A resident of Georgia for more than 20 years, John is an American-born winemaker who has played a major role in the renaissance of the country’s culinary and organic wine scene. Born into a family of artists in Santa Fe, New Mexico, John grew up farming vegetables, looking after chickens and sculpting in wax and clay. He went on to study art professionally at the Maryland Institute Collage of Art in Baltimore and then completed a Master’s degree in Painting at the Surikov Institute in Moscow, Russia.
In addition to visual art, John has always been interested in music and had a keen fascination with medieval and ancient folk music. When he heard Georgian polyphony for the first time on a recoding in 1991, John dreamed of going to Georgia to hear this eerily beautiful music. This dream was realised when John was invited in 1995 to Tbilisi. He returned and travelled through the wine region of Kakheti and bought a small home there in 1996. After graduating from the Surikov in 1998, John packed up and moved to his new home, dividing his time between making paintings and collecting folk songs in the countryside.
Over time, John became increasingly interested in the ethnic side of Georgian culinary traditions and wine. In 2006, with Gela Patalishvili, a renowned grape farmer, he founded Pheasant’s Tears winery, dedicated to the resurgence of lesser known ancient Georgian grape varieties, the qvevri method of fermenting wine and organic farming practices. Soon after their first vintage in 2007 they opened the Pheasant’s Tears restaurant in Sighnaghi and the famed Crazy Pomegranate at the winery. John went on to co-found Ghvino Underground, a natural wine bar in Azarphesha, and his latest project in Tbilisi, Poliphonia restaurant. In 2012 John co-founded Living Roots, a travel enterprise focused on wine, ethno-cuisine and its surrounding context.
John continues to follow his creativity whether it’s coming up with a new Cuvee, dreaming up new menus, painting the surrounding landscape or sharing his insights and discoveries of Georgia passionately with his guests.