This is part of a series introducing you to interesting people in the wine industry. For many, the journey into wine is not only intriguing but often quite an adventure. These talented individuals are what make the wine industry what it is today so follow this series to meet this group of passionate people who have dedicated their lives to wine.
Why Wine? An interview with David Hastings of Kendall-Jackson Wine Estates
Was there a specific wine, moment or place that unlocked your passion?
David Hastings: There have been several memorable moments, the first was when I was only 10 years old, and my grandfather told me about making wine during prohibition. That got me started, so, by that fall I was making wine too! Not from grapes, that took another few years, but from some mystery fruit I had found in our backyard.
Another memorable moment was when I was in my mid 20’s already in the wine industry, I had made the acquaintance of Gary Pisoni, where he was showing me the basement, in fact where we ended up having a wonderful meal, cooked by Roseanne, his wife. About halfway through the meal Gary called out to Roseanne “Honey, I don’t feel too well, so I think we need the doctor.” I had no idea what was going on, but, in a minute he reappeared from behind a wine rack with a bottle of 1971 Bernkasteler Doctor Riesling Auslese… That was a truly memorable moment – it changed my life. In fact, based on that bottle I decided that I would go to Germany to learn how to make Riesling!
What did you study in school and what were you doing before you started in the wine industry?
DH: There is quite a story behind this! I had met a lady in a math class at PCC who had mentioned me to her husband, so that was how I had gotten a job, as an intern… I was working at JPL on the Mariner Mars Venus mission. I was in the platform parameters group, a very small part of the ODP (orbit determination program.) Because I wanted to follow my dream, I tore up my application to UCSC (I was going to major in math there), and rewrote an application to UCD. Just in time as, who knows what would have happened if I had already sent it in to UCSC. Luckily, I ended up studying fermentation science at UCD.
How has being in the wine industry changed you?
DH: Hopefully for the better, I have taken to agriculture, and organic chemistry as compared to before I was in the wine industry; my interests were math and physics only…
What’s your favorite part of being in the wine industry?
DH: I just love the work. I don’t get to do much of it anymore (due to Parkinson’s) but, until quite recently I could. My life was fantastic mixture of running up to the tops of tanks, helping on bottling line adjustments, working on spreadsheets (that still occasionally happens), and all kinds of wonderful stuff. It wasn’t too many years ago that I was doing punch downs, loading the basket press, etc.
Looking back, was there something in your past that led you to wine?
DH: Yes, my grandpa! Plus, if I may say so the beautiful areas that the wine industry is located in sure didn’t hurt!