Karen Culler started her winemaking career as a child, making homemade wine with her father and grandfather in Ohio. Her job was to destem the clusters of grapes by hand. Many vintages later she moved to Seattle. Bored with her job in a marine biology lab, she decided to build on her extensive Ohio winemaking experience by going to work for Columbia Cellars Winery in Seattle.
Imagine her surprise when she found out there were machines to destem the grapes from the clusters! Imagine her Ohio parents’ surprise when they heard of her new career choice: “They pay people to make wine?”. After a year at Columbia Cellars, she enrolled in UC Davis’ Master’s program in Viticulture and Enology (i.e. grapes and wine). Again she heard from Ohio, “They teach that at a university?!?”
After graduation, Karen turned a six-month internship at Robert Mondavi Winery into two years of full-time employment. When Mondavi purchased Vichon, Karen decided to move up the Oakville Grade to make wines at Vichon. Her solo wine-making debut included making Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon and it went very well until 1996. At that point, Vichon Napa Valley disbanded in favor of importing wines from the south of France under a new label: Vichon Mediterranean. In 1997, Karen opted to stay rooted in Napa Valley, venture out on her own and start her award-winning label, Culler Wines. In 1999, she started her second label, Casaeda.
Karen’s Comments on Casaeda:
“When I started making Casaeda, I mainly wanted to make a wine that was all about the fun…Fun in making it, fun in walking the vineyards, fun in drinking it and fun enjoying it with friends. So in naming my new wine, I wondered what could express the fun I had in creating the wine, and I remembered that my young daughter used to call cicadas, casaedas. It always made me laugh and better still, it had no wine connection.
I could use the name and tell people that it meant nothing. I would never have to give a long explanation of its Latin roots, of former ancient burial grounds where the vineyard now stands, or of my great, great grandmother’s middle name. It would be so easy. But no one believes that the name means nothing…so I told the real story. And now everyone thinks it is cute. Perhaps I should have just said it is Etruscan for “fun”! And, that is what Casaeda wines are. FUN. They taste excellent and are great to be shared with others, while laughing. To me that is what wine is all about.”
Jerry’s parents and grandparents have a long history of farming and Jerry spent his youngest years playing and working on the family farm where his grandparents once made family wine out of elderberries. Meanwhile, Emily played in the sands of Huntington Beach, growing up in a family that encouraged travel, adventure and wellness. Later, Jerry’s family moved to Southern California where he embarked on a career in the wine industry while Emily pursued her passion for child and family wellness. Following rich experiences of travel, adventure and college degrees, they met, married and moved to the beautiful Napa Valley. Jerry has spent most of the past 40 years in various positions in the wine industry, beginning in 1975 selling wine to retail stores and restaurants in the western states for the Gallo Wine Company. Since then he has designed and built a new restaurant, spent 8 years in Los Angeles County in wine distributor management and in 1993 was named Sales & Marketing Manager for Chateau Montelena in Napa Valley. Over the next decade in Napa Valley, Jerry served in sales management positions for high profile wineries such as Trefethen Vineyards, Grgich Hills Cellars and Ladera Vineyards. Jerry and Emily currently reside in the Napa Valley with their son where Jerry enjoys cooking as a hobby. Emily enjoys working with children and hiking the North Bay and their son is actively involved in sports and outdoor adventures.