Kit Gilbert said she didn’t originally intend to work in the wine industry.
“I headed off to college pre-med with a major in chemistry and ended up at a music and theatre conservatory fulfilling my creative dreams,” wrote Gilbert.
After meeting her now husband, “he introduced me to a world of cuisine and wine at a level that I had never before experienced,” she said.
“The more I learned about wine, the more I fell in love with everything it stood for.”
“What started as a hobby got a little out of control as I immersed myself in every book and tasting group I could find in the Los Angeles area. Eventually, we decided to move to Napa for a year to learn about winegrowing up close.”
That was 13 years ago.
Gilbert said that wine “satisfies my appetite for the scientific, the historical, the cultural, and the creative — it is dynamic to the point of distraction and provides fodder for a lifetime of learning. What more could I ask for?”
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1. What was your childhood ambition?
As a young child I wanted to be a doctor or physical therapist. My father was in an accident when I was 7-years-old that left him paralyzed from the waist down — he had extraordinary doctors who saved his life, and physical therapists who worked with him for years thereafter to help restore his mobility. I recognized what an impact their work had on my father’s life and my entire family’s existence — I loved helping my Dad stay on track with his exercises and watch him make progress day after day.
2. What’s the worst job you ever had?
The worst job I’ve ever had was a month-long stint as personal assistant to a celebrity that must remain unnamed. I couldn’t believe that anyone could have so little regard for another human being, and she couldn’t believe that I had so little regard for her celebrity status…oh well.
3. What job would you like to try/not try?
Try: Astrophysicist, surgeon, creative director/partner to Annie Leibovitz.
Not try: Attorney, anything in the IT department.
4. What is the biggest challenge your business has faced?
Changing climate conditions are forcing us to change our farming practices, re-think how we approach maintaining and investing in our land and manage and mitigate risk. These are big shifts to make in a short amount of time, and I’m proud of our community for its resilience and innovation.
5. Who do you most admire in the business world?
At the risk of sounding disingenuous, I have to say Sam Simon (of Simon Family Estate). I am endlessly in awe of what he has accomplished in the business world. Just a few decades ago, Sam and his family were fleeing persecution (in the Middle East).
He arrived in Detroit, Michigan as a child with little more than the clothes on his back. Since then, Sam has built an empire with nearly 60 companies and more than 800 employees. For those fellow Jim Collins devotees out there, you will know what I mean when I say that Sam is a level five leader. He credits every accomplishment to the great people he has surrounded himself with — his motto is: “We don’t invest in companies; we invest in people.”
Perhaps most importantly, when you meet Sam’s wife, Nada, and his sons, Peter and Michael, you recognize immediately that their priorities are family, honesty, integrity, and love. It all goes to show that success and doing the right thing can and should go hand-in-hand.
6. What’s one thing Napa could do to help local business?
Continue the fight for inclusivity, fair housing, and access to services for our working families. It pains me every time I hear that someone is driving from hours away to work in our community, or that a restaurant is forced to close two days a week simply because they cannot find anyone to hire.
7. If you could change one thing about the wine industry, what would it be?
I would transform all of us into better recruiters for our industry — now is a great time to change how we think, bring in new brains from varied industries with new ideas and diverse backgrounds. It’s not hard to fall in love with wine; it’s time for us all to inspire young, talented people from all walks of life to choose our industry for their career path.
8. What’s your favorite charity or nonprofit?
The Cope Family Center. No child should go without, and no parent should feel alone. I’m inspired by the work that they do to support families’ most basic needs.
9. What’s something people might be surprised to know about you?
Istanbul (Constantinople) is my favorite city, inspired by my studies of the Crusades, and my time spent there with my husband on our honeymoon.
10. What is one thing you hope to accomplish in your lifetime that you haven’t yet?
Practice yoga in India with my husband. He doesn’t know this yet, but he’s adventurous!