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Meet Robert Mondavi Winery’s Director of Winemaking: Kurtis Ogasawara

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Kurtis Ogasawara, Director of Winemaking

May 31st – Born and raised in California’s Silicon Valley, Kurtis Ogasawara had a clear vision of what his future would look like, and grapes were not involved. A longtime competitor, Kurtis earned himself a spot on the Division I wrestling team at UC Davis and began majoring in Mechanical Engineering, looking forward to seamlessly graduating into the technological lifestyle he left at home. All of this changed when he enrolled in a freshman year course called “Introduction to Winemaking.”  

Immediately enamored with winemaking’s blend of art and science, Kurtis changed to the Viticulture and Enology department, and began interning as a laboratory technician at Mumm Napa, where he learned the ins and outs of a winery and gained hands-on experience. After graduating in 2011 with a successful college wrestling career under his belt and a B.S. in Viticulture and Enology, Kurtis landed a job as a laboratory technician at Domaine Chandon. There he worked closely with the winemaking team to hone his skills and develop his own unique style. His efforts were well-received and he quickly transitioned into the role of enologist at the lauded Newton Vineyard in St. Helena, CA. 

During his time as an enologist, Kurtis wore a variety of hats. From managing and training harvest staff, to conducting wet chemistry analyses and coordinating wine blending sessions, Kurtis gained valuable experience in virtually every aspect of winemaking and viticulture. In 2015, after three years at Newton Vineyard, Kurtis took his well-rounded winery knowledge to Oakville as the assistant winemaker at the iconic Robert Mondavi Winery, and was promoted to winemaker in 2018. Kurtis was appointed Director of Winemaking in April 2023.  

Working with a world-renowned winemaking team led by Chief Winemaker Geneviève Janssens, Kurtis has contributed his talents to a number of estate wine programs since his arrival, including the 2016 Burgundian varietals and the winery’s iconic To Kalon Vineyard bottlings. In January 2023, To Kalon Vineyard achieved organic certification through California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF), in which he played an integral role in hitting this milestone. Working for Robert Mondavi Winery has been “like a dream,” Kurtis says. “The amount of history here is staggering,” he enthuses, “and the opportunity to learn from Geneviève, who has so much accumulated wisdom, is an unbelievable opportunity.” Kurtis lends his vast experience to helping shape Robert Mondavi Winery’s future legacy as the winery continues a historic transformation to cement its stature as the defining fine wine leader in Napa Valley. 

Kurtis lives in Napa with his wife and their two daughters. When he’s not in the vineyard or winery, he enjoys cooking and sharing fine wine and cold beer with family and friends. 

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