Last Updated on November 9, 2023 by nicole
Meet Chris Kenefick, the CEO and Second Generation Proprietor of Kenefick Ranch Vineyard & Winery. The Kenefick family has owned the property in Calistoga since 1980. Chris’s journey led him from a Napa upbringing to a career in hospitality in Denver. In 2016, he returned to Napa to follow his passion for wine.
Over the next five years, Chris delved into national wine sales, gaining comprehensive experience in the vineyard and winery operations. In 2021, he took on the role of CEO after his father’s passing, carrying on the family legacy. Chris’s unique perspective and passion continue to shape the exceptional wines produced in the Calistoga region, blending tradition with innovation.
Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn:
- Chris shares the rich history of Kenefick Ranch, dating back to 1980, and his role in leading the family legacy
- Chris shares insights in the evolution of sales distribution and the transition to direct-to-consumer sales
- Chris talks about transitioning from selling grapes to producing wine in-house, focusing on small-batch winemaking
- The discussion includes how contracts with other wineries work in terms of vineyard management and production
- Discover the dynamics of working with grape growers and the relationships with vineyard partners
- PR and marketing and strategies used to market Kenefick Ranch
- Chris introduces their unique virtual tastings and addresses the challenges of not having a physical tasting room while expanding their wine club
- Chris highlights the vineyard’s certifications in Fish Friendly Farming and Napa Green
- Chris shares his vision for the winery’s future and how he envisions the evolution of Calistoga and Napa
- Chris provides valuable advice for those considering returning to their family wineries
In this episode with Chris Kenefick
Join us on an exciting journey through the vineyards of Calistoga as we sit down with Chris Kenefick of Kenefick Ranch Vineyard & Winery. Take a trip down memory lane as Chris shares the rich history of his family’s vineyard since 1980. Discover the evolution of Kenefick Ranch’s distribution strategies, their foray into small-batch winemaking, and the intricate management of vineyard contracts.
In today’s episode of the Legends Behind the Craft podcast, Drew Thomas Hendricks and Bianca Harmon are joined by Chris Kenefick, CEO and Second Generation Proprietor of Kenefick Ranch. Chris sheds light on the family legacy, the challenges of marketing a boutique winery, and the innovative approach of virtual tastings to bring the Napa experience straight to your home. Tune in for insights on sustainable certifications, future winemaking endeavors, and valuable advice for those considering a return to their family’s winery roots.
Resources Mentioned in this episode
- Drew Thomas Hendricks on LinkedIn
- Barrels Ahead
- Bianca Harmon on LinkedIn
- Chris Kenefick on LinkedIn
- Kenefick Ranch Vineyard & Winery
- Hemsworth Communications
- Behrens Family Winery
- Robert Mondavi Winery
- Pride Mountain Vineyards
- Hayfork Wine Company
Sponsor for this episode…
This episode is brought to you by Barrels Ahead.
At Barrels Ahead, we know that your business is unique. That’s why we work with you to create a one-of-a-kind marketing strategy that highlights your authenticity, tells your story, and makes your business stand out from your competitors.
Our team at Barrels Ahead helps you leverage your knowledge so you can enjoy the results and revenue your business deserves.
So, what are you waiting for? Unlock your results today!
[00:00:00] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Drew Thomas Hendricks here. I’m the host of the Legends Behind the Craft podcast. Today, Bianca Harmon is joining me as a guest host. We have Chris Kenefick. But before we do the full introduction, brief sponsor message. Today’s episode is sponsored by Barrels Ahead. At Barrels Ahead, we help wineries scale through authentic content.
And if you’re interested, we’re just rolling out a brand new service to the wineries, helping them launch their own evergreen podcast. If that’s something that interests you, check it out. Today we have Chris Kenefick. Chris is the second-generation proprietor and CEO of Kenefick Family Winery and Vineyard.
Welcome to the show, Chris.
[00:00:38] Chris Kenefick: Hi, thanks for having me.
[00:00:39] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Oh, thanks for being on. So Chris, talk to us about being a second-generation proprietor.
[00:00:44] Chris Kenefick: Yeah, so it’s been, it’s been quite a journey to get to where we are today. Our family has had our property since 1980. So it’s been quite a long time that we’ve been up in Calistoga.
