Jeff began his career at Chateau St. Jean, under the tutelage of renowned vintner Richard Arrowood, who Jeff credits with teaching him the importance of being as passionate about growing the grapes as making the wine. While at Chateau St. Jean, Jeff was part of the winemaking team responsible for the winery’s celebrated 1996 Cinq Cepages, which was named Wine of the Year by Wine Spectator Magazine. Jeff Gaffner made 210 cases the first year after leaving Chateau St. Jean where he spent 15 years. At Chateau St. Jean he started out as a cellar rat, rising to enologist before leaving in 1997 to become operations manager for Beringer. He started Saxon Brown while at Beringer. Saxon Brown is now thriving, and Jeff has to laugh about the old days. Besides Pinot Noir, he makes a Semillon (from Alexander Valley) and Zinfandels (from Sonoma Valley), for a total of 2,500 cases annually.In the years since, Jeff has become one of the most sought after winemakers for artisan labels, having gained critical acclaim and a loyal following for his site-specific focus and restrained winemaking style. The Wall Street Journal has said that they “love his vineyard voice”, while the Wine Spectator has lauded his winemaking as “deft”.
Jeff launched Saxon Brown to focus on small single vineyard botttlings reflecting his preference for elegantly structured, well balanced and age worthy wines. Over time, Jeff expanded Saxon Brown’s vineyard-focus with small offerings from both established and emerging vineyard sites, including Durell, Gap’s Crown, Glass House and Roberts Road (Sonoma Coast), Hyde (Carneros-Napa), Green Acres (Carneros-Sonoma), Ferrington (Anderson Valley) and Rosella’s (Santa Lucia Highlands) vineyards.
In addition to Saxon Brown, Jeff enjoys critical acclaim as consulting winemaker for artisan labels including Xtant (Napa Valley), Stephanie by Hestan (Napa Valley), Black Kite Cellars (Anderson Valley) and Ram’s Gate Winery (Carneros).