Kirk Lokka

Kirk Lokka


Over the course of a career spanning more than four decades, Kirk Lokka has earned a reputation as one of the most accomplished and respected vineyard managers in North America. As a partner at Emeritus Vineyards, and its vineyard manager, Kirk collaborated with longtime friend Brice Cutrer Jones to guide the planting of Hallberg Ranch and Pinot Hill. Prepared and designed with a level of meticulous detail and thoughtfulness worthy of grand cru vineyards, the Emeritus estate vineyards have emerged as two of the New World’s most revered sources for Pinot Noir. Kirk also spearheaded Emeritus’s innovative adoption of dry farming at both Hallberg Ranch and Pinot Hill—a visionary approach to farming California Pinot Noir that has further elevated the remarkable quality and character of these two acclaimed vineyards.

Kirk was born and raised in Sonoma, and at the age of eight he decided he wanted to be a farmer after riding the tractor at his grandfather’s farm. After receiving his degree in plant science from Fresno State University, Kirk worked on a large cotton farm in Corcoran, California. That job taught him two things, he didn’t want to grow cotton or work in the Central Valley. He moved home to Sonoma County and took a job as a foreman at Sonoma–Cutrer. During his 23-year career at Sonoma–Cutrer, where he was quickly promoted to vineyard manager, Kirk oversaw more than 1,200 acres of estate vineyards, including the planting of the acclaimed Vine Hill and Owsley Ranch vineyards. Throughout this period, Kirk also helped to found the Russian River Valley Winegrowers association, where he was a two-time president, and was also named the Sonoma County “Agri-Business Person of the Year” in 1997.

While at Sonoma–Cutrer, Kirk and its founder, Brice Cutrer Jones, became good friends. They discovered the Hallberg Ranch property in the mid-90s and coveted it until 1999, when Brice sold Sonoma–Cutrer and partnered with Kirk (and others) to acquire the land and found Emeritus Vineyards. Together, their goal was nothing short of establishing the finest Pinot Noir vineyard in California. Kirk oversaw the design and planting of Hallberg Ranch.

“As a vineyard manager, it is incredibly rare when you are given the perfect piece of land to plant a vineyard, and all of the resources necessary to do it exactly the way you know it should be done,” says Kirk. In developing Hallberg Ranch, Kirk and Brice took inspiration and wisdom from their friends in Burgundy, and planted with close spacing and classic Burgundian vine-training methods. Joining Kirk at Emeritus were several members of his old vineyard crew, who form the core of Emeritus’s acclaimed full-time vineyard team.

In 2007, Kirk and his team oversaw the transition to dry farming at Hallberg Ranch. This approach to farming Pinot Noir in Sonoma County has helped to establish Emeritus Vineyards as a viticultural leader. The following year, Kirk began planting Pinot Hill, a smaller estate vineyard located in the Sebastopol Hills. Today, these two vineyards combine to give Emeritus over 140 acres of Pinot Noir, making Emeritus the largest dry-farmed Pinot Noir estate in Sonoma County, and possibly in all of California. In acknowledgment of his pioneering work at Emeritus, Kirk was honored as the “Sonoma County Grower of the Year” by the Sonoma County Winegrowers association in 2017.

Kirk lives on Hallberg Ranch with his wife. He raises sheep and goats at his house and runs the sheep in the vineyard to mow and fertilize. A firm believer in passing on his knowledge to future generations of Sonoma County farmers, Kirk is an avid supporter of 4-H clubs and wine country ag programs.