I came on board in 2016 and have been out here for about 7 years now and stepped into my current role about 2 years ago. So yeah, it’s been an exciting time, especially with a lot of the changes going on in the valley. So it’s, there’s always something new every day and every year. So it’s been fun.
[00:01:18] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Yeah, talk to us about this, this changes. So you grew up on the vineyard and then left for a while and they were in hospitality. What brought you back?
[00:01:26] Chris Kenefick: Over the years, obviously growing up in, in Napa was kind of interesting because I actually didn’t enjoy it very much because I really didn’t have an appreciation for the land. And I knew it kind of as this dusty place with a lot of snakes and spiders not, not a ton to do otherwise.
So I took the opportunity to go away to college in Denver, where I studied hospitality management from there. I started working for the Four Seasons Hotel Group and worked for them for about 6 years.
Kind of through college. And then as I was getting into my adult life, I really started to appreciate wine in general, but also fine wine. As I was starting to try out a lot of other things, and I would go to the local wine store in Colorado or the local liquor shop and get a 15, 20 a bottle of wine.
It could be very hit or miss, but I was just trying as much random stuff as I possibly could. Kind of diversifying my palate from there started to make me realize that. We’re, we’re actually producing some pretty good wines here and Napa, Napa is definitely something very special.
So, I had an interest in coming back eventually and going through hospitality. It was long hours and just kind of got to the point where. Where Napa was calling my name and just wanted to change the scene. So, 2016 made the switch up here and it’s been great ever since.
[00:02:54] Drew Thomas Hendricks: That’s amazing. It’s always absence makes the heart grow fonder. I mean, everyone wants to get out of their hometown until they leave their hometown. They’re like, well, this isn’t so bad. What about, so you went on a, you’re a national sales director. How were you doing a lot of national sales at the time before you came on?
[00:03:13] Chris Kenefick: We were so my, really how we got started with our wine brand, we started our, our own label in 2002. And this was really my dad’s second career after being a surgeon in San Francisco.
So he was, he was coming up and doing a lot of the farming from 1980, all the way until 2000. But we were selling off all the fruit that we were producing on the property. 2000, he retired and moved up to Calistoga full-time. And then we did our 1st vintage under our own label in 2002. So, um. It, you know, it really started as kind of a hobby and a passion project for him.
And we kind of joking, jokingly say that he used to, our best sales were in the States that he really enjoyed traveling to. And so, if you looked especially at the early years, we were very popular in Montana and Idaho and Wyoming because these were places that he enjoyed going to. So, as that kind of progressed into, you know, really a real company and a real wine brand that we have, instead of being solely a hobby more, we’ve continued to really be strong in distribution.
We’re in about 15 or 16 different markets throughout the U. S. and internationally, and of the wines that we produce, about 80 percent of those are sold through distribution and then only about 20 percent are direct consumer.
[00:04:40] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Oh, wow. Is that, is that evolved over the, over the years to more direct to consumer or the opposite?
[00:04:47] Chris Kenefick: It has. Yeah. We, obviously in the beginning, there are a lot of different ways to launch a wine brand or a lot of different, you know, methods to, to go about things here in the Valley. How my dad chose to do it is that he wanted to get on the road and really showcase the wine out there, to try to get as much reach as possible.
Obviously, if you start to see a wine on a bunch of shelves in bottle shops, or in restaurants, you’re going to start to key into that a little bit more. And his thought was that that would then drive people directly to us through our website or through calling in, where they could purchase the wine.
So over the years, it’s the DTC has continued to grow, which has been really nice. But we, yeah, it always, it started out basically, you know, probably 95%, distribution, just a little bit direct to consumer. And so that’s grown over the years.
[00:05:42] Bianca Harmon: And has it grown more since you’ve come on board? Do you think in 2016?
[00:05:46] Chris Kenefick: I would like to hope so.
I really starting in in national sales. I was primarily focused on our distribution. So I know our volume has grown since I started, where that actually relates to some of the direct consumer sales. It’s continued to move up. I, you know, I don’t know if I would say that I was the big impact that really got got everybody to sign up for our wine club and everything.
But, but, yeah, it has continued to grow since I got here
[00:06:18] Drew Thomas Hendricks: As far as production. So you were selling off all the grapes and you had long-term contracts. How, talk to us about managing kind of those contracts and bringing more of your juice in-house and how you’re managing that today.
