The path of a winemaker
through creativity and nature
Ernst grew up in South Africa and spent the last of his teenage years in a town called Hermanus which is in the Western Cape. Known as the appellation of Walker Bay, this region has a cool maritime climate where Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay ripens perfectly. Growing up within this booming wine country, Ernst was always aware of the rewards of the land, and the successes that could be found because of it.
After graduation, Ernst spent a year working in Britain and Europe trying to figure out what he was going to do with his life. In the back of his mind, he knew that he wanted to find a way to be creative and work with nature. His brother, Hannes, was studying wine at the time and it just felt right to pursue winemaking. Ernst completed his studies at the Elsenburg Agricultural School outside the town of Stellenbosch in the Western Cape. At the time they accepted only the top 20 students from the second year to continue into the third year which was spent in the winery on campus. After completing his third year, he worked as winemaker at a winery called Amani in South Africa under the guidance of Rod Easthope, a New Zealand winemaker now at Craggy Range. He also consulted on a few small project with his brother, who is now at Hamilton Russell in the Walker Bay Appellation.
After a year, Ernst wanted to experience a Northern Hemisphere harvest and took a job in the Sierra Foothills. He spent two years working in this warmer climate—learning a lot about how to deal with higher pH wines and keep the wines stable. Having come from a cool climate region, he longed to make more balanced wines from Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc. He went searching again. Ernst found Santa Barbara County and fell in love with it. The Mediterranean climate shares many similarities with that of the Western Cape. Diverse soils and mesoclimates within the county make it a region with endless possibilities. Ernst worked at Firestone for three years, which proved to be a great learning experience. He worked with bigger lots and did plenty of experimentation with Sauvignon Blanc and other varietals. After several years, Ernst became involved in the winemaking at Curtis Winery, and has been with them since 2008.