Helen Keplinger 71 MINUTES

A new podcast series from Doug Shafer about the people behind the food and wine you love.

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Doug Shafer with Helen Keplinger for The Taste wine podcast

Helen Keplinger grew up envisioning a future in medical science, however, wine offered greater adventure – taking her to work with winemakers in Napa Valley, Santa Barbara, Australia, Spain, and South Africa. Today she has her own wine brand while making wine with golfer Cristie Kerr and for iconic winery Grace Family. Enjoy!

For more visit: keplingerwines.com


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FULL TRANSCRIPT

 

Doug:
Hey everybody. Doug Shafer. Welcome back to The Taste. Today we have Helen Keplinger, um, joining us on The Taste. I've been wanting to get her on the show because she's been making some killer wines, and I want to hear her story. So Helen, welcome and thanks for coming in today.

Helen:
Oh my gosh. Thank you so much for having me.

Doug:
It's great, it's great.

Helen:
I'm really flattered to be asked to come.

Doug:
Oh man, I, I got to hear the story, so let's, let's go back. Where, where are you from, born and raised, where were you?

Helen:
I grew up in Canton, Ohio.

Doug:
Which is how far from Cleveland?

Helen:
Um, it's about, about an hour south.

Doug:
So, Midwest. What, what was Canton like growing up there?

Helen:
Um, great place to grow up, just, a place where you can, you can fit a number of activities in one day 'cause there isn't a lot of traffic and, um, the cost of living is very reasonable. So, we had a lot of, you know, fun activities. My parents were big gardeners and sort of the classic, uh, swimming, golf, tennis upbringing. And they also loved the symphony and the opera and musicals, so we had a lot of, a lot of all of that growing up.

Doug:
How neat, neat.

Helen:
So just kind of classic Midwest upbringing probably.

Doug:
And ... Now, I grew up in the Midwest.

Helen:
Did you?

Doug:
But ... yeah, Chic- outside Chicago.

Helen:
Awesome.

Doug:
Similar gig.

Helen:
Yeah.

Doug:
Country club, tennis, golf, high school, ba, ba, bam. But my house, it was, uh, well, I was not supposed to be drinking, but it was bourbon and beer.

Helen:
Oh, totally.

Doug:
How about you guys?

Helen:
I, I don't know if I should ... yeah.

Doug:
Your parents.

Helen:
Um, so my, my parents drink wine-

Doug:
Okay.

Helen:
... every night. So my dad, um, my dad had a wine cellar, and he wasn't, wasn't really a trophy collector, but he just would buy wines. Um, he would read the Wine Spectator pretty religiously and pick out really good value wines that he could buy large quantities of because they would drink a bottle, they still do, they drink a bottle every night. And even now, there's, on the dinner table, there's no water, there's no water glasses, they just have wine.

Doug:
(laughs). You got to teach them how to hydrate.

Helen:
So, um, ... I know. I've been working on that, but, um, but anyways, that was-

Doug:
Well, see, but you grew up I, that's a difference. Yeah, I, I never saw a bottle of wine in the house. I mean, rarely would be, if it, if there was wine, if they had a dinner party, I think it was like Lancers or Mateus, something like that.

Helen:
Oh, my dad has Lancers too, yeah.

Doug:
Yeah. But, um, so wine was totally foreign to me, I mean, as a kid, had no concept of it.

Helen:
So, how did you get into it?

Doug:
Oh, that's a whole-

Helen:
Let's, let me interview you about that (laughs).

Doug:
Okay, uh, in 30 seconds. Dad got a, got a crazy idea to invests in the pending wine boom in Napa Valley, and this is 1973, bought a vineyard.

Helen:
Oh my God.

Doug:
He was not a wine guy. He did it as an investment. Was going to wait 10 years, but just got fed up with the corporate thing in Chicago. Moved us out here in '73.

Helen:
Oh my gosh.

Doug:
I was 17. He started, he replanted this vineyard, started making wine '78. I got the bug and UC Davis and boom.

Helen:
That is so fantastic.

Doug:
35 years ago or 40, well, 40 years ago or more that we moved out here.

Helen:
Wow.

Doug:
It was pretty crazy.

Helen:
That's incredible.

Doug:
Definitely no traffic in Napa Valley then, let me tell you.

Helen:
I know. Yeah.

Doug:
All right. So, you have wine at home. Um, high school, sports, activities, what did you do?

Helen:
Yeah, so high school, I was, I was always a big runner-

Doug:
Okay.

Helen:
... so I did track and then cross country and, and then really got into running. Running was kind of a lifelong passion that actually I only wrapped up probably with the, with my, uh, I had an in- a running injury-

Doug:
Oh.

Helen:
... that slowed me down, but otherwise, I was a big runner and, uh, from high school.

Doug:
And still running?

Helen:
No, not now. I don't really have, um, time hence I'm, I'm trying to be a little bit nicer to my joints, so yoga and we have a lot of other sports that we like to do.

Doug:
But you did, you ran some marathons?

Helen:
Yeah, I ran a couple marathons.

Doug:
Good for you. That's big.

Helen:
Yeah. Did Boston a few times.

Doug:
All right. Okay. And so high school, graduated, then what? Where do we go?

Helen:
Um, I wanted to get out of Ohio.

Doug:
Okay.

Helen:
Uh, as much as I loved growing up there, I was just eager to go away. Um, and so I went to Smith College in Western Mass.

Doug:
Okay. Great School.

Helen:
Yeah, great school.

Doug:
Yeah. And, studied?

Helen:
I was super interested in science, in the sciences-

Doug:
Right.

Helen:
... sort of broad range in the science, and I think it's because I found them really intellectually challenging. So, I kind of went through, and I had some really amazing professors who were very inspiring,-

Doug:
Okay.

Helen:
... but I went through chemistry and thought, oh, maybe chemical engineering.

Doug:
Right.

Helen:
And I went to a few meetings of the, you know, the chemical engineering club and that wasn't for me. And then I thought, well, maybe polymer science. So, I did an internship over the summer in polymer science. Um, I tried, you know, another internship in veterinary science, and, and again, those weren't ... And then I sort of zeroed in on, um, and did a lot of biochemistry research-

Doug:
Okay.

Helen:
... in undergrad and I thought maybe medicine would be what I wanted to do. So, that's sort of the track I was pursuing, premed studies in undergrad.

Doug:
Okay. Well, you were, you were in hardcore sciences. I mean, you know, my, my Davis stuff, you know, for Viti/Enology was, it was, it was a lot of science, but it wasn't the super hardcore. But-

Helen:
I know. That's what's so great about it (laughs).

Doug:
(laughs). Well, so you were, you were trying everything. So, as you were kind of bouncing around in college, are you, you drinking wine? Are you drinking beer? What's, uh, I mean, is wine still around for you at that point?

Helen:
Yeah, so, um, you know, growing up, because my parents had this wine cellar,-

Doug:
Right.

Helen:
... um, and I was always really outdoorsy. I loved just being outside and I was always drawn to rocks, so I had a rocks collection and a wine bottle collection.

Doug:
Really? Rocks?

Helen:
Yeah.

Doug:
How'd that, where'd that come from?

Helen:
I don't know. It's just what I was interested in, and my parents had some fun bottles that I would, I had them all around by room, you know, rocks and wine bot- I don't know. I was a strange kid. But anyways, um-

Doug:
No, there's visuals going on here. That's kind of cool.

Helen:
So in college, I was always the, in college and after college, I was always the one who ordered wine when we went out,-

Doug:
Okay.

Helen:
... you know, friends went out or if I went out with a boyfriend, I always just took the wine list because I felt, I felt like I knew wine-

Doug:
Right.

Helen:
... but my repertoire was pretty slim then. But after college I moved to Boston-

Doug:
Okay.

Helen:
... for two years of medical research at MGH, and-

Doug:
MGH was?

Helen:
Mass General Hospital.

Doug:
Oh, Mass General. Thank you.

Helen:
And, um, Western Mass, you know, actually near Smith, there was this amazing wine shop. I don't know if it's still there. It used to be called Big Y Wines. So the grocery store Big Y had that. Have you been to that?

Doug:
I've sold wine in those places in Massachusetts.

Helen:
Seriously?

Doug:
Yeah, I remember a Big Y. Yeah.

Helen:
So, they used to have a dedicated shop.

Doug:
Right.

Helen:
I was actually just out there for my, um, my reunion and I thought, oh my gosh, I've got to go back to this place, you know, that sort of was part of igniting my interest, my serious interest in wine, and I couldn't find, I couldn't find it.

Doug:
You couldn't find it. It's gone. Oh man. Another retailer.

Helen:
I know. So anyhow, they used to have 35 labels, and the whole thing was temperature controlled, which was pretty remarkable in those days. And so I would go out and I would buy a case at a time and just read through a region and,-

Doug:
How cool.

Helen:
... but it never crossed my mind that I would do it as a career and just never-

Doug:
So it was like, it was a hobby-

Helen:
A hobby, yeah.

Doug:
... or interest, serious interests.

Helen:
Yeah, yeah.

Doug:
Okay. But you're in Boston doing medical research, what kind of research?

Helen:
So, it was with a group of four PI's,-

Doug:
Okay.

Helen:
... uh, principal investigators, and they were all really, really brilliant and all young, all in their, you know, 30's.

Doug:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Helen:
And they were, um, PDGI's studying immunology.

Doug:
Okay.

Helen:
And so it was, it was specialized and it was really fun, but I loved immunology in undergrad and so I set up, um, an immunological histochemical core for them to, just to look at samples. And as much as I loved it in undergrad and I loved these, you know, these, um, docs,-

Doug:
Right.

Helen:
... I mean, they were academic physicians, they were amazing, um, super dynamic. I mean, just the most incredible people, but I didn't love the day to day and I didn't love going to work every day. And so it was the first thing that gave me pause in, you know, thinking I, I knew for sure what I wanted to do.

