Owner, winemaker of Napa County's McKahn Family Cellars wins North Bay Forty Under 40 award
“In college I dreamed of starting a wine business by the age of 40,” says Charles McKahn, a native of the California Central Valley. “It worked out to start one at 25. I owe my parents and wife (who was my girlfriend when we started!) everything. Without their support I wouldn’t be here.”
After college, he left San Luis Obispo for the “Mecca” of the wine business, Napa Valley. He took part in the harvest at Chappellet Winery on Pritchard Hill.
“I was lucky enough to be there when a full time enologist position became available, and so I spent the next five years there learning everything I could from their Winemaker Phillip Titus, and his very talented staff.”
He kept working there but the family started McKahn Cellars In 2014 and in 2016 Ieft Chappellet to be the winemaker at William Harrison Vineyards and Winery in Rutherford, where he stayed for six years until March of 2022.
In a business sense, what is the greatest thing about being under 40; and then what is the worst?
“Being under 40 means the prime of my career is still ahead of me, and that is encouraging. After 15 years in the wine business, I am still at the beginning of my career and that is very motivating for me.
“The worst part of being under 40 is experiencing age discrimination, which is very real for young wine professionals. The wine industry, particularly wine production, favors older winemakers. It’s understandable to a certain extent, but even at 32 I have been in the wine business since I was 17 years old.”