CATHERINE KISTLER

Some of my best memories as a kid are based in the excitement of harvest time: watching all the pickers’ headlamps move through the rows as they pick at night, stealing grapes out of bins with my sister, and tasting wine for the first time that I could say exactly where it came from. While my drive to excel at competitive ski racing took me to the east coast for many years, I always looked forward to returning home to apply that same dedication to making wine and to becoming a part of the excitement I grew up with.

I graduated from Harvard College in 2015 as a Joint Concentrator in the Classics and History. After graduating, I remained in Boston for two years to complete the Elizabeth Bishop Wine Certification course at Boston University and progressed through the WSET, completing a portion of the Diploma level. I initially set out with the goal of enrolling in the Master of Wine program, though I quickly realized after getting back to California that joining my father at Occidental needed to be my primary focus and so formal studies would have to wait. No one has all the answers for farming the cold, coastal headlands where we are growing pinot noir, so it’s exciting to be able to learn alongside my father.

Even during the years that I lived on the east coast, I always came home to help at harvest time and was a sponge around the winery and vineyards, picking up all that I could from my dad. Now that I am devoting all my time to Occidental, I’m learning more than I could have ever imagined about owning a business and what it takes to produce wines at a consistently high level as he has for four decades. Working at a small, family business means embracing all of the highs and lows, taking everything personally, and owning what you do. And that goes beyond just my immediate family – we have multiple generations of families working alongside us in the vineyards and cellar. It is an honor to work with those families, some of which have known my family for nearly thirty years. As I follow in my dad’s footsteps and work toward becoming a top international winemaker and wine businesswoman in my own right, I feel very lucky to be able to combine my curiosity and drive with my absolute love of the world of wine and food and the people in it. -CK

 

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