[00:06:29] Chris Kenefick: Yeah, so we, we have about 118 acres planted or 118 plantable acres on the property.
Our total property is about 250 acres. So about half the property is a hillside that we’re not allowed to plant on. Anything over a 5 percent slope in Napa, unless it’s been grandfathered in, you’re not allowed to plant vines on it. So we have about 118 plantable acres, through the years we’ve always, sold quite a bit to other people.
Really in the 90s, we were starting to get a lot of notoriety selling to Behrens and Hitchcock, and Pride and Robert Mandovi and quite a few others. It’s, it’s definitely always been an important part of our business and something that we really try to maintain as best as possible. Like I was saying before, we still do about 90 percent of the fruit that we grow on property.
We sell off to other wineries, so we’re only taking about 10%. It’s, it becomes a very interesting chess game that we can have a, have an hour discussion on, but there’s definitely a lot of long term planning that you have to start looking into as some of the blocks on the property get older and you have people who you’re selling to that might be doing a vineyard designate, you need to find a new home for them.
And so it’s, it’s a big shuffle that you have to do around the property, to make sure that, that the clients that you have, the people that we’re selling fruit to that we, keep them on board.
[00:08:02] Bianca Harmon: Oh, and so how many cases are you guys getting roughly? If – that much.
[00:08:08] Chris Kenefick: We’re usually doing between about 2500 and 3000 cases of everything that we do a year.
So so everything is really small production about really is our Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc. Cabernet Sauvignon, we usually do about 800 to 1000 cases of Sauvignon Blanc is about 5 to 600 cases of, and then everything else is really under 300 cases, especially once you get into.
Some of these weird obscure whites that we do that we only produce about 25 to 30 cases of.
[00:08:39] Drew Thomas Hendricks: So what are some examples of those?
[00:08:43] Chris Kenefick: So we, the first winemaker that we ever had on the property was a big fan of Rhone varietals and really thought that some of the white Rhone varietals would grow really well on the property.
So he convinced my dad to start to plant some Grenache, Blanc, Marsanne, and Viognier. And so we do a standalone Grenache Blanc and then we do what’s called our Pickett Road White, which is a Rhone-style white blend. That’s mainly Grenache Blanc with a little bit of Marsanne and Viognier mixed into it.
[00:09:11] Drew Thomas Hendricks: That’s got to be really tasty.
I want to talk about back to the contracts again and how the different wineries manage. Do the contracts get rows or do they get production of juice? Like are they managing their own vines within your vineyard?
[00:09:24] Chris Kenefick: We do all the vine management and all the vineyard work that’s in the vineyard. We have our own farming team and farming crew that we’ve had actually.
The foreman started in the early 80s with us. So he’s literally been working there for longer than I’ve been alive. So we’ve, we’ve always been really proud to have, kind of our, family of farmers there that are maintaining everything. How the contracts work are that people will designate either rows or blocks that we have available that we can sell to them and then based on historical data, based on how that vintage is going, we’ll try to estimate approximately how many tons it’s going to be.
Then when harvest time comes, we work with the wineries to pick a harvest date and make sure everything is to their liking and fits with our schedule. We pick the fruit and then deliver it to the winery. And then it’s for them to process and turn into wine.
[00:10:23] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Oh, very interesting.
[00:10:24] Bianca Harmon: That’s awesome. And so you’re kind of leading this now, right? You know, that it’s your father’s passed on, this is all you.
[00:10:33] Chris Kenefick: Yep, yep. So, my sister lives full-time in New York, and she has her own job there. She works for an executive search firm. And then my wife also, obviously lives with me here in the valley, but has works for a different company.
So both of them definitely like to chime in as much as they possibly can and give all the advice that they can. And I look to them for a lot of advice because it’s good to have as many eyes on things as possible. But really, when it comes to the day-to-day management and the majority of the decisions, that’s kind of all, all on my shoulders now.
[00:11:09] Drew Thomas Hendricks: For sure. So, carrying on the family legacy, what sort of thumbprint are you putting on the kind of family ranch?
[00:11:19] Chris Kenefick: You know, we, we definitely want to keep things as traditional, I guess, as possible or as consistent as as possible. I think 1 of the, the worst things that I could do would be to come in and, you know, completely turn the brand on its head and, and either charge triple what we were charging before, or, you know, go in a, in a completely different direction than we wanted to, or then what my father had started.
