Karen Culler

Karen Culler

Rivera Vineyards (Winemaker Emerita)

Karen Culler began her winemaking career as a child, making homemade wine with her father and grandfather in Ohio. Her job was de-stemming the clusters by hand. Many vintages later, after completing her bachelor’s degree in Botany and Agronomy from Ohio State University, she moved to Seattle. Bored with her job in a marine biology lab, she decided to use her extensive Ohio winemaking experience and went to work for Columbia Winery in Seattle.

After a year at Columbia Winery, she left to enroll at the University of California, Davis, where she earned a master’s degree in Viticulture and Enology in 1984. After graduation, she began a six-month internship at Robert Mondavi Winery in its research department. Six months turned into two years, and when Robert Mondavi purchased Vichon Winery, Karen moved to Vichon as assistant winemaker in 1986. In 1989, she became the winemaker.

All went well in making Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon until 1996, when it was decided to disband the Vichon Napa Valley brand in favor of wines imported from the south of France for the Vichon Mediterranean brand. Karen decided to keep her roots in Napa Valley. She started her own label, Culler Wines, with the harvest of 1997. Under this label, for 15+ years she produced Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, and a Meritage blend, using the “Cabernet family grapes.” Her final release under this label is the 2012 Culler Cabernet Sauvignon, which she characterizes as her “swan song” after 30+ years of having fun making wine.

Until May 2016, Karen consulted for various wineries in Napa Valley, including Anselmo Vigne, Ladera Vineyards, Renteria Wines, Riviera Vineyards, and Wolf Family Vineyards. Her plans in retirement include extensive travel to visit friends who invited her to visit through the years.