If one is fortunate during their visit to Kestrel Winery they will have the opportunity to encounter one of Washington's most highly acclaimed, yet humble winemakers; Flint Nelson.
Flint Nelson was raised in the tiny city of Elmer, Washington, which is just above the Grand Coulee Dam. At the time, the population was around 250 people and even less today. His father was an ironworker, and his mother drove a school bus. His mother today resides in Elmer having one of the largest Northern Columbian artifact collections.
An artist at heart and currently a master gardener, Flint has worked creatively with many mediums; including painting, writing and three dimensional art. However, as a young man and visionary, Flint saw the potential in Washington's Wine Industry and believed that he could feed his passion for art and the earth via winemaking. He attended college at WashingtonStateUniversity and studied Horticulture and Food Science, with the dream of one day making wine. He graduated with honors and was one of the first to receive the Walter Clore Scholarship.
Upon graduation and in the harvest of 1991, Flint's studied under Joy Anderson at Columbia Crest for his first internship. Consecutively, Flint worked a harvest in New Zealand. Both experiences cemented his love for crafting wine, grape growing and especially harvest. In Hawkes Bay, New Zealand, Flint spent most of his time in the vineyard, picking grapes, enjoying the friendly culture and unique terroir and enjoying the fruits of his labors in festivities with the lovely people. It was in New Zealand that Flint first found an appreciation of Sauvignon Blanc.
For a short period, Flint took a quality control position at a corn dog and orange juice factory in Spokane. To this day, Flint does not care for corn dogs or orange juice.
In 1992 Flint was hired at Hogue as their "handyman.” From grounds keeping to plumbing; Flint did it all. Because of his cheerful work ethic, Hogue saw that he would be beneficial to their operation. In the meantime, he was promoted to compliance and handled book keeping until something became available in production. Fortunately, he was hired in the Laboratory as Lab Supervisor. For four years Flint learned winery operations and the importance of the science of winemaking.
At Hogue, Flint had the opportunity to travel to South Africa. South Africa proved to be one of his most influential experiences, in fact he traveled there four different times. This shaped his craft stylistically and is also where he fell completely in love with Sauvignon Blanc, playing options, and talking about wine with his friend the late winemaker Lowe Englebrecht. "Englebrecht became one of my very best friends and was a very big influence on my craft and on my life in general, he made me want to be that kind of a winemaker; a passion for the artisan craft and a the lifestyle that goes along with it."
In 1996, Flint became a winemaker for Paul Thomas. At the time, they were importing wine for La Palma of Chile. Flint traveled to Chile in a winemaker exchange. Being his third internship in as many countries, this trip helped to really solidify his world view on winemaking. Most importantly, during his tenure at Paul Thomas, Flint met his wonderful wife Katie Nelson (also a winemaker) who, at the time, worked as a lab supervisor. They married in 2000, the same year Flint became the winemaker for Apex Cellars. During his time with Apex, Flint was able to further his studies under the tutelage of Brian Carter, who crafted Kestrel’s earliest vintages. Flint then joined Kestrel in 2004. Flint's diverse background paved the way for Kestrel to have one of the best and most revered winemaker's in the Washington State Wine Industry. Flint gave Kestrel the extra boost to realize the true potential of John Walker's dream.
Also in 2004, Flint and Katie took a last minute, whirlwind vacation to Portugal for a mere four days. They went to Douro and Porto, falling in love with the Ports, especially Tawny Ports. Today, because of that trip, Kestrel has a very limited Tawny resting in barrel and soon to be released, but only if our team can keep our hands off of it. We also have a RubyPort as part of our Signature Series. This Port is one of the best values in the world of RubyPort.
In 2012, Flint chose Carolina Warwick to be his Assistant Winemaker, boosting us even further. When asked what Flint finds most beneficial to her skill-set he said, "She's incredibly organized, her follow-through is unbelievable and her technology skills are immense. She's bright, hungry to learn, educated and hard-working. She enjoys teaching and is a patient leader. All those skills, and she's a working mom, which I hold in high regard."
At the beginning of harvest in 2005 his lovely daughter Madry was born. In 2009, shortly after harvest, his son Leif was born. Today, their family resides in Prosser Washington. Flint is a family-man, a doting husband and wonderful father.
Proof of Flint's passion for Artisan Winemaking is in each bottle. "Great fruit makes great wine". The combination of our premier growing site, a state of the art production facility and Flint’s masterful technique is what makes our wines unlike any other in the state in style, versatility, quality and value. Every bottle represents the artist that carefully designed it; Flint Nelson. "I craft wines for anniversaries, birthdays and Mondays." In other words Flint creates wines of superior quality in a range of affordability. Every grape is tended to and intended to be blended into our Signature Series. This creates the perfect canvas to create the design of a multiple tiered system.
Today, guests may find him racking wine, topping barrels or fixing the kitchen sink. Despite his busy, jolly work ethic, Flint always has time for guests. A quick wit and a cheerful disposition are among Flint's most endearing qualities. And, if you're lucky, you'll get to hear his infectious signature laugh.