The People

The Casa Nuestra team is not big in numbers, but huge in heart.

Gene Kirkham - Happy Farmer

Gene’s mother had no idea what she was starting when she purchased a small Oakville vineyard and summer home in 1955. By 1975 Gene had moved full-time to the St. Helena location with his own family, escaping the fast paced attorney's life of San Francisco. He gladly became steward to some Chenin Blanc and Riesling that were planted on the property, as well as caretaker to the small vineyard on his family’s Oakville property. 

It didn’t take long for Gene to conclude that it would be easier (and more fun) to make the wine than it had been to sell the grapes. In 1979 an "out" building on the property was expanded and stocked with a basket press, tanks and barrels to accommodate the newly born Casa Nuestra Winery.

Enthusiastic friends and family (who were delighted to work for wine) were recruited. The resulting success was almost over night with awards and acclaim pouring in immediately.

Gene’s dedication to preserving the heritage and originality of the Casa Nuestra homestead remains one of the cornerstones of our winemaking philosophy.

Darren Chertkoff, Ph.D. - Director of WineGROWING

Darren Chertkoff has long been obsessed with dirt and rocks. He obtained both a B.S. in Geosciences (Indiana University - Bloomington) and a Ph.D. in Geology and Geophysics (University of Alaska - Fairbanks), before spending three years doing research on volcanic rocks at Durham University in the UK. It was during this research, that he noticed some of the world’s greatest wines were grown in vineyards planted on volcanic soils, which led to his interest in viticulture and wine.  Upon returning to the United States, Darren left a career in academia behind and began his winemaking career as a vineyard and winery intern at Merryvale Vineyards in St. Helena, CA.  In the following years, he worked multiple harvests for wineries in the Napa Valley (Sequoia Grove, Ovid), Sonoma (VML Winery), New Zealand (Craggy Range), and Australia (Two Hands Wines), as well as earned a Master’s Degree in Oenology from the University of Adelaide, Australia.  Prior to assuming responsibility for the Casa Nuestra vineyards and winery, Darren worked for two years as a member of the winemaking team at Corliss Estates and Tranche Cellars in Walla Walla, Washington. 

As Director of Winegrowing, he oversees all winemaking operations and works closely with our vineyard manager on decisions regarding the organic farming, irrigation, pruning, canopy management, and crop loads in our estate vineyards.  Darren lives in the town of Napa with his wife, Sarah and their two Australian Cattle dogs, Shiloh and Riley. He is a member of the Canadian Association of Snowboard Instructors (CASI) and his hobbies include snowboarding, hiking, biking, music and brewing beer.