Meet Our Winemakers
Kestutis “Gus” Vizgirda believes that the secret of good winemaking begins in the vineyard. That’s why throughout the growing season you will find him touring the rows of varietals and envisioning the kinds of wines he will produce from the harvest. A first generation American whose parents emigrated from Lithuania in 1949, Vizgirda grew up in a small farming community along the Fox River in Illinois.
“I grew up in a farming culture where growing things and producing food was a natural part of life. I began getting interested in wines and winemaking while I was in the Air Force and stationed in Germany. I’d spend my days on leave touring wineries on the Rhine River and I decided that I wanted to become a winemaker.” After serving in the Air Force, Vizgirda moved to California and eventually settled in Temecula, where an emerging wine culture was forming what was to become Southern California Wine Country. He landed a job working at, what was then, The Culbertson Winery and began an apprenticeship with legendary local winemaker Jon McPhearson.
“I loved the process from the very beginning, and I was determined to learn wine making from the ground up.”
Through the next two decades, Vizgirda worked at several local wineries, working with some of the Valley’s best wine makers including Phil Baily, Mike Tingley, Steve Hagata and Joe Cherpin to refine his craft. Today, he has developed his own unique approach to making wine and has won gold medals for several of his varietals. He’s won Gold for “Best Viognier in the State”, and “Best Sauvignon in the State,” at the California State Competition.
He joined Wilson Creek as Winemaker in 2014, and is actively making his presence known with some delightful vintage wines. He is renowned for his “White Cabernet Sauvignon,” which is one of Wilson Creek’s most popular wines. In addition to serving as Wilson Creek Winemaker, Vizgirda teaches wine classes at Mt. San Jacinto College and San Diego State University Extended Studies campus. He is also a judge at several local and international wine competitions.
A lifelong resident of Southern California, Kristina Filippi grew up in the cradle of California’s winegrowing origins, the Cucamonga Valley. While attending college Kristina was hired to work in the winery tasting room at Joseph Filippi Winery in Rancho Cucamonga while she simultaneously attended Cal Poly Pomona and received a bachelor’s degree in Behavioral Science. It was during this time that she discovered her passion for wine and food pairing as well as the winemaking process. She soon enrolled in and graduated from the Le Cordon Bleu Culinary Arts program and went on to work at The Mission Inn Restaurant and Duane’s Prime Steaks and Seafood at the Historic Mission Inn in downtown Riverside.
While following her culinary aspirations, Kristina continued to work part time at the winery, and began to help with harvest cellar tasks whenever she could. In 2008, she was invited by the Filippi family to learn the winemaking process from the ground up and she jumped at the opportunity to turn her passion for wine into a career. She trained with enologist Tish Cooper and was advised by consultants Dr. Fred S. Nury, Emeritus Professor of Enology and Food Science at Cal State University Fresno, as well as retired winemaker and vintner Rene Biane. In the 10 years that she served as winemaker for Joseph Filippi Winery, she enjoyed working with grapes from vines that were over 100 years old, including Alicante Bouschet, Mission, Palomino, Pedro Ximenez, and Zinfandel varieties, as well as various varietals from younger vineyards, including Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and Petite Sirah. Old-world winemaking traditions have greatly influenced her style, focusing on the idea of “less is more” while taking care to preserve the true character and expression of each varietal and its terroir. Kristina’s wines have earned gold medals and 90+ ratings, a couple of which include Double Gold and Best in Class for her Petite Sirah, and her Super Tuscan style red blend, Velluto which earned 91 pts from Wine Enthusiast.
Kristina’s own family has viticultural roots in Southern California related to the San Gabriel Valley that reach back to 1784, and she moved here to Temecula in 2019 with hopes of getting in touch with those roots by learning more about the viticultural side of winemaking. Prior to joining us here at Wilson Creek, she spent the last two years working in and managing vineyards in Temecula. We are extremely excited to have her as a part of our team and we know she will create some amazing wines for our winery.