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KW: It was purely by chance. I was just getting out of grad school, doing interviews, and ending up meeting with a series of companies that happened to be in the food and beverage industry. Of course, it wasn't completely by chance because I wanted to do something a little more connected to people. So, now, fast forward: I'd been married for twenty years, had three little kids, and was renting a house in Foster City — back in California again, after years of geology and then industry work around the country. This next transition is hard to describe, but I'm one of those people who was always thinking, "Why can't I find something to do that is really deeply meaningful?" There are so many people that, once they've done it, say "Boy, I'm so glad that I discovered and am doing what I love." So, I had an honest conversation with myself and realized that growing grapes and making wine was something that had always been on my mind. Still, to this day, I can't believe I'm sitting here telling this story, but I was essentially struck by a bolt of lightning: I realized that there was an unusual confluence of circumstances right here in the Bay Area. First off, the Santa Cruz Mountains, unbeknownst to many people, has historically been an amazing grape-growing region. For example, [it was the appellation that produced] the Ridge Montebello Cabernet that won the 1976 and then the 2006 repeat on the Paris Tasting. And that's in addition to a lot of other stellar local wineries, some of which have acclaim and some of which don't have acclaim but deserve it. So, I realized I was living here in Foster City looking up into these mountains with the great potential to grow grapes.
Secondly, we were in an area that was economically thriving at the time, with the whole dot-com boom. Lots and lots of people were building huge McMansions with their huge McTennisCourts and their McSwimmingPools, and they needed a McVineyard to go with their lives. On the side, I took every single class that UC Davis offered on an extension basis, to get the academic part of my grape-growing and winemaking training. And this was before I actually did anything with all that, other than simply having an idea. [After my training], I went on a couple of internships where I took two weeks off from my job and went to Napa for my vacation to work in different wineries, including a couple that were noteworthy. Then I came back and on the spur of a moment, I quit my job and bought a pickup truck… and created a website and a business card called Post & Trellis Inc. Its whole purpose was to design, install, and manage small, custom vineyards for private clients.
"The vineyards are beautiful, the fruit is amazing, and much of it is now going into award-winning vineyard-designated bottlings of La Honda."
NM: Was that the first point at which your experiences, skills, and interests converged?
KW: You got it. Right. There was a confluence of geography and wealth on the outside, and on the inside there was this love of being outdoors, the knowledge in geology, the experience of food and beverage, and the master's degree in business — and the pressure of having a small family but not wanting to get up every morning to put on a tie and do the grind. Little did I know that I was signing up for a bigger grind than I ever imagined! But, anyway, fast forward ten years: here we are in 2009 and there are 26 vineyards in the Post & Trellis Inc. farming company portfolio, designed and installed, and are currently under management. Early in 2004, I'd leased a winery space in Redwood City, hired and trained a crew to start helping me in the vineyards, and expanded to having a fleet of vehicles and a lot of equipment. The whole thing was evolving organically — pun intended — to a point that three, four, five years after the first vineyard was signed, the fruit was ripening and I needed to do something with it! The initial plan was just to either sell the fruit or to custom contract some local winery to make the wine for my clients. That was my original thinking, when all I was going to do was grow grapes for private clients by building these awesome, unlimited-budget vineyards on these incredible pieces of property in places like Atherton, Woodside, Los Altos Hills, Saratoga, Sunnyvale, and Cupertino. And it all came true: these vineyards are beautiful, the fruit is amazing, and much of it is now going into award-winning vineyard-designated bottlings of La Honda.
But my original thinking, once again, evolved into something new: actually making the wine from that fruit. It happened when I met my business partner, Don Modica (of Modica Landscaping next door). He came to me because he wanted a vineyard on his property in the small town where he lives, which is… La Honda. So, together we figured that he needed a better showroom for all of his stone and timber work, and I wanted to take the next step and build a winery — where I could exclusively accommodate all of the fruit that's coming out of these private clients' vineyards and offer them not only winemaking but private label bottling.