A Napa native, Blake is a licensed Pest Control Advisor and earned his B.S. in AG Business and Wine and Viticulture from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo. As a Viticulturist and Vineyard Manager, Blake has collaborated with numerous winemaking teams to develop many of the top wines produced in Napa Valley, farming the vines responsible for more than thirty 100-point scores.
“Viticulture is dynamic and multi-disciplined, opening the door for cross-functional collaboration while providing endless opportunities to learn. I’m incredibly excited to guide vineyard operations as we continue crafting award-winning wines from our iconic To Kalon Vineyard.” - Blake Wood
How did you get started in Viticulture?
Growing up in Napa, I was very aware of the wine business and its importance within this community. While attending Cal Poly, I took an internship in the cellar. I discovered so much passion and history there. I learned to appreciate the artistic element of winemaking that, in some ways, hasn’t changed at all in thousands of years and, in other ways, is highly technical and evolved. From the vineyard to the cellar, and of course, the hospitality team, inviting guests to experience what we’ve all worked so diligently to create, it was very special to me. The following summer, I returned for an internship to work in the vineyards. Immediately I was hooked.
Growing from an internship in the vineyards to the Director of Vineyard Operations is an incredible journey and notable accomplishment. Was this something you had planned to achieve?
In a way, yes. Initially, I was interested in the business side. While working in vineyards, I discovered my passion for wine growing. Wine is an art and a craft, as well as a culture. I enjoy exploring these elements, working with my team, and tending these vineyards to create wines people love.
How did you begin working with your mentors?
When I graduated from college, I was looking for an opportunity that provided certain things I knew would keep me motivated: quality materials, high table stakes, and good people. I found a position with a premium viticultural consulting company working with a fantastic list of clients hyper-focused on quality. It was here that I worked beside two amazing viticulturists who cared deeply for their clients. The level of passion, knowledge, and humanity in their day-to-day operations shaped how I approach my relationships today.
How did starting your professional career with a role in a consulting firm impact your journey?
The consulting framework meant I had access to many vineyards and management teams. It was fantastic exposure. I had the good fortune to access many iconic individuals, really top names in Napa Valley wine. The value was immeasurable. In sports, you practice repetitions to improve. In farming, you don’t have that luxury. You see one harvest a year. Over your career, you’re only getting 30, maybe 40 vintages. A person can pass on years of accumulated learnings in a simple conversation. Wine is amazing this way. It is exciting to be a link in a chain that extends as far back as recorded history.
What intrigued you about the opportunity to work with To Kalon Vineyard Company?
Initially, it was the vineyards and the history associated with this project. I also found talented, good people to work with. This was an opportunity I couldn’t pass on.
Are you excited to work with Andy Erickson again?
Yes. Andy is a great partner to develop site-specific wines with. He has a passion for wine and this special place. We work with “soft hands” to encourage the truest expression of the vineyard and the vintage.
Final question: You’ve had a fantastic day and it’s dinner time. What’s on your table?
A home-cooked meal with a Napa Cab surrounded by family and friends. I’m blessed to end most days this way.