Emily Towe: The Mother of Naughty Goblins

The first time I met Emily and Jody Towe of J°Brix was also the first time I tasted my first natural wine. They had brought their 2015 “Coucou” Counoise to The Rose for us to try, and the wine earned a placement on our shelves. The grapes were grown in San Diego County (still are!), and the wine was made at the Towe’s communal facility in Escondido. Appropriately, “coucou” is a casual French term for “hello” or “hey there!”. It was with this greeting that I became forever committed to low-intervention wines.  

The Towes became sweethearts during their high school years when they met each other working at a yogurt shop. Now, with two children and over two decades of marriage under their belts, their wines reflect a lifetime of partnership. After falling in love with Pinot Noir grapes from Santa Barbara’s Bien Nacido Vineyard, they caught the wine bug, and with the help of friends, bottled their first vintage in 2009. Since then, J°Brix has earned recognition from the New York Times for their “Cobolorum” Riesling Pet Nat and have traveled all over the country to pour their lineup. 

For the last three and a half years, the winery has been Emily’s sole gig. When Jody can’t take a break from his full-time job, Emily is the face of J°Brix at festivals and wine tastings. She is the official co-winemaker, and the whimsical notes found on the back labels are written by her. Each vintage has a story, and Emily uses her background in creative writing and English to evoke an emotional connection to the drinker. She seeks to share the feelings she and Jody experience at the moment of harvest, during sunrise in the vineyard or when things go awry. 

Illustration by Kori Callu

Their pet nat named Cobolorum, Latin for “goblin”, is a perfect example of the translation from moment to word. Each vintage, something unexpected inevitably happens with J°Brix’s naughty goblin, so the riesling keeps its moniker year after year. The most extreme instance of mischief was when the 2017 Cobolorum couldn’t be made at all due to an issue at the winery. However, Emily says the 2019 goblin is behaving well this year, so we should expect to enjoy it this spring.

If you ask Emily if she experiences any pushback as a female in the industry, she’ll likely shrug it off and diminish its impact on her. She acknowledges that most people direct their questions to Jody and that she’s had to defend her credibility to dubious, male know-it-alls, but it doesn’t appear to phase her. Her confidence as someone who intimately knows her wine, the grapes and the land from whence they came is obvious from the start. 

Spotting the J°Brix table at festivals is easy. Just look for Jody who towers above everyone else in the building. Once you make it to the table, you’ll have to wade through a few people before you will see Emily’s tiny form pouring delicious juice to eager drinkers. If he’s not there, you’ll have to look a little harder. If you want to know specifics about the wine, ask Emily! But remember, J°Brix is a team, and their wine is made with a love that started with yogurt way back in the twentieth century. 

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