Jim tonjum. Winemaker. Solo long distance ocean saiLoR. believer in better pinot noir.


My growing up years provided a solid small town Southern Illinois upbringing by parents who both worked.  After earning an undergraduate tech degree at the University of Illinois, it was off to the U.S Navy for 4 years, fulfilling my obligation under the NROTC scholarship program which had provided for my education.

It was from small town Illinois to the amazing food and wines of Europe and the European life style during a two year assignment in Sicily while serving in the Navy. Little did I know it was all preparation for the amazing adventure of wine in the Napa Valley. 

A search for new horizons after my Naval Service, brought me to San Francisco in 1973.  An employment ad that turned out to be in the California Wine Business was my start.  By 1975 Napa Valley was my home and Beringer was my good fortune for what became a 20+ year odyssey of experience in all aspects of wine and the wine business.

After enjoying a retirement that included a long distance solo Ocean Sailing adventure, having my own wine began to exert its appeal. Jim Tonjum Cellars was launched in 2005.

Nine successive years of my own wine, Cabernet Sauvingnon from Paso Robles and then Pinot Noir from Monterey County has followed.  This experience confirms what for me is the most important wine truth.  Each varietal has its own set of genes that respond to the surrounding climate of that spot on the earth in which it is planted. In other words, some places are better than others. 

I believe in better Pinot Noir because:  1) It is known that Pinot Noir prefers a cooler climate because it allows the vine the time to develop the luscious flavors in concert with the rising sugar level in the fruit.  Climates with more sunshine energy push the sugar up too fast for the flavor elements to develop  before the sugar level requires harvest. Monterey County is considered by most to be one of the really appropriate areas for the Pinot Noir varietal.

2) My second reason to believe in better Pinot Noir is that the wine be 100% Pinot Noir and 100% made from Pinot Noir grapes grown in climates appropriate for its fruit development.  The Pinot Noir Vine is very sensitive to heat summation and it is unique in its ability to develop those luscious flavors yet retain a certain lightness on the palate.

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