Doug:
Okay.

Helen:
And so I didn't quite make it two years there-

Doug:
Right.

Helen:
... because I just was, I started thinking about what else I could do, and I found that, um, I started looking around and I really wanted to go abroad, because during college my, my plan was to go spend a year in Paris at the Sorbonne, and I got so wrapped up in science courses and these incredible professors-

Doug:
Right.

Helen:
... that I didn't go abroad, instead, I just took way too many classes and stayed. And, um, and so I regretted that. And so I wanted to go abroad. I wanted to get away from science 'cause I felt like I needed to clear my head and get some perspective. And so, um, I came upon the idea of, um, you know, some volunteer work or something, you know, volunteer program, and I was interested in the Peace Corps.

Doug:
Okay.

Helen:
But the Peace Corps was a two year commitment, and at the age of I 22 or something,-

Doug:
Yeah. How old were you? You were like 22?

Helen:
Yeah.

Doug:
Okay.

Helen:
And two, you know, two years felt like an eternity-

Doug:
Right.

Helen:
... and I couldn't even make it through two years of medical research, so I, I was terrified to commit to two years of the Peace Corps. So, I started looking at one year programs, and, um, you know, a lot of universities had them, but I looked at, um, I w- was really interested in Southeast Asia. And so Princeton and Harvard and, um, I think Stanford, they each had a program, and I ended up doing the one at, um, through the Harvard, uh, school for International Development in a program called World Teach, and they went to 14 countries which were developing countries, and so I picked Thailand.

Doug:
Right.

Helen:
And so I applied to that program and then I, I left, um, Boston and MGH and I just did a cross country trip and kind of got myself together and then I went to Thailand.

Helen:
This program sent volunteers, uh, twice a year-

Doug:
Okay.

Helen:
... in April and October, and the October group was always the bigger group, but I was part of the April group, so there were only five of us. And, um, they had us in Bangkok for about a month, uh, just doing intensive Thai language study-

Doug:
Okay.

Helen:
... and cultural study-

Doug:
Right. Makes sense.

Helen:
... so that we wouldn't be offensive foreigners.

Doug:
Right.

Helen:
And, um, thank God.

Doug:
Which can happen, which can happen to all of us.

Helen:
Yes. And then, and then they shipped us out to our, um, you know, our, our locations. And I think that, you know, going over there was super exciting.

Doug:
Right.

Helen:
I've always just completely thrived on adventure and, and new experiences and things that, that might be, you know, kinda scary.

Doug:
Yeah.

Helen:
I, I love that. I like things that scare me because they challenge you and help you grow.

Doug:
Right, it's the risk, and right, gets you going.

Helen:
Yeah. So fun. So, um, so I think that was maybe the, I had this image in my head of being really like in the jungle, you know, this tropical jungle, which I was, I was not, but, um, but I was in a small town and there were, I, at least where I was, there weren't any other foreigners, and it was, you know, it was a small school that the king at that time was trying to elevate the teachers. They had a, a bunch of teachers colleges-

Doug:
Okay.

Helen:
... and, um, and they were trying to elevate them to become universities. And so I was part of a program that was, that was trying to do that. So, I was teaching, uh, conversational English to first year students, and then I was teaching poetry, which was crazy. And, um,-

Doug:
You with, you with all the science background teaching poetry.

Helen:
I know, I know.

Doug:
I love this.

Helen:
It was so good to get out of your comfort zone. Um, but I think through that experience-

Doug:
What, what age kids we were teaching? Were they high school, college?

Helen:
You know, so I was 23 teaching 18 year olds.

Doug:
Okay. Wow.

Doug:
All right, so you're teaching and that's for a year or two?

Helen:
It was for a year.

Doug:
Okay.

Helen:
And, um, during, you know, during that time I had, I could travel every weekend.

Doug:
Oh, neat.

Helen:
I went all over the country, um, and then traveled, you know, out, we went up to Nepal, and it was a really, really great experience. And I think through that experience, um, it was great to get away from, from science, although I still had this plan to pursue medicine. And, and one thing with teaching was I, I realized that teaching was also not a natural gift, at least at that time in my life. I think I'm a little bit better now with, with the perspective and, and having a son.

Doug:
Right.

Helen:
But, um, it was a lot of work, and it was every night I had to really prepare my lessons. Um, I didn't love speaking in front of people. I wasn't naturally, uh, gifted at that either, and so the exercise of, of speaking in front of a class and, uh, wanting to be really engaging as, you know, the professors I had just had in college-

Doug:
Right.

Helen:
... who really affected me and inspired me were, and, and then, you know, just having lesson plans that were meaningful and the students could actually learn something. And so it was, it was a lot of work and it was also something, I mean, I enjoyed it, but it wasn't something I loved. And that was the same with medical research. It wasn't something I loved, it was something I had to really, really work hard to, to do well. And so it, it was, you know, another thing that I just thought, gosh, I don't, you know, I don't want to do this for the rest of my life.

Doug:
Right.

Helen:
I don't want work to feel like such an effort. And, and for some reason, I thought, uh, uh, work should be enjoyable.

Doug:
Okay. I'm with you.

Helen:
So, um,-

Doug:
But while you were over there, you ran into somebody, right? I heard your story, I hear your story.

Helen:
Oh my gosh, yes, yes.

Doug:
Tell me that story.

Helen:
So, at the end of the year, we went to, ... um, so during the year, three of the, three of the volunteers and I became very, very close friends-

Doug:
Okay.

Helen:
... and we would travel around the country together, get together in Bangkok on the weekend, or go visit each other at each other's schools. And so we, we planned to go to Nepal, um, for a month or five weeks after the pro- when the program ended. And so we flew into Kathmandu and, um, we decided, you know, we decided we would do that Everest region-

Doug:
Okay.

Helen:
And so we, we hiked out of Namche, we went to Khumjung, which is, um, the first stop basically outside of Namche, and we stopped there for, you know, a coffee and some breakfast.

Doug:
Right.

Helen:
And it has the, the, um, the distinguished title of the highest bakery in the world.

Doug:
There you go.

Helen:
And so we stopped there. And then, you know, this is after a year of being a volunteer. I was making $250 a month.

Doug:
Right.

Helen:
I was, you know, which was great pay for Thai standards in the country at that time, but, um, upcountry at that time. But anyways, um, I hadn't had any wine except for when, you know, I went to go visit my boyfriends, boyfriend and his family during Christmas.

Doug:
Okay.

Helen:
And, um, I was sitting there and I looked over at the next table and there was this small group, and there was a, there was a bottle of Grace Family Vineyard on that table. And I just nearly died because I missed wine so much.

Doug:
Did you know what Grace Family was?

Helen:
Oh yes.

Doug:
Okay, you did.

Helen:
I was well aware.

Doug:
Got it. So you were ... yeah, okay.

Helen:
So I was completely blown away that it was, it was Grace Family, that somebody, you know, who, who had a bottle of Grace Family?

Doug:
At the, at the highest bakery in the world of all places.

Helen:
Yes, totally. Yes, it's a sign.

Doug:
(laughs).

Helen:
So, so I looked over and, and, and it was, you know, Dick and Ann, and actually-

Doug:
Dick and Ann Grace.

Helen:
... Debbie Zachareas was there too. Just crazy.

Doug:
Debbie was there?

Helen:
Yes, yes, yes.

Doug:
Oh, you're kidding me.

Helen:
Yes.

Doug:
Oh, that's ... I didn't-

Helen:
So, which I didn't know at the time and I didn't know how amazing Debbie was at the time.

Doug:
No, no. Debbie, Debbie is a long time wine retailer, um, runs Ferry Merchant Plazas Wine Stores, Stores. She's just awesome. She's been in the business forever. She's one of the best wine people out there, but I had to throw that out, but carry on.

Helen:
Yeah, definitely. She's amazing. So anyways, um, Dick came over and let me, you know, hold this bottle of wine which I like. I took it and I just dropped my head down and touched my forehead to this bottle because I'm like, "Oh my God, I miss wine so much, and holy crap-

Doug:
Oh, wow.

Helen:
... this is a bottle of Grace Family and where am I?"

Doug:
Did he let you have some? Did he go-

Helen:
No, no.

Doug:
No, he didn't.

Helen:
Dick said, Dick said, you know, and he was so nice to me taking it.

Doug:
Yeah.

Helen:
You know what just people I'd read about in this epic wine. So, um, he said, you know, "I'm so sorry. That's actually my last bottle and I need to take it to somebody."

Doug:
Right.

Helen:
They, they've supported so many-

Doug:
So many charities.

Helen:
... educational and charity efforts in Nepal and orphanages. And, and so he was going to meet, um, I think a, the director of a school which they'd helped start. And so he, he said, "I'm so sorry, I can't give you this bottle of wine." And I, I mean, I didn't expect to be given a bottle of wine,-

Doug:
Right, right.

Helen:
I just wanted to hold it.

Doug:
Hold it (laughs).

Helen:
(laughs). And so, um, we went our separate ways, but I recalled that story to him, um, back in 2014-

Doug:
Right.

Helen:
... I got a phone call, um, from a friend who said, are you looking for any more projects? And I said, "Not really, but what is it?" And he said, "Grace Family." And I said, "Absolutely." That's, you know, a property, I, every time I pass it, I think about it and I've thought about it for years and just what a wonderful, beautiful, special place. So-

Doug:
Well, that's full circle. So you're, and you're still working-

Helen:
Yeah, I am. Yes.

Doug:
... at that project with Grace Family, so, and we'll touch on it later. But real quickly, those who don't know, Dick and Ann Grace, um, wonderful folks and started Grace Family Vineyards Winery 30, 40 years ago. Small production, beautiful, beautiful Cabernet. Probably one of the first, um, if you want to use the weird term, cult wines before, uh, cult wines became a thing. This is back in the 70s, and a wonderful, wonderful couple and so generous in giving and supports charities and orphanages in, in the Southeast Asia in a big way. But, uh, now they've since retired and I think they sold Grace Family just in the last year or so, but Helen's up there working, working well, you're making the wine there, right?