We’ve always been a very close family. And so both my sister and I listen to my dad quite a bit and listen to his vision. And while I was here, I had about 4 years of working side by side with him. So I definitely picked up as much as possible.
And I’m really more or less carry on his, his legacy, not do too many massive changes. Obviously, there some kind of fun things that we can play with, but the vineyard site and the wine itself is already in such a great place and such a great brand and a great value for the wine that there’s really not a lot of changes that we want to do at that point.
[00:12:29] Drew Thomas Hendricks: I mean, looking at your store, it’s a tremendous value. Especially saying triple the price. If you triple the price, you’re going to be about what everybody thinks the Napa Valley Cabernet should be.
[00:12:38] Chris Kenefick: Yeah, exactly. It’s fun going to some of the tastings and, you know, before telling people the price, you’ll, you’ll pour the wine and they’ll be like, yeah, I think, you know, that’s good.
I think it’s probably about $175 or so. And you’re like, oh, actually, it’s $65 is our Cab. So being, being a grower and, and really having control of the fruit source, we’re able to keep those prices as reasonable as possible. Obviously, Napa is, is expensive in general. So when I say a 65 bottle of wine, I find that reasonable, but obviously, it’s, it may not be reasonable to everyone everywhere in the country.
[00:13:13] Bianca Harmon: I have a question in regards to, you know, the growers that you’re selling the grapes to, is it the same ones every year or is it kind of rotating or do you have others that are allowed to come on because somebody else dropped off? How does that all work?
[00:13:30] Chris Kenefick: Yeah, they’re, I don’t want to pat ourselves on the back, but a lot of the people that we sell to really like getting the fruit.
So, we rarely have somebody who just comes in for a year just to purchase some fruit to fill a gap and then, and then leave. Typically, we have the people who we’re selling to want to continue to buy fruit year after year. And then there are quite a few people who continue to kind of knock at the door and wanting to get into any fruit that becomes available.
That being said, obviously, as as prices changes, as prices change, or as we move along every now and then, you do have somebody who who drops out, but I would say. You know, from when I started here full time in 2016 until now, we’ve maybe had 5 percent change of people either that dropdown. We brought somebody new in.
But about 95 percent of the fruit that we’re selling right now is still going to the same people that it was 7 years ago.
[00:14:31] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Like that legacy is so important. So important. I want to kind of shift and talk about marketing and PR for a moment. We got to give a good shout-out to Hemsworth Communications for connecting us with you, but talk to us about the importance of a winery engaging in a PR firm and kind of what you’re doing to market Kenefick.
[00:14:50] Chris Kenefick: Yeah, so, a lot of what, what I’m doing and being a brand of our size is really just getting out on the road and trying to meet as many people as possible and, and fly the flag is as much as I possibly can. We’re obviously not a brand that is a massive thing that we’re going to take out a billboard space, you know, in San Francisco to, to get our, our name out there.
So, so it’s, it’s really one customer at a time, is how, how we’re building our brand. Hemsworth, we started working with a couple of years ago and they’ve, they’ve been amazing. I mean, it’s is – connecting me with people like you or connecting us with, with other writers throughout the country and, and really helping to get our name out there.
So it’s been, it’s been great working with them.
[00:15:40] Drew Thomas Hendricks: That’s good. Now, yeah, as far as getting the name out, I mean, it would, you’re basically selling all the wine that you can sell, but you can, you need to keep the, keep the name with every new winery coming out. How have they gone about, keeping that name and what advice would you have for another small family and winery that wants to get the name out?
[00:15:59] Chris Kenefick: The best advice I could give, and this was really advice that was, that was given to me is that you’re, you being a small brand, you have to sell your product really 1 bottle at a time or 1 customer at a time. So there, there really isn’t a magic formula as far as I’m going to produce 10, 000 cases of my cab and it better sell overnight.
That’s that just really doesn’t exist for smaller producers. And so it’s taken the time going in, meeting customers one at a time and, and really trying to, trying to get your name out there as best as possible.
[00:16:33] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Really shaking hands. And you’ve got a pretty, I was looking at your store and you’ve got some unique tasting packs, like these virtual tastings. Talk to us about that.
