Wines and Vineyards

Post image for Courtney Kingston is fifth generation steward of family farm in Chile that now produces wine

Courtney Kingston’s life’s been a bit farm to farm. She came to Stanford to get her MBA, writing a business plan about how to convert her family’s dairy farm in the Casablanca Valley in Chile into a Pinot farm by planting grapes on the western hills.

“We even have a Palm Drive going into our farm, although the palms aren’t as big as Stanford’s Palm Drive,” she said.

Courtney is the fifth generation to be involved in the dairy farm and cattle ranch that the family patriarch, Carl John Kingston, founded in the early 1900s.

“Our family motto has long been ‘how are you going to help the farm’?” she said. “That’s followed up with ‘don’t quit your day job,’ which was good advice as I had lots of student loan debt after graduating so I worked in tech for five years, always trying to learn what could be transferable skills.

“We also don’t ‘bet the farm.’ So we did a lot of soil analyses and talked to California vintners, large and small. We planted Pinot Noir and Syrah in 1998 in an area that had mostly yielded white varietals.”

Today they produce about 5,000 cases a year of Pinot Noir, Syrah, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay.  Most is sold direct to consumer through the website, although the wines can be found locally at Bianchini’s in Ladera and K&L in Redwood City.

The North American headquarters of Kingston Vineyards is run from a home office in Ladera, with Courtney working alongside a staff of fellow Laderans. [Editor’s note: Before meeting Courtney, we’d long been puzzled why a Chilean wine was among the small selection of Pinots sold at Bianchini’s — and why it had a prominent place adjacent the meat counter. Now we know!]

Courtney calls Pinot Noir “the heartbreak grape.” “It’s difficult to grow and difficult to make — and all about finesse and not about power. The best thing about Pinot is that it speaks to where it’s from.”

While Kingston Vineyards has practiced sustainable farming for years, it is now on the path to getting certified organic, a process that takes three years. “Sustainable and organic — it’s about the long term stewardship of the land,” says Courtney, “the land that’s been in my family for 100 years.”

Fun fact: Kingston wines are named after the farm’s horses!

Photo by Irene Searles (c) 2017

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Perfect afternoon to walk downtown and sip wines from Santa Cruz Mountains

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The third annual Taste of the Mountains arrived this afternoon on Santa Cruz Avenue. It’s an opportunity to taste wines from wineries just up the hill from Menlo Park and learn from winemakers. Nine local retailers played host to 11 Santa Cruz mountain wineries. The event is a great opportunity to visit with the winemakers […]

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Taste of the Mountains returns to downtown Menlo Park on June 3

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The Santa Cruz Mountains Winegrowers Association presents the third annual Taste of the Mountains Wine Walk on Saturday, June 3 in downtown Menlo Park from 2:00-5:30pm. Tickets are $49, and  proceeds from the event will benefit the Menlo Park Atherton Education Foundation. Enjoy wines from small, local boutique wineries of the Santa Cruz Mountains poured in various […]

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Jim Varner talks about the newest Varner wines

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Jim Varner was on a path to be a winemaker while his “smarter than me” twin brother, Bob, was studying to be a geneticist. Today Bob is the winemaker and Jim is the businessman behind Menlo Park-based Varner Wine. “I have the degree, and he read all my textbooks,” Jim quipped during a visit at his Ladera home. […]

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Taste of the Mountains wine walk makes a return visit to downtown Menlo Park

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The 2nd annual Taste of the Mountains wine walk will take place Saturday, December 3,  from 2:00 to 5:00 pm along Santa Cruz Avenue in downtown Menlo Park. Organized by the Santa Cruz Mountains Winegrowers Association, the event showcases nearby wineries, with all ticket proceeds going to the Menlo Park Atherton Education Foundation (MPAEF.) Participating wineries include: […]

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Spotted: Vat of delicious sangria at Woodside Vineyards

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Woodside Vineyards, which is one of the wineries located in Menlo Park, has great wine club member events. Today, they hosted a sangria and fajitas party. The sangria was made from their Grenache Rosé mixed with brandy and fruit. Very, very tasty!

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French wine is half off at Left Bank Menlo Park

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From now through August 18th, Left Bank Brasserie in Menlo Park is offering the restaurant’s full selection of French wines by the bottle at half price. Comments General Manager Jennifer Hancox: “I think that this is a great way for us to celebrate our 18th anniversary. With every bottle of French wine half priced, it’s fun and […]

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New wine from the Fogarty family tasted at winemaker dinner at LB Steak

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Hard to be local and not know and appreciate the Pinot Noir and Chardonnay wines produced by Thomas Fogarty Winery at its location along Skyline Blvd. in Woodside. But last night at a winemaker dinner at LB Steak in Menlo Park, we were introduced to the family’s newest wine, a 2011 Lexington Cabernet Sauvignon (Gist Ranch […]

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M-A grad Dick Burns recounts career in food, restaurants, wine and cars

Thumbnail image for M-A grad Dick Burns recounts career in food, restaurants, wine and cars

Dick Burns grew up on Middle Avenue in Menlo Park in a house built in the 1940s. Born in Argentina, he came with his family to the Bay Area when his father, who was in his 60s when Dick was born, retired. “I spoke Spanish before English, and the kids would chase me around Fremont […]

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Great start to summer with jazz at Portola Vineyards

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Jazz concerts at Portola Vineyards are another signal that summer is here (if not officially). The first headliners of the season were saxophonist Michael O’Neil and vocalist Kenny Washington who treated the audience to lots of favorites ranging from Georgia on My Mind to Stella By Starlight. One bonus of this concert series is the venue itself, a […]

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Wine seller Gary Mulleneaux advises Beltramo’s customers for three decades

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For over 30 years, Gary Mulleneaux has been providing expert — and personalized — advice to his loyal customers at Beltramo’s. So, it didn’t come as a surprise that folks were lining up to get his final recommendations before the store closes within the next month or so. What did surprise us is how he […]

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