Helen:
Yeah.

Doug:
Now?

Helen:
Yes.

Doug:
Well, what a great story, full circle.

Helen:
Yeah.

Doug:
'Cause this was, uh, it's 2019. When you were in Nepal and you met him. It was when?

Helen:
Uh, 1997.

Doug:
That's a long time ago.

Helen:
Yeah.

Doug:
That's wild.

Helen:
Yeah.

Doug:
Okay. So, it's kind of like you had this moment with this bottle of wine. So, did you walk away kind of going, "Hmm," or not? Because-

Helen:
I walked away thinking, wow-

Doug:
Interesting.

Helen:
... you know, I loved this year, and I love travel, and I love being in the middle of nowhere, and you know, I love these experiences-

Doug:
Right.

Helen:
... but boy, I really miss wine.

Doug:
Okay.

Helen:
So, I went back to Boston after that and I was starting to work on my, um, medical school application.

Doug:
Okay.

Helen:
So, I did the MCAT and, um, started working on the applications and I was shadowing the PI's with whom I'd worked in the lab in the clinic-

Doug:
Right.

Helen:
... and, um, and grilling them about, you know, why did you do, why did you choose medicine?

Doug:
Yeah.

Helen:
And they all said, why, and then they said, "If we could do it again," each one said, "If I could do it again, I would," and no one said medicine. And, you know, I think it's just, it's where they were in their lives, but as a 20 something, you know, soul searching for what would be my passion and what I would love to do every day, and it just made a big impression and it really made me think. And at the same time I came across this book, Milady Vine. And it's Philippe De Rothschild's autobiography. And so it's, it's, he's in the same period of his life and he was in his 20s and he's thinking about what he wants to do and his parents, his family is in banking and they really want him to pursue banking as well, be in the business, and he's not interested in banking. And he loves, um, he loves cars, he loves women, he loves wine, and so he escapes regularly down to their country estate, Mouton, which is totally defunct at that time. But falls in love with it, and you know, it's the story of him taking that to the first growth-

Doug:
Wow.

Helen:
... which is incredible, you know, incredible life's work, and, and that he really found his passion. And for some reason it just kind of resonated.

Doug:
Right.

Helen:
And I looked and I found that UC Davis had a graduate program in viticulture and enology, and so when I found that, I just thought, oh that's, that's it.

Doug:
This is crazy.

Helen:
And so I applied to that program. I stopped all the med school.

Doug:
All right. How'd, how'd you find that because, you know, this is, this is before the Internet.

Helen:
It was just when the Internet was starting.

Doug:
Oh, so you could find it.

Helen:
It was when you would do a search and it would take you 10 minutes to get an answer, so it was not an easy task. But yeah, this is back in-

Doug:
This is so bad because see I'm, I'm recording my life, you know, when I was just out of college, and trust me, there was, there weren't computers.

Helen:
Oh, no, for sure, for sure. No, it was awful. And you remember when they first came, how long it would take you-

Doug:
Oh yeah, okay. So I'm with you on that.

Helen:
... to have the screen change.

Doug:
But you found this program?

Helen:
Yes.

Doug:
Okay.

Helen:
Because this is 19- this is the end of 1997.

Doug:
Okay.

Helen:
So there was Internet, but, um, but it was very, very slow.

Doug:
Very slow.

Helen:
So, I found that program, I applied to the program and, um, yeah.

Doug:
I was going to ask you about that. How tough was it to get in? Was it tough?

Helen:
Yes.

Doug:
Yeah. What was-

Helen:
Because they didn't really ... so I felt like they weren't accepting outsiders. Napa was so much more insular.

Doug:
So, how'd you-

Helen:
In fact, when I applied to get, um, a job doing medical research, I applied all over the country. I looked at electron microscopy, I was looking at marine biology ... and I applied to wineries. I was interested in wine, but no- nobody called me.

Doug:
Got it.

Helen:
I thought maybe I could get in through the lab or something.

Doug:
So, how, I mean, how tough, so how tough was getting the master's at UC Davis? Probably pretty tough.

Helen:
At that time it was really hard, yeah.

Doug:
So what did you do? Come out and interview, and beat them up and pester them and all that stuff?

Helen:
So, I, um, yeah. I sent in the application, which was probably in the fall, so maybe November of '97, and then I just took off and traveled around the country and did another trip back to Southeast Asia for three months. And then I, I went, I went back to Boston, I packed up all my stuff and drove cross country. So, I moved to California and, um, I was staying with my boyfriend's parents in Marin, and I would drive to a UC Davis because, um, they weren't going to let me in.

Doug:
So, they, they had turned you down-

Helen:
They had-

Doug:
... or they hadn't encouraged you?

Helen:
They had not encouraged me.

Doug:
And so you took it upon yourself.

Helen:
That why I went over to find out why. And I, I drove to UC Davis.

Doug:
Oh, I've, I've got a visual of you knocking on somebody's door saying, "Tell me why?"

Helen:
I'd actually been emailing ... yeah, exactly. "What went wrong?" So, um, I had been connected with Ann Noble on the East Coast because she went to UMass, and UMass, and you know, Smith is part of a five college system-

Doug:
Right.

Helen:
... in the beautiful Pioneer Valley of Western Mass, and so we connected and I'd been emailing with her and-

Doug:
Ann Noble is a great longtime prof at UC Davis in enology program.

Helen:
Yes. Super, super bright, super intense, super direct East Coast powerhouse.

Doug:
Right.

Helen:
Love that woman. So I went over to meet her and she just said, "This is ridiculous. You need to march yourself down there and ask them, you know, what's going on." And so I did, I'm not going to name names, but I met with one of their professors and said, you know, "I understand that there's a question about whether I'm getting into this program and was it my grades?" "No." "Was it my GRE score?" And they looked at all the GRE scores and they said no. I said, "Was it my recommendations?" "No." Was it ... and he said, "Well, it must have been something in your personal statement." And I thought, "Oh my gosh, this is ridiculous." And I remember I told Ann, and she said, "That's ridiculous."

Helen:
And she said, "Well, you can get into the program, um, you could get into the program in two, in two ways." One was, uh, food science, which had fewer science, uh, recommen- or fewer science requirements.

Doug:
Requirements, right.

Helen:
And then, um, you could also get in through agricultural or chemistry, Ag chem.

Doug:
Okay.

Helen:
And that had more, um, science requirements, which, I mean, I was a bio major with a chem minor, I had all the requirements-

Doug:
You had everything.

Helen:
... and so I just went through that department and got in no problem. But it was honestly at a time when I just felt like Na- I mean, Napa is so different now. We have so many, um, people from all over. It's such an exciting place and has been for, you know, at least 10 years, 15 years, but at this time, it was not. And in that program, there were very few people who were just coming from the outside. The following year they, they accepted people. I had, you know, friends from, um, from Williams, from Amherst, from, you know, from other East Coast schools that were very, had backgrounds very similar to mine, who had no connection with anything in Napa.

Doug:
Interesting.

Helen:
But I, I just felt like it was kind of a turning point maybe in, in where Davis was and where wine industry was going, which is really neat.

Doug:
Well, it's good. I mean, it was needed and it's happened.

Helen:
Yeah.

Doug:
Because it's, it's a, you know, it's a worldwide industry, you know, as we all know.

Helen:
Right, right.

Doug:
So, okay, so great. So you got in.

Helen:
So, I got in, phew.

Doug:
You're, you're persistent.

Helen:
Yes.

Doug:
Yeah, I picked that up, I picked that up right away. So you're in, a two year program. Are you doing internships or working while you're there or just-?

Helen:
So when I moved out, I, um, you know, I knocked on a lot of doors-

Doug:
Right.

Helen:
... and with no experience knowing no one coming from the East Coast.

Doug:
Yeah, it's tough.

Helen:
You know, it's very difficult to get a job, but I don't know how somehow I, I knocked on a Mumm's door-

Doug:
Okay.

Helen:
... and Rob McNeill was the head of wine making at that time-

Doug:
Right.

Helen:
... and he gave me a chance.

Doug:
Great.

Helen:
So, he gave me my first job. It was in the lab, which I did not enjoy. It was super boring-

Doug:
Right

Helen:
... not fun, but I loved, I loved that, I was so appreciative of the opportunity. I met Kirk Venge their first year-

Doug:
Right.

Helen:
... which was awesome. Such a great guy. And then I did, um, Davis, and at the end of that, you know, year, I, I wrote cover letters and you know, wrote my resume and I sent it to probably, I think eight or nine people, but they were all people who I just absolutely admired and thought were incredible.

Doug:
Right.

Helen:
So Helen Turley, Bob Levy, uh, Ted Lemon, Heidi Barrett, I forget who else was on that list-

Doug:
Yeah, all the gang.

Helen:
... which going to happen anyways. I got a couple phone calls, not that many, and, uh, I think I had three, and one of them was Ren Harris from Paradigm. And so I hadn't heard of Paradigm and I didn't know Ren, but I went and I interviewed with him and, and he gave me a couple of bottles to try, and I loved him. And he, at the end of our interview, he said, "You know, Heidi Barrett gave me your resume and said, I better interview you and that I should hire you."

Doug:
Interesting.

Helen:
And he said, "And after this interview, I'd really like you to come work for me."

Doug:
Had you met Heidi yet?

Helen:
No, I hadn't, but I thought she, you know-

Doug:
Yeah. She has a great reputation.

Helen:
Yes.

Doug:
Um, but was she, was she making his wine or consultant? She was making his wine.

Helen:
Mm-hmm (affirmative), she still is.

Doug:
And she still is.

Helen:
It's been, I think their first vintage was in '91. They're her oldest clients.

