Helen Keplinger

Helen Keplinger

Carte Blanche (Winemaker)

Grace Family Vineyards (Winemaker)

Keplinger Wines (Winemaker & Owner)

Kerr Cellars (Winemaker)

Wine was always a part of Helen’s upbringing – a natural part of every dinner, as well as special occasions with family and friends. After graduating from Smith College, she decided to study winemaking on a serious level, and completed the Masters program in Enology at the University of California, Davis, in 2000. There, her thesis adviser was Professor Ann Noble, inventor of the Wine Aroma Wheel. While at Davis, she interned at Mumm Napa Valley and Paradigm Winery.

Following graduate school, she became the assistant winemaker at Paradigm, working with winemaker Heidi Barrett and fully stepping into the world of very fine, boutique wine production. During the winter, Helen headed to Australia to work a harvest in the southern hemisphere. She then was the assistant winemaker at Santa Ynez Valley's Fiddlehead Cellars, working with winemaker Kathy Joseph, where she learned the art of making Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc via small-lot fermentations.

In 2004, Helen moved to the Priorat region of Spain to start a winery for a group of partners who had purchased a vineyard there. It was there, when working with an assortment of small vineyard sites, that she really came to appreciate the tremendous impact of terroir. Her husband, Douglas, visited her often, and they traveled throughout southern France, the Languedoc, and the Rhône.

She returned to Napa in 2005 to work with David Abreu and Heidi Barrett as the winemaker at Kenzo Estate. In addition to this position, she has been consulting winemaker for Scully Wines, Arrow & Branch, and Fort Ross Vineyards, and also was the winemaker at Bryant Family Vineyards. She currently is the winemaker at Grace Family Vineyards, Carte Blanche, Waterfall, and Kerr Cellars, all of which are boutique wineries.

Helen and her husband, D.J. Warner, also have their own brand, Keplinger Wines, which emphasizes single-vineyard Rhône varietals. Initial production was less than 500 cases of boutique wine from various Rhône varietals grown in the steep, rocky vineyards found near the Sierra Foothills—a region most known for its affordable Zinfandels—but they are slowly increasing this figure. The wines being offered include Grenache, Syrah, Petit Syrah, and red and white blends.

Helen was featured on the cover of Wine Spectator magazine’s June, 2014, issue, and the cover story described her project as “one of the most exciting and innovative wineries to emerge in California in years.” In addition, she was named “Winemaker of the Year” by Food and Wine magazine in 2012.