Modus Operandi Cellars’ New Releases

USA, California, Napa Valley

Modus Operandi Cellars’ New Releases

Dallas born and raised, the son of a carpenter, and trained in real estate—not your typical wealthy Napa Valley vintner’s background. But then, Jason Moore isn’t your run-of-the-mill winemaker.

Smooth Operator

“My parents weren’t into wine, so it wasn’t part of my dinner table growing up,” Jason told me. “Working in Dallas restaurants at that early age, the somms saw that I was interested in wine, so they took me under their wing and exposed me to a ton of amazing wines of the world. I was tasting first growth Bordeaux, grand cru Burgundy, grower Champagne, cult Cabs, etc. That interest really blossomed into a passion for wine. I went on to do real estate in my early 20’s, but after only about a year or so, my girlfriend at the time (his wife now, Angelica) gently informed me that I was terrible at real estate and should figure out what I was passionate about and try to create a career with that. She mentioned wine, and that’s when the lightbulb flipped on. I wanted to be a winemaker. Back then, wines like Pride Mountain and Shafer really made my eyes roll back in my head. Napa was wine Mecca for me. I remember my first trip out to see if it was a place I truly wanted to be. I still recall the pure and almost emotional joy I felt arriving here and seeing the iconic wineries and vineyards I’d been tasting and learning about. I knew right then I had to be a part of it. I was so young and naive at the time (24) that I didn’t realize how deep the waters were that I was attempting to jump into.”

About six months later, Jason and Angelica had a three-week-long garage sale, loaded up their car with whatever was left, and moved to California to pursue the dream. Jason didn’t have a promise of a job or even know anything about making wine, only that he loved it.

"I realized then that winemaking is an art form that is supported by science."

“Well, I initially moved to Davis, CA, with the intention of going to UC Davis for their winemaking school. But after a few months there, talking to and getting to know some of the students already in the program, I realized that Davis wasn’t going to be a good fit. It was to theory-based for my learning style. I’m a lot like my dad, more of a tradesman. So, I did my own self-study and found mentors who allowed me to ask questions and spend time learning in their wineries. Soon, I realized that if you were to ask 100 winemakers how to make wine, you could easily get 200 or more different answers. I realized then that winemaking is an art form that is supported by science. This is how I came up with the name, Modus Operandi, Latin for method of operation, or the way in which one operates. I figured that I was cherry-picking the best bits of knowledge from all these winemaking mentors, creating my own method of operation. Winemaking is largely a feeling for me. To succeed, I think you need common sense, intuition, and ultimately experience.”

After making wine for a few years in a garage in Napa, Jason’s first commercial vintage was 2004. Today, Jason produces more than a dozen different labels from top vineyards around Napa Valley and Sonoma County. 

“I’m still not very well known and don’t have my own estate vineyard, so I search out established vineyards that have their own gravitas and recognition in the marketplace. These are vineyards that really care about their name and reputation as much as I do my own. Our initial conversations between myself and the grower are very similar to ‘what are your intentions with my daughter’ conversations. I literally have to send in barrel samples every year to a few of my growers so they can have their panel of tasters determine if what I made was good enough for them to allow me to put their vineyard name on the bottle. I love that. These people really care about what they are growing, and it shows with the farming of their vineyards. My goal is to make them look good. It’s a win/win.”

"I have 100% fallen head over heels in love with Pinot Noir."

Relatively new to Jason’s Bordeaux variety portfolio are a collection of single vineyard Pinot Noirs from Sonoma. 

“When I first moved out here, I hated Pinot Noir. But, as I grow in my own wine life, I have 100% fallen head over heels in love with Pinot and am so blessed to make wine from some of the greatest vineyards in Sonoma. Silver Eagle, Gap’s Crown, UV-Laguna, and Bacigalupi are my current sources.”

The timing of bringing Pinot Noir into the fold is fortuitous. Like many reputable winemakers in Napa, Jason opted not to make any 2020 Bordeaux varieties red wines due to potential smoke taint issues. The earlier bottled Pinot Noirs from 2021 (stunning wines, BTW) make for a great portfolio stop-gap until the 2021 Bordeaux reds are ready for bottling.

“I’m also highly focused on building my Vicarious Wines brand right now,” added Jason. “I aim to be in 20 or more states in the next couple of years and more as time goes on. I feel like Vicarious is such a great tool to get wine-interested people into my ethos for a great price to quality experience plus a ton of educational entertainment around the wines, then nurture them and have them grow into the more serious single vineyard and experimental lots in the Modus lineup of wines. As a blue-collar guy, I really want to have a lineup of wines in which just about anyone can find something that makes sense for them, from the novice looking to explore and learn to the serious collector and enthusiast.”

For those that love creatively crafted, truly artisanal Napa and Sonoma wines at sensible prices for the high level of quality, I can’t recommend Modus Operandi highly enough.

Article & Reviews by Lisa Perrotti-Brown MW
Photos by Johan Berglund