Doug:
That's right. Oh, I probably I did know that 'cause she was in here. So, he hired you to basically be wine maker or be like ... what was the title? What was the job?

Helen:
Assistant winemaker.

Doug:
Assistant winemaker.

Helen:
You know, it was, I skipped everything and just became the assistant winemaker, which is a blessing and a curse because you miss that period where you just get to be completely ignorant and ask all the dumb questions, and I felt like I couldn't so I just pretended like I knew what I was doing (laughs).

Doug:
No, I'm sure you still did. But you were working with Heidi-

Helen:
Yes.

Doug:
Who's, who's, who's great-

Helen:
Amazing, yeah.

Doug:
... and a great, uh, and I'm sure a great teacher.

Helen:
Amazing and, and a great role model, not only in wine making but also in, I mean, she's like the epitome of, just really enjoys life.

Doug:
Yeah, she's great. So, you jump in, Ren hires you, assistant winemaker. You're there every day. Heidi is checking in once, twice, three times a week, something like that.

Helen:
Something like that.

Doug:
Yeah. And that was your first time really doing cellar work.

Helen:
Yeah.

Doug:
Okay.

Helen:
It was awesome.

Doug:
Oh, it's, it's fun, it's neat, but you got to learn, you know, it's, it's not that complicated, but someone's got to teach you. So, Heidi taught you probably.

Helen:
Oh, Ren would come out.

Doug:
Oh, Ren. Okay, Ren taught you.

Helen:
You know, Ren knew enough, knew enough to be dangerous, right?

Doug:
Right.

Helen:
Ren would come out and, um, show me some basics, the, the vineyard guys would also come and help sometimes too.

Doug:
Yeah.

Helen:
So I did the internship over the summer. I actually took the fall semester off or fall quarter off-

Doug:
Okay.

Helen:
... to do a harvest. And then Ren, you know, Ren had just had-

Doug:
Oh, you were still, you were still getting your master's.

Helen:
I'm still at Davis, yeah, I still had another year.

Doug:
Oh, I thought you were out. Okay, okay.

Helen:
Um, the guy who was there before me was not a very hard worker and so Ren was, you know, just, I'm a really, I'm super industrious, crazy workaholic type person, so he was totally blown away, and he said, "You, you got to, you can, you got to stay." And I said, "Sure." And so I kept the job while I finished grad school, so I would just go there on the weekends and keep up with topping. I would go there on the weekends and do racking, and just kept the job throughout the, my second year of grad school. And then, um,-

Doug:
Were you living in Davis or Napa?

Helen:
I would live in Davis-

Doug:
And then commute over.

Helen:
... and I would just drive over. And Ren has a little tiny guest house, kind of studio attached. It's across the car port from their main house. And so I would stay there on the weekend and do the work and then go back to school ... on Sunday night. Um, and so then when I finished, I just became the full time winemaker or full time assistant winemaker at, at, uh, Paradigm.

Doug:
Way to go.

Helen:
Yeah.

Doug:
That's very cool.

Helen:
It was awesome.

Doug:
Okay. So at this point it's 1997, eight, nine, something like that.

Helen:
Let's see, 1999-

Doug:
Got it.

Helen:
... was probably when I did my internship there.

Doug:
Okay.

Helen:
So then when I finished it was, uh, 2000.

Doug:
So you got a full time job-

Helen:
Right.

Doug:
... you're living in Napa.

Helen:
Right.

Doug:
All right. What's next?

Helen:
So, living in Napa I wanted to do, since I skipped that whole, you know, self exploration before you become the assistant winemaker, I wanted to do an internship abroad. So, Ren let me do that. He was fine with that. I went to Australia for a couple months in 2002.

Doug:
Well, that's really cool.

Helen:
Yeah, he's-

Doug:
He let do that?

Helen:
Yeah.

Doug:
I mean, I wouldn't.

Helen:
Oh, yes you would.

Doug:
No, no, I wouldn't.

Helen:
You guys are up there with like the nicest, coolest people in Napa, you're on the list.

Doug:
Oh, no, no, no, no, no. Well, you're very kind, but you need to talk to people who work here. No, it's like you can't, you have to stay here and work.

Helen:
The secret slave driver.

Doug:
Oh, um, okay, so, I'm sorry. You went to Australia for two months for an internship at-

Helen:
Two or three months, yeah. At, um, that was another experience of finding it difficult to get a job. But I was hired at Rosemount.

Doug:
Okay.

Helen:
So, it's in New South Wales.

Doug:
Big producer, right?

Helen:
Yeah, in Denman. A big producer, but they weren't, it was before they'd been purchased, so they were still family run.

Doug:
Okay.

Helen:
Um, but nonetheless, they, um, it was amazing. It was a big cellar. Everything I'd really done was small. Well, Mumm's not that small, but Mumm's still isn't that big either.

Doug:
Right.

Helen:
And so it was really eye opening and I think it was a wake up for me, or at least an experience for me that told me I like small wineries, I like the minutiae. I'm not really a big winery kind of person. So I like details and I like to, I just like small scale things where you can really -

Doug:
Well, you like to ... I'm going to jump in. You like to be involved-

Helen:
Yes.

Doug:
... involved in every step of the way.

Helen:
Right.

Doug:
You know, um, Elias and I have for years have had this conversation. You know, we've been together so long and, and as he took over and I'm out running the business and selling and all that, he said, "Look, we get much bigger, I'm going to lose touch. I don't want to lose touch with my wines."

Helen:
Totally.

Doug:
And I respect that.

Helen:
Yeah.

Doug:
And we're and we're able to fortunately, knock on wood, we're able to remain this size and stay in business. And so it's, it's nice, but I, I get that.

Helen:
Yeah.

Doug:
I never, and I'm kind of, um, I've always wondered what it would be like at one of these places that make just hundreds of thousands of cases. I mean, the scale must be crazy.

Helen:
Oh my gosh. It's crazy.

Doug:
And I, I would have, I would have no-

Helen:
And the tanks are gigantic. I mean, it's just-

Doug:
That, that's a big tank.

Helen:
... so like, so crazy.

Doug:
I mean, I, but I've thought back in the early days when it's like, where are we going to go with this business with Shafer, we're going to ramp it up, I try to kind of, I didn't talk to anybody, I should've talked to somebody, but it's like, I would think to myself, "How do you take it from 20 or 30,000 cases to a hundred or 200? I mean, how do you, how do you do that?" And it was just like, I'm sure there's a way to do it and people have done it, but it was, it was always kind of, um, just like, "Whoa, I don't know if I wanted to do that."

Helen:
Yeah.

Doug:
So, I'm glad, that's neat that you got to, to see it to early on, say, "No, I don't want to go there."

Helen:
Yeah.

Doug:
That's cool.

Helen:
Yeah, it was interesting. And you know, in the beginning I was, um, they hired too many winemakers basically for harvest, and with good reason because I mean, things would come up with these people and anyways, a few people left and, and, um, I know I was just an assistant winemaker, so I was sort of lower down on the totem pole in terms of, um, experience, and so as soon as two positions opened up, I got to be a winemaker. I was a night shift winemaker. So I worked from 7:00 PM to 7:00 AM I think, and slept in a, they gave us, they put us up in a trailer park, which was hilarious. So, I slept in ... I had my own little camper at this trailer park (laughs).

Doug:
(laughs).

Helen:
Um, but, um, the -

Doug:
Glamping in Australia.

Helen:
Yeah, exactly, before it was a thing. Um, but they would have me do finishing trials on the wines before they got bottled. So, it was setting up, you know, this wine with all of these different treatments, you know, finding agents or tannins or whatever, and which was really interesting, but God that is so far away from how, you know, how I make wine, how I would ever, I'd never do any of that, but it was interesting. So it was another, you know, just, I don't know if it dawned on me then that I definitely didn't want to doing that to my wine, but, um, but it was, it was a learning process.

Doug:
Interesting, because I, I've never seen that up close and personal, and, um, I guess you could call it, you know, I'm not trying to be negative, but I guess you call it more of an industrial wine making-

Helen:
Yeah, yeah.

Doug:
... as opposed to, um, artisan wine making or something like that.

Helen:
Totally.

Doug:
And, and there's nothing wrong with this, it's just a different scale and the, the end results are different product, and all the products are good in their own ... there's a place for all of them-

Helen:
Right.

Doug:
... and that's, that's fine, but it's just a different, it's just a different deal.

Helen:
Right.

Doug:
I get that. Interesting. We were talking about Dick Peterson earlier, who is, was on here a few episodes ago, but, uh, Heidi's father, great winemaker, but his, he started out at Gallo and he has some wonderful stories about Gallo, and it's, you know, wine making on a whole different scale.

Helen:
Right, right. Totally.

Doug:
So, where are we? We're still in Australia. You are a wine maker, night shift-

Helen:
Right.

Doug:
... for, for three months and then come back to Paradigm.

Helen:
To Paradigm.

Doug:
Okay.

Helen:
So, after that I, I went back to Paradigm and then I, I move, I wa- I was going to be finishing up at Paradigm because, um, I had been there for two years I think as the assistant winemaker.

Doug:
Okay. Right.

Helen:
And, um, I had married a guy who lived in L.A, and so-

Doug:
Tell me about it. That, that's, that's a big ... by the way, thanks for telling me-

Helen:
Oh, I don't think we need to talk about that.

Doug:
... thanks for telling me your story. This is really fun. I hope you're okay, 'cause I'm loving this. So te- marriages, you know, forget about it. Let's take a break from wine.

Helen:
Okay. Okay. I married the wrong guy and ... and he was in LA.

Doug:
Okay.

Helen:
So, I moved to LA and, and I started looking for a job in LA ... um, which, God, I probably, I feel like I sent out 50 resumes, you know, my, my, I did concentric circles and expanding, you know, mileage radius to try to find a job. And I ended up, um, luckily, I ended up in Santa Barbara, and, uh, got a job with Kathy Joseph at Fiddlehead.