[00:16:41] Chris Kenefick: Yeah, so unfortunately, we don’t have a physical tasting room on the property. We’re looking to do that hopefully down the road. But obviously, with the county, there are a lot of hoops to jump through. So one of the big things that came about during the pandemic was that people started offering virtual tasting packs, and virtual experiences for tastings.
So it’s, it’s really nice to be able to basically offer a six-pack of wine that you have three bottles in there that you’re going to taste with the person or group that’s buying the wine. And then they have three bottles to hold on to and enjoy later. So we sell them in a 3 different wines in a 6 pack.
So you get 2 bottles of each. With that myself or another member on the team kind of takes the time and tells a little bit about our background, our story and guide through your wine. So it’s been really nice. It was a big hit during the pandemic and that’s really continued to, to go after the pandemic.
But for people who may not necessarily want to take the time to, to come all the way out to Napa, this is a way to more or less bring Napa to you into your home. So yeah, it’s been, it’s been a very big hit.
[00:17:54] Bianca Harmon: So in regards to not having like your tasting room and offering just the virtual tastings, how are you growing like your wine club and all of those? Aspects if people aren’t able to taste.
[00:18:06] Chris Kenefick: Yeah, so we, we try to take part in as much as many local events as possible. And then events around the country. I’m going to be next week up in Missoula during the wine dinner. And so we look for those opportunities as much as possible to, to basically take our wines to people since we can’t do anything here on site.
We had, I think it was a week or two ago. There was the Calistoga Wine Growers puts on quite a few events. So we had an event at the Four Seasons Hotel that’s up in Calistoga. And that’s just a great opportunity for us to go out and kind of show our wines and introduce people to the brand.
[00:18:43] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Oh, that’s good. That’s good. I’m so happy to see these virtual tastings kept going on after the pandemic because there’s such a great way to get to bring your wines to people that they may want to, they want to experience Napa, but they can’t take a vacation and they may be with inflation, everything. They may be crafting their own staycation and making the virtual tasting part of it.
[00:19:03] Chris Kenefick: Yeah, yeah, it’s, it’s great. I mean, you have, you’ll see people get, you know, a group of 10 people or so together and kind of all collectively do this tasting. 1 that I did somewhere recently. They basically streamed it onto the TV in their living room. So I was, I was doing the whole presentation and telling everybody about it in front of kind of a large room.
But, yeah, it’s it’s a great opportunity. We did a couple of years back that we’re going to hopefully do again as we paired up with Truffle Shuffle in San Francisco to basically have them guide you through a cooking class, was also a meal that was paired with our wine. So we got to talk about our wines kind of in the beginning and then the Truffle Shuffle team took over and guided people through creating a dinner.
And so it’s, it’s those kind of experiences that were great that everybody discovered during the pandemic. And then it’s nice that they’ve stuck around.
[00:19:58] Drew Thomas Hendricks: That’s great. That’s great. Let’s talk about your certification. So I know you’re certified as Fish Friendly Ranching and Napa Green.
[00:20:08] Chris Kenefick: Yeah, so, Fish Friendly Farming and Napa Green certified. Basically what those two are doing is, is trying to leave as little impact on the land as possible. So trying to limit the amount of herbicides, pesticides that you’re using or using the most responsible products that you are using, possibly can. More or less, it’s a step under if you were to want to go to an organic farm and then from there, obviously, if you were to go to the most extreme would be biodynamic farming.
So, it’s a way of just trying to be as responsible as possible and trying to look, look out for the land and hopefully being able to pass it on to future generations.
[00:20:48] Drew Thomas Hendricks: What are the requirements for Fish Friendly?
[00:20:52] Chris Kenefick: It’s basically looking at how much runoff you have off your property, making sure that it’s going the proper channels, whether you’re not using certain chemicals that are on the property that kind of fit their, their list.
[00:21:06] Bianca Harmon: Interesting.
[00:21:08] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Very good. So, gotta, gotta kind of go back, so, I know you’re raised in the winery, wine industry, in hospitality. What excites you most about wine?
[00:21:22] Chris Kenefick: Oh man, everything. I guess the, the diversity of… wine, the challenges every year that it faces. You know, I was talking to somebody the other day, and we were talking about how every year is different and, you know, even saying how 1 year might be similar to another year and the excitement as the vintage is building and really get and see what’s going to change.
