Kristy Melton

Kristy Melton

Freemark Abbey Winery (Head Winemaker)

Varozza Vineyards (Consulting Winemaker)

Kristy Melton, a native of El Paso, Texas, had a childhood that was immersed in agriculture that resulted in her developing a love for the land and animals at a young age. Her passions were riding horses, raising sheep, goats, and geese, and tending a garden. Her interest in livestock led her to enroll at Angelo State University in San Angelo, TX, with a major in Animal Science. A serious illness after her first semester prompted Kristy to add a major in Biology when she returned to school, earning her a B.S. degree with a double major.

Her passion for science and medical research led her on a path to the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland as a research scientist. Living in metropolitan DC is an expensive undertaking, so she supplemented her income by bartending and working at a Maryland winery. This brought her into contact with food and wine aficionados and piqued her interest in both. A family trip to Napa Valley brought the realization of the science that underlies winemaking and inspired her to trade in her lab coat for a wine thief.

A year later, Kristy was enrolled at the University of California, Davis, where she earned her M.S. in Viticulture & Enology in 2007. She then held coveted internships at Russian River’s Iron Horse Vineyards and Seresin Estate in Marlborough, New Zealand. She returned to California in 2008, joining Saintsbury winery where, in addition to her responsibilities in research and analysis, she contributed her winemaking talents to their famed Pinot Noir, Syrah, and Chardonnay programs. Subsequently, she was appointed as Clos Du Val’s assistant winemaker in 2010, was promoted to winemaker in 2012, and then Director of Winemaking. Simultaneously, she was also consulting winemaker for Varozza Vineyards, Taylor Family Wines, and United Republic of Wine. While at Clos Du Val, Kristy was named to Wine Enthusiast Magazine’s “Top 40 Under 40 Tastemakers” and Drinks Business’s “Top 30 Under 40 Winemakers in the World.”

Kristy joined the team at Jackson Family Wines in 2016. She made wines under the Bootleg, Fortress, Liberated, Atalon, and Kendall-Jackson brands. As of January 2020, she became head winemaker for Freemark Abbey Winery. She is the first female winemaker at Freemark since its founding in 1886 by Josephine Tychson, one of the first female winery owners in California! She leverages her meticulous attention to detail to craft wines of structure, finesse, and balance.

A travel, food, and wine aficionado, Kristy lives in Napa.