Doug:
I heard about that and I just saw that and I go, gosh, Kathy.

Helen:
She's amazing.

Doug:
She's great.

Doug:
Whenever we had conversations, you know, at tastings and things, it's like, I taste what she's making, it's like, "Man, that's good." So, how cool.

Helen:
She lives in Sacramento and she, um, put together a partnership deal to buy a vineyard-

Doug:
Okay.

Helen:
... in the Santa Rita hills, and a beautiful vineyard. And so this was, this was very much in the early days. She had been making her wines at Zaca Mesa and I worked with her, she moved them to another winery that I'm totally forgetting the name of, but it was across the way. It was in the, um, in the industrial park in Lompoc-

Doug:
Okay.

Helen:
Um, and so expansive corrugated metal buildings that have been kind of, you know, the floor has been ripped up and sloped with a s-, you know, a drain for wine making and cooling units at it. And so she was at, um, another winery, um, gosh, I can't remember the name of it. It was like Presidio something or, but there were a couple of other wineries in there, so it was like a very small, very, very small custom crush type outfit.

Doug:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Helen:
And, um, and then the following year she had, uh, purchased or leased a building and was converting that into a winery.

Doug:
Okay.

Helen:
So, the first year we were in this somebody else's building, and then the second year we were in our own building. So it was that process of, you know, retrofitting this, um, warehouse essentially, to become a winery, move ever- everything over, equipment purchase, you know, s- and she's a really, really smart, smart woman.

Doug:
Right.

Helen:
So I just learned a lot from her.

Doug:
But what a good, what a great experience for you in that one.

Helen:
And she's tremendous in the vineyard too, so we got to spend a lot of time in the vineyard as well.

Doug:
Good. So, you're with her for a couple of years?

Helen:
Two years.

Doug:
Okay.

Helen:
And then I knew, you know, two years is sort of the segment of time if you're interested in continuing learning and, um, want to explore other things. So, I wanted ... you know, when I went to Napa from Davis, I loved Napa, and I knew that Napa was where I wanted to be. And so because of that, I wanted to get some experience outside of Napa because I had this feeling that as soon as I really invested in Napa, I wouldn't be able to leave-

Doug:
Okay. Fair enough.

Helen:
... just because you advance in your career and you get full time positions-

Doug:
Right.

Helen:
... that you know, lead to other things, you can't just pull out for a year or two or three months or it's very difficult.

Doug:
It's true. True.

Helen:
And so, um, the opportunity to go to Santa Barbara was great. The opportunity to make wine in Australia, even though it wasn't, wasn't really my type of wine making was tremendous. And what was left was making wine in the old world. And so I had gotten, when I was down in Santa Barbara, I had kept in touch with Heidi and she said, "I have this job. I want you to come up for it. It's coming up in a couple of years, um, but please keep this on your radar." And I said, "Absolutely."

Doug:
Okay.

Helen:
And so, um, I, I knew I was, I knew I had something in Napa and I wanted to do something abroad and wanted, I wanted it to be, um, Spain, France or Italy-

Doug:
Right.

Helen:
... you know, something, something very traditional. I loved wines from all of those countries. And at that point, I was really, I think I was really interested in Priorat, I loved Priorat. And so by chance I had become friends with the general manager, Victor Gallegos goes at Sea Smoke. And so we would catch up from time to time. And, um, after harvest in 2002, we had lunch and we were just catching up and he said, "What are your plans?" And I said, "Well, you know, this is my second year. I'm going to look for something ... I know I have something coming up in Napa. I'd like to do something abroad, namely in France, Italy or Spain."

Doug:
Spain.

Helen:
And his eyes lit up and he said, "Well, I've got this project in Spain in the Priorat, uh, with four other, you know, friends who are my partners, and we bought this vineyard," um, I think at that point, it was five years ago and they had planted it and they had an old section of Carignan, but they planted, you know, Grenache, Cabernet and, uh, Syrah. And so they had sold the first couple of vintages to another winery, uh, you know, grapes, and just waiting for the vines to be more mature to make quality wine. And this was going to be, you know, 2004, I guess it was.

Doug:
2004.

Helen:
You know, 2004 was going to be the first vintage. And so, um, he ... is that right? I feel like I'm not getting ... yeah, I think that's right. So, um, anyways, so he said-

Doug:
You know, you, I've got to tell you, it sounds like you've lived 60 years in 20, but keep going. I love it. But I love it, so carry on. All right, so keep going.

Helen:
So he said, "We're going to need a winemaker."

Doug:
Wow.

Helen:
And I said, "That sounds awesome, but you know, I need this to be a real job. I can't just go over there and twiddle my thumbs and not be working full time. I'll get, I'll get bored. It's just my personality. I can't, I'm not a loafer." And he said, "Okay, well, let's meet again and talk about this." And I said, "Fine." And so we met again, and he went through all the details of the job, and it was for sure a full time job because it would be managing all the farming in the vineyard. In the winery, they had rented a space within another winery but needed tanks, a pump, you know, it was barrel racks, I mean,-

Doug:
Barrels, everything.

Helen:
... everything. And so we, a press, I mean, I was going over there. So I went over, I agreed to take the job, I went over and had to find who sells equipment, and go meet with them, with very limited Spanish.

Doug:
I was going to say, how's your Spanish, yeah.

Helen:
Well, I thought I could get by because I had audited a course at Davis.

Doug:
One course. There you go.

Helen:
But, um, no, I did not speak Spanish. So, there was a Spanish partner, his business was not in wine, but he would come with me and, and basically it helped me and act as my translator and, and helped to get things done, but, um, he was awesome. And so we, you know, I did, that's what I did. I did it for a few years and it was, it was awesome. It was, you know, living in Reus, which is just outside the Priorat-

Doug:
Okay.

Helen:
... and it's actually where Antoni Gaudi was born. Um, and, and so really neat little, very self-sufficient, um, town with, you know, just a lot of bustling lives, so it's great place to live, and it would take me about half an hour to drive up to the winery and the vineyard, and so, um, I spent a lot ... and I could sleep up there as well 'cause, um, Javier lived up there. And so I had spent a lot of time, I worked with a lot of different vineyards and growers up there, and Grenache from different areas, and I worked with Claude Gros who's a fabulous consultant based in Narbonne in France, and he would come see me, you know, maybe three times a year. And I would just grill him. I would save up all these questions I had because I basically was working alone and you know, studying Spanish like crazy, and just trying to get everything done. But I just had s- and reading a lot and just had so many questions and thoughts and philosophies. So he was-

Doug:
That, that would be tough. Working alone as you're learning how to make wine would be a real tough thing.

Helen:
Well, but I had Heidi.

Doug:
I mean, you had Heidi. Yeah, that's right.

Helen:
And Kathy Joseph.

Doug:
Right.

Helen:
And then I had Claude, so I had, you know, two really great mentors, and then had this tre- amazing resource in Claude Gros.

Doug:
'Cause, you know, I just, I think about the early days here with Elias, you know, he was, I was here in '83, I hired him in '84, and basically it was just like for 10 years, "What do you think? What do you think? What do you think?" "Well, let's think about this. I heard this, so-and-so is doing this." I mean, every day-

Helen:
Yeah.

Doug:
... for like eight or nine years.

Helen:
Oh, totally. So, I kept, yeah, I kept notes in at- in tasting and thinking.

Doug:
And it was, oh, it was, it was so jazzy. It just, it was like, "Oh."

Helen:
So cool.

Doug:
Yeah, and my dad was in it too, the three of us, you know, 'cause, 'cause he'd walk in there, you know, we'd be in the lab talking about something, he goes, he'd bring in a half bottle of something from the night before, he goes, "Try this. This is really good." You know, that type of stuff.

Helen:
Yeah, super exciting.

Doug:
So, fun. All right, so, so you're doing it all in Spain-

Helen:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Doug:
... and you get a, I bet you get a phone call from Heidi.

Helen:
Toward the end of that year, I did. And so I came back and interviewed with, uh, Kenzo.

Doug:
Oh, Kenzo.

Helen:
Yeah.

Doug:
Okay.

Helen:
And um, and that's, I started working at Kenzo, but I was still working in Spain, which was-

Doug:
Now how ... come on, Helen. How do you, how do you, how do you, how do you-

Helen:
(laughs) I don't know.

Doug:
How do you do that? Or wait a minute. And also I think you got, I think you got married in there sometime, right?

Helen:
Oh yes.

Doug:
Yeah. You got-

Helen:
That's, that's actually a great story.

Doug:
Come on. So, yeah, I want to hear that story and then I want to hear how you, you're getting married and working in two wineries in two continents at the same time?

Helen:
Yeah, I don't know. I had a clone maybe.

Doug:
Okay. Okay.

Helen:
So when I was living in Santa Barbara-

Doug:
Right.

Helen:
Wait a minute. No. When I was living in ... working in Santa Barbara, I was living in LA, so where I'd moved down because I'd married the wrong guy. And I quickly, I mean, basically after moving down there, we had maybe one good month and then things really started to go sideways.

Doug:
Understood.

Helen:
And, um, and I kept saying, you know, "I think we need to go to marriage counseling," and he wasn't interested in that. And then I would go to harvest with Kathy and, and so and, and I was, you know, training for another marathon-

Doug:
Sure.

Helen:
... and I think, you know, through, through that process and driving myself to the marathon, running the marathon alone and driving myself home, I realized that this was not probably going to work. We did do, uh, marriage counseling, but I think the second part of that, he just didn't go, so it was just me going to counseling, which was great. And then I think at the end of, you know, when I started going to counseling alone and, and thinking through that, I realized this was not what I wanted from marriage. And, um, I was totally feeling like a failure that I didn't succeed at, you know, this marriage that something was wrong with me. But, um, and then I went off to do harvest with Kathy again, and through the harvest I still kept, uh, the phone calls with this, this therapist who is amazing. And I said, um, toward the end I said, you know, "I think, I think, I want a divorce. This is ... I'm done with this." And he said, "You know I can't counsel you to have a divorce," but he said, "Once you decide, I can definitely tell you this is the right thing." (laughs).

