June 3rd, 2023: Exchanging Cole-Haans for Carhartts
Note: This blog post was written by our fantastic team member, Daniel Dilley.
I’ve had friends and prior co-workers ask me what prompted such a drastic career change from 30 years in corporate to winery production work, and my response is simple, “I followed a dream.” Let me elaborate in case you find this the least bit interesting, or at a minimum, it gives you a reason to come up to me at Kalasi Cellars just to say, “Hi, and you’re crazy!”
In the mid 90’s, while living in Austin, I met a gentleman who ran a wine shop. Over the course of a year, this wonderful man not only opened my eyes to wine, but he also allowed me to discover it without criticism. What a gift, huh? Over the next several years, following a relocation with my job to Illinois, I would begin making wine with kits and equipment I purchased at a local brewing and winemaking supply store. Why is that a relevant fact for my story? It’s one of the first examples that I was a little crazy about fermented grape juice. As most know, basements are common place in the Midwest and they play an important safety feature of a home when the tornado alarms go off. Well, in our house we had to maneuver around wine making supplies and share our safety with juice filled carboys. This sounds worse than it actually was, says the guy that would probably do the same thing today if we had a basement. As years would pass, and back in Texas for another job relocation, I continued to make wine with any free fruit I could get my hands on. Side note, prickly pear wine is a fun experiment, but not one you should do in your sons closet. Not a proud moment, but in my defense his closet was the coolest and darkest room in the house – the closest I could get to a basement. This would be “crazy” example #2. The kids would eventually help me cork bottles of wine over their summers (non-traditional summer school) and could name at least 5 grape varietals before they were teenagers. I might consider this crazy example #3, but I’m very proud of their appreciation and respect for wine as adults. As years would pass, I continued to study all aspects of wine, finding a new angle on history, science, math, and geography. These weren’t classes I was fond of throughout college, but incorporate wine, and I found them exciting. Along the way, I got to travel throughout the U.S., Canada, Germany and Italy, exploring vineyards and wineries along the way. As I moved through 20 years in the corporate world, my mind started to wonder about a future in this industry. I obtained some designations and began volunteering at several wineries with harvest and production work. I felt I needed to see all sides of the industry just to confirm I was all in. The biggest step forward came with the purchase of land in Mason, Texas and the planting of a small vineyard. After nurturing theses vines through hail, drought and lots of grasshoppers, I was able to bottle my first wines in 2020. It was at that moment that I had experienced the entire process of vine to wine and knew I wanted to keep going.
So here I am at Kalasi Cellars and couldn’t be more grateful for the opportunity to make my dream a reality. There have been some really great winery and vineyard owners that I’ve gotten to know over the years and I’ve appreciate their willingness to share experiences and knowledge. However, I’m especially thankful to Nikhila and Greg for believing in me and allowing me to be part of this special place that is producing phenomenal wines. I also get to work with great people that remind me so much of the man I met in Austin – kind, patient, and just want you to enjoy wine. We all look forward to welcoming you to Kalasi Cellars. Cheers!