Winemaking is deeply personal to me. It is my artistry, my meditation, my profession, my life. It has been 15 years now and when I look back at my first harvest at Beckmen Vineyards in 1999, the slope of my learning curve was exponentially vertical. I absorbed everything I could. After a few years, I moved to Fess Parker Winery, and in 2006 I returned to Beckman as head winemaker. I left my day job in 2014 and I am now 100% Kaena Wine. Along the way I have had incredible opportunities to work amongst some of the best winemakers in the Santa Ynez Valley. They helped guide me toward my winemaking goals of establishing my own brand and taught me great lessons: Work as hard as you possibly can. Ask questions. Be aware. Most importantly, be humble. My first vintage of syrah I had to press by hand through cheesecloth. That was 2001. We all have to start somewhere.
Through the years, I have also been fortunate to work with a tremendous variety of fruit from incredible vineyards here in Santa Barbara County. This exploration has led me to my primary focus: Grenache. It is a varietal that is intensely aromatic, sexy, feminine, bold and always full of surprise. In my obsession with this varietal, my goal is to create the most diverse Grenache portfolio in the Santa Ynez Valley by working with the best fruit available. I am pretty close to accomplishing this goal.
While wine was not an integral part of my childhood in Hawaii, the paradise of flavors, colors and aromas that I was surrounded by prepared my palate to understand the delicate nuances in fragrance and taste. This overwhelming sensory experience was enhanced by my great-grandmother, Tutu, who raised me. I’d spend hours by her side watching her patiently layer ingredients in every meal, gently coaxing the best flavors to shine through. Through her work, she taught me to nurture and respect the tremendous gifts we are given. Never at a loss for words, she called me “Ka’ena’ai” – meaning “potential for greatness.”
My island experiences are embedded in my DNA. They are the reason I strive to make unique wines expressing the spectrum of their place. With Kaena Wines now in its second decade, I honor the responsibility my great-grandmother gave me.