Doug:
(laughs).

Helen:
And so I came back down from harvest. I met this, I met, you know, this my husband who I hadn't seen in two months, and, um, and I told him, I'm like, "I'd like a divorce and I'm starting paperwork and you know, here's some paper." And, um, he wasn't happy about that, but it was obviously the right thing. And so I had come down again and met a girlfriend at a restaurant. There's this, there used to be this tapas restaurant called Cobras & Matadors and it was on Beverly, just east of La Cienega.

Doug:
Right.

Helen:
And it had a weird liquor license. Liquor license was tied to, not the restaurant, but this little shop-

Doug:
Shop next door.

Helen:
... next door. So, the same owner had both, and so the wine shop was a Spanish wine shop. And this coincided with me already-

Doug:
Already knowing you were going to Spain, okay.

Helen:
... accepting a job in Priorat, had already said, "Yes, I'll do it." And then obviously I'm in love with Spain, and tapas, and Spanish wine.

Doug:
Right.

Helen:
And so, um, but going through the beginning of a divorce, um, and so I met my girlfriend for dinner, and I went next door to pick out a bottle of wine. You know, I look over in the corner and there's this really good looking guy sitting behind the counter. He looks up at me and smiles and says hi, and I said hi, but just totally ignored him because all I wanted to do was get my wine, go hang out with my friend. I was not interested in meeting anybody.

Doug:
No, no men.

Helen:
Happy to be alone.

Doug:
Nobody.

Helen:
And so I looked on the wall and I was looking for four labels that I really loved. And so he came over as I stood there wondering what I was going to drink and struck up a conversation. And, um, he's, if you, you've met my husband I'm sure, but he's super disarming, just really incredible guy. And so, um, he struck up a conversation. We had a really funny conversation and he recommended a wine, which I bought. And, um, I went next door. I loved the wine.

Doug:
Okay. Good sign.

Helen:
And so he came over to check on us, and I was, I was sincerely grateful for the good wine recommendation, which I said to him, you know, "Thank you so much." And he said, "Well, you know, let me recommend a dessert and come over and tell me what you think about it when you're finished." And I said, "Okay." And so we had the dessert, it was delicious.

Doug:
He's, by the way, he's smooth. He's good, he's smooth.

Helen:
And when he tells the story, he's like, "I set the hook."

Doug:
Yeah, "I set the hook." (laughs).

Helen:
(laughs). So, um, so I went next, while my friend grabbed, was grabbing the car, I went next door to just say thank you. And, and, um, so we were talking and I said, "Do you know, you seem really interested in wine, um, and so here's my card." And I gave him my card for Fiddlehead, which we had just, if you remember, we had just set, we were just setting up that building as a winery.

Doug:
The new, the new up.

Helen:
So, the phone wasn't set up, my email wasn't set up, you know, nothing really worked. So, I wrote my cell phone on the back and said goodbye and we, you know, parted ways. And so he tried emailing me for a couple of weeks and it bounced back, and he tried the phone and the phone didn't work. And so probably about a month later, he tried, uh, the cell phone, and when he called, we were on, this is the middle of December and we were getting ready for a holiday party/open house/you know, we're so happy harvest is over.

Doug:
Right.

Helen:
And so, um, he called and said, you know, who he was, and I said, "Oh," I said, "Great to hear from you." I said, "You know, we're actually, um, having this party if you want to come up, and you, you know, you're more than welcome." And he said, "Maybe I will. You know, I'm not, I am working tomorrow, but I'm not working tonight, maybe I'll come up." And he said, "I'll call you back and let you know." And I hung up and I thought, "Oh my gosh, I have no idea who this person is.

Doug:
Right.

Helen:
You know, I've met him once, but it's a long way up here. It's a big commitment. It's two hours-

Doug:
Yeah, it's a two hour drive.

Helen:
... you know, what if he's a total freak?

Doug:
Yeah, yeah. Look what you did. Oops.

Helen:
And I didn't know who this is, yeah, yeah." And I thought, "Gosh." And, and furthermore, um, you know, it's really the middle, not the middle of nowhere, but it's, it was, you know, it's a small region. Where's he going to stay?

Doug:
Where is he going to stay? He's driving back.

Helen:
I was staying at vineyard house. I didn't even have a place to stay because Kathy had filled the vineyard house with her friends.

Doug:
Right.

Helen:
I had to go to LA the next day also. And so when he called back, um, I said, you know, he said, "I'm coming." And I said, "Great, but I don't have a place for you to stay. If you're okay with it, there are a couple campgrounds north of Santa Barbara, you could totally camp." And he said, "Awesome, that sounds great. I have a Jeep. That's easy." And so, um, I said, "Terrific." So, he drove up, and it's a long drive.

Doug:
Right.

Helen:
So, he called me a couple times just to make sure that he wasn't lost, that he really was getting to the winery at some point. And so he called at one point and he was passing Jalama and he said, "Whoa, Jalama. What a great, you know, what a great place. I've always wanted to surf there." And I thought, "Oh my gosh, this guy surfs. I surf."

Doug:
Oh, I didn't know that. Okay.

Helen:
And so I said, "Yeah, Jalama, um, beautiful, but I always get worked there because it's a beach break, I always just, it's like a washing machine if you wipe out there."

Doug:
Okay.

Helen:
And so, um, so he's gosh, you know, he's thinking, "Well, she surfs." And so he came and we had so much fun. It was un- just undeniable chemistry, just nonstop, funny, funny comments, laughing, just a volley of, you know, just humor back and forth. And I thought, "Oh my gosh, like I'm in trouble."

Doug:
I like this guy, yeah.

Helen:
So halfway through I said, I said, "Look, you have to know, I've got baggage. I, I'm, I'm in the middle of a divorce, and I just want you to know that." And he's like, "Great, no problem. I was engaged for three years and I broke it off and I moved to California, and everybody's got something."

Doug:
Right.

Helen:
And so it was nothing. And so we had a great night. We ended up camping that night at El Capitan, north of Santa Barbara.

Doug:
Right.

Helen:
And then I had on the way, you know, on the way to El Cap, I had grabbed, um, my surfboard, my wetsuit, I had my exes wetsuit, old wetsuit, had like a big hole on the butt-

Doug:
Right.

Helen:
... and, and another surfboard. And so we stopped by Rincon on the way down to LA the next morning and we surfed for three hours. And that was basically, you know, the kickoff of this-

Doug:
Wow, that's really romantic.

Helen:
... yeah, this amazing romance-

Doug:
Oh my gosh. That's cool.

Helen:
... that lasted for about six months and then I moved to Spain to make wine.

Doug:
Okay. So you went to Spain. You were in Spain for two or three years.

Helen:
Yeah.

Doug:
Long distance romance.

Helen:
Yeah. But we talked every day-

Doug:
Every day.

Helen:
... and, um, he came to visit a couple times and I came back a couple times.

Doug:
Good.

Helen:
And so when this job opportunity came up with Kenzo, I knew I wanted to come back. Um, and so I got the job, I moved back, and DJ moved up from LA, and then I kept consulting in Spain for another year or so. And we just, you know, Kenzo has a pretty late, it's up on top of Mt. George, so it is a fairly late harvest. So harvest would start, you know, maybe the first week of October-

Doug:
Got it.

Helen:
... and so I could spend the full month of-

Doug:
September in Spain.

Helen:
September in Spain, meanwhile, keeping, keeping dibs on everything that was happening in the vineyard. And then I would come back and basically, you know, be game on.

Doug:
Jump in, jump in again.

Helen:
Yeah.

Doug:
But DJ, your husband has moved up here.

Helen:
Yeah.

Doug:
Were you guys married yet?

Helen:
No, I was totally not ready to get married.

Doug:
You were living together and he's working here.

Helen:
Yeah.

Doug:
Got it.

Helen:
And we're having a great time. And then about, about a year later, I went to, um, Vinexpo or Vintech with, um, David Abreu and Brad Grimes-

Doug:
Okay.

Helen:
... and Michelle Edwards, who was, she used to make wine here. She's in Australia now. Um, and we had this crazy, you know, fun trip in Bordeaux. And then afterwards I met DJ in Paris and that's when he asked me to marry him.

Doug:
Oh, great.

Helen:
So, yeah.

Doug:
He's a romantic guy.

Helen:
Yeah, yeah, yeah. So, that was-

Doug:
That's fantastic. So you're, you guys are back here. You're still, you're at Kenzo. For how long were you at Kenzo?

Helen:
Um, five years.

Doug:
Okay. From like '05 to?

Helen:
2010, I think, or 2009.

Doug:
Okay.

Helen:
They were making their wine at Laird, they didn't have a winery yet.

Doug:
Okay.

Helen:
And so I was making, that was how I was able to do, you know, more than one thing. And during that time, I started my own label too. And so, um, then I helped them, you know, worked with Howard Backen-

Doug:
Howard Backen.

Helen:
... to build the winery and basically, you know, bought all the equipment and then helped interview for a wine maker to be full time up there.

Doug:
Okay. Got it.

Helen:
And then I consulted for one season with him and he's, he's still there.

Doug:
Okay.

Helen:
So, Marc Nanes.

Doug:
So you still consult with Kenzo a little bit?

Helen:
No, I don't.

Doug:
Okay.

Helen:
It's just, and Heidi does though.

Doug:
So, that's where Heidi was a consultant 'cause she's, she's the one that got you back to be the onsite winemaker.

Helen:
Right.

Doug:
Got it. You probably know, uh, Eric Schmidt-

Helen:
Yes, yes, yes-

Doug:
... construction company.

