Helen Keplinger grew up in Ohio in a family that centered most everything around food, wine, the arts, nature and travel. After graduating from Smith College, she considered a career in medicine before she discovered that UC Davis had a graduate program in Enology, and instead followed her passion for wine to California.
After completing the Master’s Program, she apprenticed at Rosemount Estate in Australia, Paradigm Winery in Napa Valley, and Fiddlehead Cellars in Santa Barbara. She moved to Spain in 2004 to become the winemaker for Cellers Melis in the Priorat for three years. In 2006, she began her own boutique label of small production, single-vineyard Rhone varietal wines, Keplinger Wines. She has been the winemaker for Kenzo Estate, Sarocka, Fort Ross, Arrow & Branch, and Bryant Family Vineyard. Since the end of 2012 she has been focused on Keplinger Wines and a few select boutique projects.
She has benefitted from her work with many great mentors – Heidi Peterson Barrett, Kathy Joseph, Claude Gros, David Abreu, Michel Rolland – in a number of different regions from Santa Barbara to Spain to Napa Valley. Although all of these experiences inform her vineyard selection, practices, and winemaking, she has cultivated a style all her own.
Helen was first recognized as a winemaker to watch by the Wine Spectator in 2011. She was named 2012 Winemaker of the Year by Food & Wine Magazine, and was honored with the cover and feature article of the June 15th 2014 Wine Spectator. She has become known for making distinctive, terroir-driven wines. She has a keen understanding of specific vineyard sites, and how to optimize the farming and winemaking to make wines expressive of their place.