Winegrower/Winemaker - Dan Kessler was born in Lansing,Michigan and graduated with a BSEE/MSEE degree from MIT in 1981. He spent the early part of his career developing state of the art semiconductor fabrication technologies for Hewlett-Packard in Fort Collins,CO. In search of warmer weather, Dan made his move to sunny California where he joined Vitesse, a small high tech startup company, developing and manufacturing semiconductor technology for the supercomputer and telecommunications industries.
A love for wine started Dan on a journey that took on a life of its own, in a kind of "if you give a mouse a cookie" kind of way. Drinking wine led to learning about wine; led to learning about winemaking; led to making wine as a home winemaker; led to planting a small 200 vine vineyard in his backyard; led to obtaining a Winemaker's Certificate from the UC Davis Distance Learning program; led to falling in love with Sta. Rita Hills; led to buying a 40 acre parcel and planting a 30 acre vineyard; led to, well, where he is today.
Dan loves to learn and is actively involved in every aspect of growing and making wine. In the vineyard, you will frequently see him on the tractor or working with the crew. When the early spring weather gets cold, he's out in the wee hours turning on the fans and frost protection systems.
When he is not in the vineyard, you will find him at his second home at Lafond Winery, helping winemaker, Bruce McGuire, make wine at harvest and working in the tasting room.
Co-Owner/Partner - Ellen Haak Kessler grew up in a career Navy family and spent her early years on both the east and west coasts as well as in Japan and other parts of Asia. She earned her BS in Sociology from Oregon State University and since 1988, has spent her time helping grow a medical software company, Compulink Business Systems, from a 2-person operation to the thriving company it is today. Currently, she is head of documentation and deeply involved in the development of customer e-learning solutions for their products.
Dan and Ellen each have two children from previous marriages and blended their family together in 2000, when they tied the knot. Daugher, Deanna, is a graphic artist and head designer for Kessler-Haak labels and marketing pieces. Daughter, Gretchen, is an RN in labor & delivery at the new Lompoc Valley Medical Center. Daughter, Jenna, is a marketing major and corporate recruiter who they hope one day will head K-H sales and marketing efforts. Son, David, is currently in the pre-Physical Therapy program at Humboldt State University on a football scholarship, playing on the offensive line (GO JACKS!). His father is optimistic he will one day head up the vineyard management and/or winemaking team.
To date, Ellen and Dan have four wonderful grandchildren, all of whom live close by. They keep Ellen busy when she's not working from 9 to 5 (yeah right) and not helping Dan with some vineyard or winery task.
Vineyard Manager - Ryan Carr started his winegrowing/winemaking journey working in the fields with a local vineyard management company. Knowledge gained in the vineyards was soon translated into making wine. Making wine taught Ryan the importance of being intimately involved with growing the fruit. Ryan married his passion for winemaking with his passion for grape growing and Carr Vineyards and Winery in Santa Barbara California was born. Today, Ryan manages over 100 acres of small vineyard properties in the Santa Barbara county region, including Kessler-Haak, and produces over 3000 cases of wine yearly.
Ryan's willingness to teach, hands-on management style and almost-daily site visits were exactly what Dan was looking for in someone to help him seduce the full potential out of a rather challenging vineyard site called Kessler-Haak. If you drive by the vineyard in the early morning, you are likely to find Dan and Ryan somewhere among the vines; checking progress and discussing opportunities and issues.