Meet Jeff Runquist, Winemaker

What first struck me when I met Jeff Runquist was his quiet, focused intensity. And then that glint of wry humor peeks out and you realize you are in for a memorable time, be it dinner under the arbor with his gracious wife, Margie, or a tasting in his Amador tasting room.

Jeff brings that same concentration and humanity to his winemaking, and you can taste it: Complex flavors that dance with each other, leading to the next, never overstepping, and finally ending with a smile on your face.

Jeff Runquist’s route to being a premier Amador winemaker is also reminiscent of a dance; twirling and moving through the paces of his career, ending up back where it all started.Graduating in 1980 from UC Davis’ enology program, Jeff began his journey working in the cellar at Montevina in Amador County. Showing obvious talent and aptitude, he was promoted to winemaker within two years. However, by 1987 Jeff wanted to venture outside Amador and spent the next three years at the Napa Valley Cooperative Winery. In 1990, he became the winemaker for the renowned J. Lohr Winery in San Jose. During his time at J. Lohr, he received his MBA from the Leavey School of Business at Santa Clara University.

Armed with extensive winemaking experience and a business degree, Jeff decided it was time to venture into making wine under his own label.

In 1997, befitting his sense of humor, Jeff Runquist released his first wine under the Runquist label…on April 1st. With a nod to his beginnings, Jeff made 700 cases of Amador-sourced Massoni Ranch Zinfandel.

It was at this time that Jeff met Ron McManis and the two were soon collaborating on the design and construction of the McManis Family Vineyards winery in Ripon. Upon completion, Jeff was designated the senior winemaker. He continued to expand and produce his own wines, and during this time earned notable accolades, including Winemaker of the Year from Dan Berger in 2003, the Andre Tchelistcheff award as the Winemaker of the Year from the San Francisco International Wine Competition in 2009, and three-time winner of the Golden Bear Award at the California State Fair Wine Competition.

Although he stayed with McManis Family Vineyards until 2011, Jeff still yearned for a winery of his own. Once again, Jeff felt himself drawn to the county that first ignited his winemaking talents: Amador. In 2006, Jeff Runquist both married his lovely partner, Margie, and married the local wine region with the purchase of 5-acres on Shenandoah Road.  In the spring of 2007, Jeff and Margie broke ground and a year later opened Runquist Wines and their tasting room. With production facilities completed, Jeff and Margie can be seen each season doing punch-downs, ascertaining blends…and sharing a bottle of Runquist wine under the arbor. Take a bow, Jeff. It is wonderful to have you, and your winery, here at home, in Amador.


Deirdre Mueller

Amador Gold