But this is very far from just a nine to five, and I know exactly what is going to happen every day. It’s, there’s always something new and at every different time of the season, there’s a different challenge that presents itself. So it keeps you on your, on your toes. And then at the end of the day, you get to open wine.
And so it’s, it’s always a nice, nice reward to have and kind of see where all your hard work paid off. So it’s, it’s a nice light at the end of the tunnel.
[00:22:15] Drew Thomas Hendricks: That sounds good. When, at the end of the day, what type of wines do you gravitate to?
[00:22:20] Chris Kenefick: It depends on the day of the week. I, I’ll typically be drinking our wine just because it’s the house wine is quite good.
So that’s, that’s, pretty easy to enjoy. I really like everything. I, my wife is a big fan of sparkling wine and I jokingly say that in my 1st month of dating her, I consumed more sparkling wine than I had in my whole life before up to that point. So, we’ll have sparkling every now and then.
We really like to have wines from other areas. It’s great to compare our wines to wines from France or Italy or Spain and just see, see how they compare, see how they differ, and just be able to enjoy different things. So it, it really depends on, on the day of the week, what we’re cooking for dinner, the weather, so many different factors, but it’s nice to
[00:23:09] Bianca Harmon: So is the sparkling wine in the future of your winemaking career?
[00:23:15] Chris Kenefick: I have thought about it and started to kind of toy around with it where we are in Calistoga. Unfortunately, it’s too hot to be able to grow any kind of Chardonnay or Pinot, you know, because they’re too thin-skinned of grape varietals so they unfortunately don’t do well in Calistoga. So I’ve looked around for sparkling Grenache Blanc varietals that I can try just to compare and see if they’re good.
And I’m planning on reaching out to a couple different places, just to see if we can do a really small lot of something just to try it out as a test run. And then hopefully be able to expand to a sparkling at some point because that would be really
[00:23:56] Bianca Harmon: I love sparkling Grenache I think Williamson Winery in Healdsburg.
Have you heard of them? They make a sparkle Grenache.
[00:24:06] Chris Kenefick: Nice. Okay.
[00:24:07] Bianca Harmon: And so I yeah, they make a sparkling Grenache a sparkling Syrah. So they’d be a good place to just kind of taste or check out. You’ve never.
[00:24:20] Chris Kenefick: Yeah. One person found surprisingly, sparkling Grenache Blanc and had us try it and it was, it was really good.
So it would be interesting to see if we can pull that off our property. Cause it’s such a great, you know, palate cleanser in the beginning and such a, such a nice thing to enjoy either as before you’re going into a dinner or just something to start off a tasting.
[00:24:42] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Sure. How many, how many acres of Grenache do you have planted? Grenache Blanc?
[00:24:47] Chris Kenefick: Well, I would have to look, but I, we had just pulled some out this last year, but it, it’s literally less than an acre. I think we have about half an acre or so. Yeah. So we, we only usually get about three to four tons of Grenache Blanc. And we work really closely with Hayfork Winery here in St. Helena. And so they do a standalone Grenache Blanc as well. So both of ours are very small production, but yeah, there’s not, not a lot of it out there.
[00:25:15] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Yeah. Let’s talk about your vision. Let’s, if you could flash forward 15 years, everything goes your way. What does Kennewick Winery look like?
[00:25:24] Chris Kenefick: Hopefully by that time we would have a winery and tasting room built on our, our property. I think that’s kind of the biggest focus that I have is really, that was my dad’s dream and he was working on that for for quite a long time. And so that’s that would be really the next big step that would happen.
After that, or besides that, and more thinking about the property, it’s really trying to maintain it as best as possible. I, I’m not kind of like I was saying before, I’m not really thinking to blow up or expand our, our volume as much as possible. If we were to take everything off the property and produce it all for ourselves.
We would have somewhere around 30, 000 cases, which obviously gets into quite a bigger size of a winery as opposed to our 3000 cases that we are. So, it’d be nice to grow the volume a little bit. But only maybe, you know, a thousand or two cases more to get to a 5, 000 case production. So a little bit of growth for our wines, building winery and tasting room on our site, and then just trying to maintain the land as best as possible so that we can pass it on to the next generation.
[00:26:36] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Absolutely. And all the, and that undeveloped land, does that have to remain open space due to the laws?