Helen:
... totally.

Doug:
Yeah.

Helen:
Yeah, he built it.

Doug:
Yeah, he did build it, real proud of it. He's a good friend. So yeah.

Helen:
Yeah, he's a great guy.

Doug:
So after Kenzo, you are consulting with them, and at this point you're doing your own project?

Helen:
Yeah, so in Spain, yes.

Doug:
Okay.

Helen:
In Spain working in the Priorat with Grenache, I loved the wines before I went, but I completely fell in love with Grenache, and I got to make Grenache from probably seven different sites. And you know, they all li- Priorat is so interesting because it's, um, it's basically one terroir, you know, I guess there are small differences-

Doug:
Right.

Helen:
... but it's, it's llicorella, it's clay with slate, with schist. And so, um, that, you know, seeing these seven different Grenaches from vineyards that were all on the same soil but at different elevations with different slopes, different aspects, in different humidities, making extremely different wines made me really appreciate the single vineyard, um, nuances that wines can express, namely Grena- well, in this case, Grenache.

Doug:
Right.

Helen:
And so when I came back to, um, California, I knew I would be working in Napa, I knew I'd be making and I assumed I would be going with Heidi's, you know, encouragement who was making wine for other people, and consulting, and working with Cabernet and Bordeaux varieties-

Doug:
Right.

Helen:
... and so I wanted to do something that was completely my own and totally different, and so I started looking for Ganache.

Doug:
Okay.

Helen:
And it took me about a year to find the first vineyard, um, but I found this really amazing site that had volcanic clay and, um, it did have some slate as well in the soil. And it was a vineyard planted by Sterling in 1996 for their tasting room.

Doug:
Okay.

Helen:
So, the vines had some vine age by the time I got them, and made gorgeous wine. And then that just sort of, you know, because I was doing that, um, you know, starting that project, I was catching up with Andy Erickson one winter, and he was- and it was when I had just found this vineyard, and he said, "You know, what are you up to?" We're just talking.

Doug:
Right.

Helen:
And I said, "I'm starting my own label. I finally found this one vineyard. It's making Grenache and Syrah." And he said, "You need to meet Ann Kraemer." And so that, you know, he is... Andy and Annie are the ones that introduced me to Ann, which-

Doug:
Um-

Helen:
What an amazing woman. (laughs).

Doug:
This is Ann Kraemer who- who's the, uh, fantastic vineyardist, viticulturalist.

Helen:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Doug:
And worked here in Napa for years.

Helen:
Yep.

Doug:
And is now, has been up in the foothills for, gosh, 10 or 20 years now.

Helen:
Yeah. She's been up there for 17 years.

Doug:
So she's grown grapes. So you started buying what from her? You were getting Grenache?

Helen:
Well, I wanted Grenache, but, um, she didn't have any the first year.

Doug:
Okay.

Helen:
And so we talked for about a year and she still didn't have any and she said, "I have Petite Sirah, and Syrah." And I thought, "Well, you know, Petite Sirah has such a- an incredible history in California."

Doug:
Right.

Helen:
Napa Valley, um, but it wasn't something that I'd set out to make. But meeting Ann and seeing her vineyard and seeing her farming, I mean, you drive up to the gate of that vineyard, and it is stunning.

Doug:
Right.

Helen:
It's perfectly farmed. It is so beautiful. And talking to her, I mean, I- I absolutely love that woman. She's so, so, so smart and so passionate. And so switched on. She's, she's... I really wanted to work with her. And so in the early years, she didn't have, um, you know, she had Ken Bernards, her winemaker who makes Ancien.

Doug:
Okay.

Helen:
Um, make wine from all of the blocks. So I rolled up to the cave to Ancien's cave and basically got samples from all the blocks-

Doug:
Oh, nice.

Helen:
... all the Petite Sirah blocks, all of the Syrah blocks. And I took them home and I did a bunch of blending trials. You know tasted all the individual components, did blending trials and came up with this blend, the Petite Sirah was gorgeous.

Doug:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Helen:
Beautiful, velvety, beautiful red tannins, and um, with just a little bit of Syrah. It was very, very finessed even though that's such a massive-

Doug:
Right.

Helen:
... varietal to work with. You will know.

Doug:
Yeah, yeah we know it (laughs).

Helen:
And um (laughing), and so I thought this would be really incredible, but I think just with a little top note of Viognier, kind of a curranty twist-

Doug:
Okay.

Helen:
... on Petite Sirah, I think that would be really fun ...

Doug:
Okay, cool.

Helen:
... to make and so that's what I said to Ann and she said, "Absolutely, we can do that." And I said, "I'd like these blocks, this is what goes together." And we- we talked through um, clones and characteristics and things too. She's very well-versed in all of that. Knows her vineyard very well. So we came up with this blend in, in 2007 I- I bought fruit from Ann and I'm still, I'm the- after Favia, I'm the second oldest uh, wine- we're the second oldest winery in her vineyard.

Doug:
Wow.

Helen:
So ...

Doug:
Good for you.

Helen:
She's just -

Doug:
I love it. I love it.

Helen:
... so then the following year we got Grenache.

Doug:
You made the blend in the vineyard.

Helen:
Yeah.

Doug:
Yeah. That's cool.

Helen:
That was fun.

Doug:
That's really cool. Yeah, you know we kind of do that here. We kind of do that with Hillside. Different blocks every year. It's like, which, which one's looking good? And on the top of that block, it was ...

Helen:
Yeah.

Doug:
What's out of that block? Yeah.

Helen:
Yeah, when you know it you can see it.

Doug:
Yeah. So when it comes in it's like, "Okay, we'll keep that separate, and that goes- that's going into that tank, the others go into this other tank."

Helen:
Yeah.

Doug:
Yeah we do that now that I think about it. Cool. All right so, where are we now? So you're making your own wine.

Helen:
Yep.

Doug:
And you're consulting.

Helen:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Doug:
So who are you consulting with these days? How many, how many wineries?

Helen:
These days um, these days not that many 'cause two of them sort of became one.

Doug:
Okay.

Helen:
So, (laughs) I was making uh, Grace Family, which um ...

Doug:
Right.

Helen:
... one of my other clients actually just purchased in the Spring of this year. Um, which was great. It was Kathryn and Jeremy Green.

Doug:
Okay.

Helen:
And, uh Kate and Jeremy Green. And they had started you know, they- it's cool, I mean not to get too much into Grace's story but, you know Dick and Ann came up here um, from the East Bay.

Doug:
Right.

Helen:
And three children. And Dick was in- was working in investments. And um, they came up to Napa Valley, had no plans to buy anything. But were having lunch uh, a stones throw from the- the Grace property now. And at the neighboring table was um, oh geez, was it Mike Sullivan?

Doug:
Yeah I think so.

Helen:
Is that right?

Doug:
Sullivan, yeah.

Helen:
And so he was talking about a property that he had for sale. Dick overheard it, asked him about it and he brought him up to the property. And Dick just got this feeling and said- and they made an offer as they were pulling down you know, the driveway.

Doug:
(laughs).

Helen:
And as Dick tells it, they guy hit the brakes and they almost went through the windscreen.

Doug:
(laughs).

Helen:
But, but anyways you know Dick- it's just this like wonderful story of the heart and feeling in that, that they were drawn to that property and also wanted their three children to enjoy Napa Valley.

Doug:
Yeah.

Helen:
And it was slightly more bucolic upbringing and agriculture, and ... Kate and Jeremy are, are very similar. Live in San Francisco, he's in investments, she used to be in marketing. Um, and, and they have three children.

Doug:
Right.

Helen:
And they came up to Napa Valley. They bought a property. Property had a little bit of acreage. They planted some grapes. And they sort of got the bug that way. And then found out about another property and sold their, sold their one property and bought this vineyard.

Doug:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Helen:
Um, beautiful vineyard. It's the old Van Asperen property down White Sulphur Springs.

Doug:
Oh yeah, yeah.

Helen:
On West side St. Helena.

Doug:
Yeah, I know it.

Helen:
It's a gorgeous, gorgeous property. Um, the woman farming that is Kendall Smith who's totally brilliant. She's a master gardener. Really farms with a, with kind of a ...

Doug:
Right.

Helen:
Uh, a gardening perspective. And is wonderful with organic and bio-dynamic farming. And she's a good friend. We were at grad school together. And I- I had her start at Grace because Kirk and I were working very closely together. Kirk Grace and I-

Doug:
Kirk Grace right.

Helen:
... were working very closely together but his duties at Stag- Stags Leap were just getting bigger and bigger and he was feeling stretched. And so he and I talked about bringing someone else in. And so Kendall had started farming Grace. And she told me about, she introduced me to Kate and Jeremy.

Doug:
Okay.

Helen:
So I started working with them making wine. And then when Dick told me he was um, you know thinking of selling and, and just where they were in their lives. And you know, it was just through a number of conversations with him and then conversations with Kate and Jeremy. I thought, this might be a really nice match. And they had been introduced to each other-

Doug:
Right.

Helen:
... through Kendall and myself and also um, just a little bit of the grapes that Grace bought from some old vines-

Doug:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Helen:
Grace was buying from um, Kate. And so that came together. So that is now- it's an- it's an awesome transition. There are a lot of commonalities between the two of them. Uh, both in their personal lives ...

Doug:
Right.

Helen:
... business philosophies, interest in charity ...

Doug:
You were the, you were the matchmaker?

Helen:
Just uh, yeah totally.

Doug:
Yeah you were (laughs).

Helen:
Very fun (laughs).

Doug:
You were the matchmaker and now you're the winemaker. Perfect yeah.

Helen:
Right, right. So that's one of my claims for a long-winded way.

Doug:
That's great.

Helen:
And then there's Carte Blanche Wine.

Doug:
Okay.

