Curvature Wines was founded by long time LPGA golfer Cristie Kerr (winner of two major championships and 18 titles) and Suzanne Pride, co-owner of Napa’s esteemed Pride Mountain Vineyards. Both women met and connected through charity events and of course wine. Cristie is as serious about wine as she is about golf. She has already passed the level 1 curriculum while studying for the Court of Master Sommeliers.
Cristie was born in Miami and began playing golf at age 8. She turned professional in 1996 at age 18 directly out of high school. Her first LPGA victory was in 2002 and in the years following she became one of the the top golfers in the world winning a number of LPGA events and other championships. By 2010 she was at the top of the leader-board in Women’s World Golf Rankings.
Founding winemaker Sally Johnson made Curvature wines from the inaugural vintage in 2006 through 2017. She is originally from Ann Arbor, Michigan – but first became intrigued with wine while studying in France, hooked not only by wine’s heritage but both the art and science of winemaking. She then majored in both French Literature and Biology and graduated with a Master’s Degree in Winemaking from UC Davis. Long associated with producing the stellar wines at Pride Mountain she also worked for 8 years at St. Francis Winery and Vineyards in neighboring Sonoma County and a harvest at St. Hallett Winery in Australia’s great Barossa Valley.
One of Sally’s classmates at UC Davis was winemaker Helen Keplinger. Sally introduced Cristie to Helen and starting in 2018 Helen took over the winemaking for Curvature Wines. Helen was born and raised in Ohio – and grew up with parents who enjoyed wine, travel and the outdoors. Helen recalls collecting wine bottles (empty ones) when she was a child. But her interest in wine did not come until later. After graduating from Smith College in Massachusetts she was on track to go to medical school. Working for nearly two years with researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital (Harvard Medical School) she found the work intriguing but it wasn’t a passion and considered the work a ‘job’. Discovering wines through one of the Big Y Wine stores in Western Massachusetts Helen began to explore a variety of wines from different regions around the world.
Needing a break from work she took a year off and moved to Thailand – teaching English to children in a small town well north of Bangkok. Upon returning to the states she began applying to a number of medical schools – and also applied for positions at several wine labs (although she never heard back from any of those). Her interest in wine was further piqued after reading M’Lady Vine, the memoirs of Baron Philippe Rothschild. Discovering the graduate program in Enology at the University of California Davis – Helen decided to abandon her medical school plans and applied and was accepted at UC Davis.
Helen’s first job in Napa Valley was working in the lab at Mumm Cellars. She has since built a remarkable wine making career focusing her efforts on the Napa Valley. She was winemaker at Bryant Family Vineyards, Grace Family Vineyards among others and throughout her career has worked with some of the brightest winemaking minds in the valley including Heidi Barrett and David Abreu. She has been featured in numerous publications over the years and has been named “Winemaker of the Year” several times by Food and Wine Magazine. In addition to consulting for clients, she also operates Keplinger Wines in conjunction with her husband DJ Warner.
The focus of Curvature is on producing premium wines from both Napa and Sonoma sources – with all proceeds used to fight breast cancer. Both Cristie and Suzanne have been affected by cancer. Cristie’s mother, aunt and godmother fought this disease. Witnessing their struggles she decided to fight back – in 2003 she founded Birdies for Breast Cancer to raise money in the fight against the disease. Her efforts with Birdies for Breast Cancer has to date raised over 4 million dollars and her fundraising work helped found the Cristie Kerr Women’s Health Center at the Jersey City Medical Center (having helped over 20,000 women with breast cancer). Cristie also overseas the annual Cristie Kerr Foundation’s Birdies for Breast Cancer Presents Celebrity Golf Classic.
Suzanne’s father Jim, co-founder of Pride Mountain died far to early from bladder cancer – the Prides supported Stanford research that identified the particular gene that caused his cancer (and continue to support cancer research at Stanford through proceeds from the sales of Curvature wines).
Cristie visits Napa Valley 4 to 5 times a year and has earned a unique title, “Chief Tasting Officer”. When critical blending decisions need to be made and she is not in the valley, wines are sent overnight for her to taste. Her wines are not quick to market – with the Cabernet Sauvignon often seeing up to 18 months in bottle before even being released.
The 2016 Curvature Chardonnay was sourced from the famed Bacigalupi Vineyard in the Russian River region of Sonoma County. Well-known for being one of the sites that supplied the grapes for Chateau Montelena’s 1973 Chardonnay which won in the Paris Tasting of 1976 (French judges chose mostly Napa wines over wines from their own country). This wine is golden in the glass; it reveals a diversity of intriguing aromas including tropical nuances (honeysuckle), dessert spices, a tangerine zest and an inviting sweetness of fruit. Rich and rounded this is a very flavorful showing. Finishes with plenty of length – packed with flavor and just a hint of vanilla. This wine was entirely barrel fermented using 50% new oak. 50% of the wine went through secondary fermentation.
The 2014 Curvature Cabernet Sauvignon (sourced from Stagecoach Vineyards on Atlas Peak) along with a tiny bit of Merlot from the Oak Knoll District shows a highly appealing bouquet focusing on fruit aromatics rather then barrel influences. It is deeply layered with aromas of blackberry along with a kiss of cedar and dessert spice. Feels nice on the palate showing a bit of dustiness along with flavors of blackberry. Good acidity with a slight chewiness of tannins on the finish. Sally loves the varietal characteristics that the fruit from the Stagecoach Vineyard brings to this wine.
The 2015 Curvature Cabernet Sauvignon shows a smoky elegance on the bouquet complemented by darker fruit, hints of baking spice, dust and blackberry and boysenberry. Very bright aromatics. Juicy on the palate with mouth watering acidity showing more red fruit then darker fruit on the finish. Flavors of plum and hints of cedar. Somewhat tight tannins (but not gripping) in their youth anchor the long finish. A very food friendly wine.
Production of Curvature Wines is small – usually around 1000 cases. The wines are available through the website and at select restaurants and country clubs and have been served on Emirates Airlines and at notable restaurants such as the French Laundry in the Napa Valley and Per Se in New York City. The wine has also been served at the White House. For more information, to purchase wines and or to join their wine club, visit: www.kerrcellars.com and Cristie’s wine blog: www.cristiekerrgolf.com/category/blog/wine