[00:26:42] Chris Kenefick: Yeah. Yep. So you can’t plant on it. Some of it comes right down to the vineyard. I, I would have to look and see if you’re allowed to have a building on it or something like that, but we would never be able to.
Nor would we want to sell it and have, you know, like a condo complex or something.
[00:26:59] Drew Thomas Hendricks: That’s part of the charm of Calistoga like it. So going forward, I’ve seen Calistoga evolve tremendously over the last 20 years. What would be your ideal vision for Napa and Calistoga as it continues to evolve?
[00:27:12] Chris Kenefick: Yeah, I, I love where Napa is today.
And obviously, with the popularity that it has, it’s going to continue to, I would assume, grow in popularity and continue to build out a little bit more. It’s it’s definitely weird. And I feel like I sound like an old man, but when I was a kid, I walk from our property into the town of Calistoga into Cal Mart to pick up lunch and I would walk by this big cow pasture that was kind of right across from our property. That’s now a luxury resort instead of a cow pasture anymore. So you definitely see a lot of changes that are happening. I’m, I’m in support of it. I think it’s great to, to have, you know, these luxury resorts and luxury wine brands.
And the, the wines that people are producing all over the valley are amazing. So it’s definitely something to be celebrated. I think Calistoga has done a really good job of, of maintaining its roots and keeping with that small town feel and really haven’t, haven’t blown up too much, even though now we have quite a few of those big resorts that are, that are in town.
But I think Calistoga has done a really good job of staying true to their roots. So that would be, that would be my hope that that’s what continues and continues to support the small community.
[00:28:27] Drew Thomas Hendricks: On the side of the winery where you’re, as far as winemaking over the last 20 years, how have you seen the winemaking style evolved?
[00:28:37] Chris Kenefick: So we’ve only had, we’ve only had two winemakers through our 20 year history. Our first winemaker, Josh Krupp was only around for two or three years and then he moved out of the country. And so at that time. We’re introduced to our current winemaker, Kent Jarman. He used to be the assistant winemaker at Duckhorn.
And he came in and, and has been an outstanding winemaker for us. Obviously your first year or two, you’re kind of messing around with the vineyard and the different blocks and seeing what might work well. And my, my dad’s style of making wine, he definitely wanted the massive body of wine that would age for 30, 40 years and be.
Be kind of a very large, in your face wine. In the recent years, we’ve really tried to soften that up a little bit more and be something that still has the ageability to it, but it’s also something that’s approachable that you could, you know, open midweek and didn’t have to decant it for two hours before, before enjoying, at the same time, some of those older wines that we have, it’s really fun to go back and open those because they’re aging really, really well.
So, so it’s nice to have that balance, but, yeah, Kent’s done an amazing job of, of handling each, each vintage and our wine. making style hasn’t necessarily changed too much through the years, but it’s, it’s trying to make the best possible product from each vintage and dealing with what mother nature gives you that year.
[00:30:10] Bianca Harmon: So is your Doctor’s Cuvee your punch in your face because your father was the doctor?
[00:30:16] Chris Kenefick: He was the doctor. It’s definitely still that punch in your face, but it’s, it’s, it has a really, really nice elegance to it. It’s 100 percent new French Oak. So there’s, there’s a lot of structure. We have tried to hold it back as much as possible.
So our current vintage on that is 2015, and so it’s had that time to kind of develop and settle a little bit more. So it’s drinking really nice right now and does have quite a bit of elegance to it.
[00:30:44] Drew Thomas Hendricks: That’s cool. Yeah, it’s all about refinement. If you’ve only got a fixed amount of land and you’re only going to be doing a fixed amount of cases, it’s just about the subtle nuances every year, moving them forward, opening it up, being a little more approachable.
Very understandable there. I’m going to shift to you and your history. We talked to a lot of second-generation kids, what advice would you have someone that’s like flown the coop? They’re considering going back to the family winery.
[00:31:15] Chris Kenefick: Learn, learn as much as possible before coming back.
I, you know, I don’t have any, any regrets, obviously, coming, coming back and joining the family business. Something that my dad was kind of joking around that. I, I could have, or should have done is really at least do an internship or sometime at a different winery before coming on board with us because I feel like I have a lot of knowledge about how our vineyard works and our production.
