Charles McKahn – winemaker
I chose wine as a career as a doe eyed fifteen year old. When I was very young my mother worked in the export department at Wente Vineyards, and her time there made an impression on me that I wouldn’t come to realize until young adulthood. No one I knew at the time was thinking about a career in wine, and it seemed like a unique way to make a living. It has history, tradition, and seasonal variety. I wouldn’t be able to legally consume it for six more years, but I knew it was for me.
I studied Enology, the science of winemaking, for four years at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and graduated in 2011. More important than my studies though were my three harvests working for McManis Family Vineyards in 2007, and Tolosa in 2009 and 2010. I learned what the books couldn’t teach me; that making wine is a lot more than grape juice and yeast. I learned that winemaking is hard work done by blue collar people from all different walks of life. I learned it is a craft that is old and is to be respected. It is millenia of tradition and generations of people trying their damnedest to make spoiled grape juice taste delicious.
I moved to the Napa Valley in 2011 to work under Phillip Titus at Chappellet Vineyard on Pritchard Hill. I spent the next five harvests there working my way from cellar intern to Enologist and ultimately Assistant Winemaker. These were formative years working the line at a serious winemaking operation. It was there I learned what made the fabric of a good wine, and that terroir is more than soil and weather; it’s also people. In January of 2016 I continued my journey with Bordeaux varieties onto William Harrison in Rutherford, where we craft small production Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc.
McKahn Family Cellars has the word family in the middle of it for a reason. The four of us, my two parents and my wife and I, strive to continue the tradition of the family wine business. Family owned and operated wine operations are becoming relics of a distant past, and in an industry that is becoming more and more corporate we aim to be different. We make Rhône varieties and our flagship wine is our Napa Valley Syrah. Syrah is a noble grape whose beleaguered reputation in this country is shameful. My main motivation with our family business is to bring Syrah back to the front of the line in the fine wine world, next to the likes of Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir.