Vineyards, Jeff draws on a rich foundation combining the artistry of still winemaking with the technical precision of sparkling wines. In February of 2019, Jeff Cole presented an exclusive, five-case lot of 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon at Premier Napa Valley, which sold $30,000. In the June 2019 issue of Robb Report, he was named up-and-coming winemaker by editor Janice O’Leary, who stated, “if making a $500 bottle of wine is a kind of benchmark, Jeff Cole has just reached it.” She continues, “The estate’s top-tier reserve wine, James O’Neil, usually sells for about $250 per bottle, but even that Cab drinks like a more expensive example and is one of the best being made in the Rutherford AVA right now.”

Together, Juan Pablo, Joshua and Jeff set out to select a vineyard team to collaborate with in the endeavor of fine-tuning the world-class vineyards of the Estate. After intensive research and interviews, they selected famed Vineyard Manager Mike Wolf, named as “Grower of the Year” by Napa Valley Grape Growers in 2015. Mike and his crew, including rising star viticulturalist Caleb Mosley, began farming the property in September 2018.

Estate Director Lisa Barker-Mullen joined the team late 2018, bringing nearly two decades of experience in running top Napa Valley marketing programs. Prior to joining Juan Pablo’s endeavor, as Director of Marketing and Public Relations for Miner Family Winery she oversaw the winery’s branding and communication strategies. Additionally, she led business development through partnerships with corporations such as Riedel Crystal and the NHL, and event sponsorships with high-profile festivals and wine auctions in the country. As Sales & Communications Manager for Napa Valley’s luxury retailer Bounty Hunter Rare Wine, she developed campaigns for the world’s most prestigious wine brands and regions. She started her career in wine in 2001 at the iconic Inglenook Estate in Rutherford. At Sullivan Rutherford Estate she oversees private client sales, wholesale distribution and marketing initiatives, including the development of ambitious hospitality programs. She also steers the estate’s communication strategy and brand messaging. 

National Sales Manager Daniel Horsch joined Sullivan Rutherford Estate in June 2019 from Chateau Ste. Michelle Wine Estates, where he oversaw artisanal California brands such as Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars, as well as notable international producers including Antinori. He brings over three decades of experience in wine sales, management and distribution. Erin Callahan was brought on as Head of Consumer Sales & Marketing in March 2020 to oversee Sullivan’s Direct-to-Consumer Channels, including hospitality, wine club, e-commerce and telesales. She most recently spent six years at Artesa Vineyards & Winery, where she served as Direct Sales Manager and drove the entire sales program, from bottling to release. Rounding out the team is Membership Services Manager Allyson Chudnofsky, formerly at Pahlmeyer Winery.

“We’re building upon the foundation laid by James O’Neil Sullivan, and the estate he created during his lifetime. His deep commitment to the vineyards and dedication to winemaking presented us with a tremendous opportunity. We share his values of hard work, discipline, and the pursuit of excellence and I’m committed to making this estate the best in Rutherford, Napa Valley, and the world,” says Juan Pablo.

About Sullivan Rutherford Estate:

Situated in the heart of the Rutherford AVA, Sullivan Rutherford Estate has been Rutherford's Cabernet Sauvignon hideaway for over 45 years. The 26-acre estate is one of Rutherford’s prime sites and is known for producing high-quality, small quantities of Bordeaux varietals. Winemaker Jeff Cole is dedicated to crafting world-class wines that reflect a traditional style and his mastery of today's finest winemaking techniques. Sullivan produces a James O’Neil” reserve tier offering, produced from the top 5% of vineyard blocks on the estate. This includes a reserve Cabernet Sauvignon ($250), and a reserve Merlot ($250). Additional offerings include Estate Cabernet Sauvignon ($110), Coeur de Vigne ($90) Merlot ($65), Estate Chardonnay ($49) and Napa Valley Rosé ($34).

Region: Napa & Sonoma
Job Function: Winemaking, President/Owner/GM

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