Helen:
Which um, is owned by Nick Allen. He's a great guy. His great-grandfather was Clarence Dillon. And so he grew up with ...

Doug:
Oh wow.

Helen:
... you know this wine and you know his family has um, Haut-Brion and La Mission. Haut-Brion and um Quintus in Bordeaux.

Doug:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Helen:
And he wanted to start something in Napa. Loves Napa. Loved- always you know, loved Napa and wanted to do kind of the New World um, version.

Doug:
Yeah.

Helen:
But you know, Carte Blanche is the clean slate. So working with him is an absolute joy.

Doug:
That's fun.

Helen:
He's a wonderful guy with like a great sense of humor and great energy. And then um, working with Cristie Kerr, who's a professional golfer ...

Doug:
That's funny I was going to ask about that.

Helen:
Yeah.

Doug:
Tell me about that one.

Helen:
Total far out. She's a blast.

Doug:
Are you a gol- you're not a golfer?

Helen:
Well I used to be. I grew up golfing.

Doug:
That's right.

Helen:
But I mean I haven't probably haven's swung a golf club in a very long time.

Doug:
I think golf's too, golf's too slow for you. I just think it's too slow.

Helen:
It's just time consuming. I don't have any time.

Doug:
Well it's, it's a lot of time.

Helen:
It's the same with marathon training.

Doug:
I know.

Helen:
I couldn't do that right now.

Doug:
I- I- the golf thing. I played for years. Six years ago I walked away 'cause it was- well time and frustration.

Helen:
(laughs).

Doug:
And then funny story I- I used the terminology. We- after five years we- we're dating again. So I'm- I'm dating golf. I'm not sure if it's gonna work out in the long-term.

Helen:
I think I'll try it in the future.

Doug:
We're just dating.

Helen:
Yeah.

Doug:
So that way there's no pressure.

Helen:
That's nice.

Doug:
That's a- it's a good way to-

Helen:
Yeah.

Doug:
Kind of, but okay.

Helen:
That's a good way to look at it.

Doug:
Okay. So how'd you meet with Cristie Kerr, who's one of the best women golfers in this country?

Helen:
She's awesome.

Doug:
Yeah, how'd this happen?

Helen:
So another friend that I went to grad school with is Sally Johnson. And Cristie started a um- Cristie loves wine and has loved wine for a long time and she's actually been doing WSET courses. I mean she's really-

Doug:
Oh, she's- she's really into it.

Helen:
Really into wine.

Doug:
Okay.

Helen:
Yeah. And I mean if you think about it though, what it takes to be so focused and accomplished at golf. Especially golf.

Doug:
Right.

Helen:
Which is such a mind game. It's not really a surprise. So she uh, struck up a friendship with Suzanne Pride.

Doug:
Okay.

Helen:
Suzanne Pride.

Doug:
Yeah right.

Helen:
And Sally Johnson, the winemaker at Pride. And they had um, a common um, you know, passion of, of raising money for breast cancer which Cristie has done an awful lot of. And so they came up with this wine Curvature.

Doug:
Okay.

Helen:
Which is you know, describes ...

Doug:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Helen:
... the golf swing, but also the contour of a woman's body. And it's a wine that raises money for breast cancer. Solely for breast cancer. So total non-

Doug:
Non-profit.

Helen:
Non-profit.

Doug:
Right.

Helen:
And so she had been doing that for a number of years. And um, was then interested in making a for-profit label. And um, Sally and- Sally I mean obviously Sally and Suzanne have enough going on with Pride and wanting to make the best possible wine there, that they just thought that was a little bit you know, outside of the scope of what they could do.

Doug:
Right.

Helen:
And do well. And so um, a couple of winemakers were recommended to them. To Cristie and her husband Eric. Um, and so I was one of them. And so I met them in New York and interviewed. And was hired for the job. That was 2013.

Doug:
Cool.

Helen:
So ...

Doug:
Must be fun.

Helen:
Yeah, it's really fun.

Doug:
Must be fun.

Helen:
Really, really fun.

Doug:
So you're doing that. And then you did this really cool thing. You did a co-op with uh, this gal from South Africa.

Helen:
Oh my gosh, yeah.

Doug:
Nat- Nat- Ntsiki Biyela.

Helen:
Ntsiki Biyela.

Doug:
Biyela.

Helen:
Yeah.

Doug:
Thank you. And you did it- accord- you did 2012 and 2017 you made a joint wine? To, whatever, tell me this one?

Helen:
So um, in 20- I think it was 2012. In 2012 um, this woman um, Mika Bulmash. Very young-

Doug:
Okay.

Helen:
... bright, super-driven uh, young woman uh, from New York came out and, and wanted to meet with me. And, and had this idea of pairing Napa Valley winemakers with winemakers from sort of up- up-coming regions to provide um, you know a resource for information. Uh ...

Doug:
Okay.

Helen:
Consulting.

Doug:
Right. Sharing.

Helen:
Support.

Doug:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Helen:
And also then a path to market. So to really kind of help in that respect um, support uh, winemakers from developing areas. And- and wine, and wine regions. And just bring more attention to them. And so I said, "That's a total no-brainer, I would love to do that". And so she had spent time in South Africa. So that was her first country that she was going to work with.

Doug:
Okay.

Helen:
And she had met um, Ntsiki Biyela who's I think the, maybe the first uh, black winemaker, female black winemaker in South Africa. Who has an incredible story about how she got into winemaking. She was in a small village um, raised by her grand-mother and the airlines came through with a scholarship to wine- to school. Wine school.

Doug:
Oh my gosh.

Helen:
And um, and she won the scholarship. She had really no interest in making wine but totally fell in love with it. And she is super dynamic. Very bright, very energetic and very talented. And so I had the absolute joy of um, making- we didn't- she made the wine, and then I just went and we came up with a blend.

Doug:
Got it, got it.

Helen:
And so it was really offering expertise in blending. And then, and then you know talking to her a lot. She talked about- she's at a point in her career where she was trying to figure out how she could marry you know, the need for working and the desire to do something on her own. Which is a lot more scary there than it is here.

Doug:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Helen:
Um, because it's a lot less common. And so we talked a lot about that and I encouraged her to start her own label. And she came up with the name of the label, you know at a lunch when Ntsiki and Mika and I were just, you know talking.

Doug:
Talking.

Helen:
Laughing. And she did start her own label and she's since, I mean, Food & Wine has named her-

Doug:
Oh, that's great.

Helen:
... you know, like the top ten most exciting winemakers in the- I mean she is, she is awesome. So we did that blend twice and um, I've talked to Mika about- we're probably going to do it again. But that's been really fun. And Mika's, do you want to talk about persistent? She's unbelievable. Unrelenting in trying to raise enough money to start her business uh, Wine for the World. She ended up starting a um, parallel business of importation and distribution to help you know, complement and support ...

Doug:
Right.

Helen:
... the more um kind of philanthropic uh,

Doug:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Helen:
... bend of her, or side of her business. And oh my- she is, she is incredible. Just does not stop and very, very smart and wonderful, wonderful woman.

Doug:
That's great.

Helen:
So, yeah.

Doug:
Great story.

Helen:
Yeah.

Doug:
So I, I gotta ask you how do you do this?

Helen:
(laughs) I just don't sleep.

Doug:
You got- you're making killer wines of your own and other peoples. You got a wonderful husband, you got a cute little three year old boy.

Helen:
Yeah.

Doug:
H- How do you do it? You know I mean, do you sleep like one, two hours a night? What's the secret?

Helen:
Um, I'm probably very unhealthy right now. I don't really have a lot of time to exercise (laughs).

Doug:
(laughs).

Helen:
It kind of comes and goes. And then sleep get sacrificed. So those are the two things.

Doug:
All right, well-

Helen:
'Cause I still, you know I really want to be a really good mom and obviously still want to make great wine and try to be a decent wife as well.

Doug:
All right, well-

Helen:
Probably a bad friend, and a bad daughter and a bad sister. And I don't get a lot of sleep.

Helen:
But it's a phase, right? I mean I-

Doug:
It's a phase.

Helen:
That's what I figured.

Doug:
It is a phase.

Helen:
It's just- I'm just in that part of my life.

Doug:
It is a phase.

Helen:
It's great.

Doug:
Got it.

Helen:
(laughs).

Doug:
Unless you take up golf then you'll, you'll screw the whole thing up.

Helen:
Yeah (laughs).

Doug:
Uh but, quick question.

Helen:
Yeah.

Doug:
How do people get a hold of your wines? If they wanna check them out?

Helen:
Oh, cool um.

Doug:
What's the best way?

Helen:
Probably just through our, our website and our mailing list.

Doug:
Okay.

Helen:
It's just the best way. We are in about ten states.

Doug:
Okay.

Helen:
But um ... we're really tiny -

Doug:
But website, they can, they can order it through the website?

Helen:
Yeah that's the best way. 'Cause most of the you know, all of what we do is, they're all single vineyard wines.

Doug:
Okay.

Helen:
Mostly Rhone varietals but we also make some Cabernet now um, from a really beautiful site in Napa. But they're all you know, they're 60 to 200 cases each.

Doug:
Okay.

Helen:
So they're pretty small.

Doug:
That's all right.

Helen:
So our website, you can join the mailing list and um, do ...

Doug:
What's the website? Kap- ?

Helen:
KeplingerWines.com

Doug:
KeplingerWines.com

Helen:
And, and we do a few releases a year.

Doug:
Great. All right. Helen, thanks for taking the time.

Helen:
Thank you so much for having me (laughs).

Doug:
Thanks for- I- it's so, so great to hear this story. I really, really appreciate this like, wow.

Helen:
Oh, thank you.

Doug:
So in three or four years you can come back and I'll hear the next five or six chapters.

Helen:
Yeah (laughs).

Doug:
All right. Take care.

Helen:
Thank you so much.

Doug:
You got it.

Helen:
Bye.