But outside of that, I haven’t had the experience of working at other wineries. So, it’s, if somebody was looking for a recommendation or advice, I would, I would say, do a little bit of time at other places, just so you can bring in that outside knowledge. You may be able to teach your family something if you’re bringing that in from somewhere else, but then always. Yeah.
The biggest thing is always being open to learning and open to adapting and, and seeing what kind of changes need to be made. And trying to implement those as best as possible.
[00:32:18] Drew Thomas Hendricks: I think there’s also some importance like what you, I mean, going out and carving your own path for a little bit versus kind of flowing straight into the family business.
You never really get a chance to separate yourself and become a little bit more independent. So some of the advice I hear is go do your own thing for a couple of year. Go figure it out, and then come back with this new intellect versus just being forced straight in. And that may be advice to parents to, not forcing your kids straight into the business.
[00:32:45] Chris Kenefick: Yeah, exactly. No, it was really, really good getting a good experience getting out and working for Four Seasons, which is obviously a large company and a corporate company. And so it was interesting to see that style of doing things, and then coming back in and, and working with family, which has just a whole different way of doing things.
So it’s, yeah, as much experience as you can get is great. And just always listening, always be open to any changes.
[00:33:14] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Very good. Very good. Talk about fun. So do you ever, do you try to couple just like your dad, the states that you like to visit with the tastings?
[00:33:25] Chris Kenefick: Yep. Montana is probably still our best state that we sell to.
Yeah, I, when I was traveling a lot more kind of pre-pandemic, I basically, unless there’s a large event going on or anything, you can more or less choose your schedule and choose. What markets to visit at what times during the year you obviously always want to have a business mindset with that.
So you want to focus on when you’re going to be able to sell the most wines. But I very frequently would look at, you know, if I’m going to Chicago, I would start to look and I’m like, all right, I can go in 1 of these couple months that might work. Well, One of the Giants playing the Cubs. Maybe I can pair that up and go to a game or something.
So I would always try to look and see when there were either fun sporting events or if it was a place that had skiing or something, I would be able to, to take a day at the end of my trip and, and go skiing for a day or go play golf or something. So it’s important to, to have a little fun while you’re out there, working.
And, so yeah, I’ve tried to mix that in as much as possible.
[00:34:33] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Oh, absolutely. I mean, it’s all, it’s a very holistic type experience, wine and food, and fun. So you were just up recently up at Teton Country Club, on Instagram, maybe it was a little while back.
[00:34:46] Chris Kenefick: I think that was a little, little while ago, but yeah, we, we’ve done really well in Jackson Hole.
That’s another 1 of those markets that, that we were already in Montana. And so Jackson was kind of right there. And my dad got connected with somebody and he, he loved the mountains. And so it was a very easy place for him to go to. So again, for me, I would look at when I could do a wine dinner that was in the winter, or if I wanted to go fishing, look for something that was in the summer to, to kind of help have a little bit of fun while, while we were working.
[00:35:15] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Very good. Very good. Well, gosh, Chris, so where can people find out more about you and Kenefick Winery?
[00:35:25] Chris Kenefick: So the best place is through our website, kenefickranch.Com. And we have all of our information there, all the wines that are offered, we also have information about our wine club, but we’re just signing up for our mailing list.
So quite a few different options. We only have a handful of wines that are such a small production that they’re more or less allocated or for wine club. But besides that, anybody is free to go on and order, any of the wines through the website. So it’s, we like having them be available to everybody and not have to, have a mandatory sign up or anything to be able to get the wines.
[00:36:03] Drew Thomas Hendricks: That’s great. Is there anything we haven’t talked about that you want to bring up before we kind of close this showdown?
[00:36:10] Chris Kenefick: Not, not really. I mean, like I was just saying, the wine club is a really nice way to, to keep up to date on any news that’s happening around the property or keep kind of the latest, vintages in mind or when we’re, we’re starting to ship out a new vintage.
So if people are interested, I would definitely encourage them to sign up for that. And just be able to try the wines.
[00:36:32] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Order up a virtual tasting for sure.
[00:36:35] Chris Kenefick: There you go. Yeah. Yeah. Best way to learn.
[00:36:39] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Well, Chris, thank you so much for joining us today. This has been a great conference.
[00:36:42] Bianca Harmon: Thanks Chris.
[00:36:42] Chris Kenefick: Yeah, of course. Thank you both. Thank you for having me.
[00:36:45] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Have a great day.