Beyond the Boardroom

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Kat Doescher

Author: Sarah Treseler
November, 2016 Issue

Winemaker and head of production for Madrone Estate Winery and Lake Sonoma Winery, Kat Doescher grew up in Lancaster, Calif., which she describes as “a land of tumbleweeds and concrete.” After high school, she earned a degree in chemistry from Humboldt State University and has been a Northern Californian ever since.

She says, “Living in Sonoma County eventually sparked an interest in winemaking. I’d been a manager at an environmental lab for several years, which meant long hours indoors. The wine industry is such a huge part of what this region is about—culture, fun and enjoying good times with family and friends. It didn’t take long before I realized that my degree in chemistry could lead to a job that was rewarding on so many levels.”

What did you do professionally before winemaking?
I managed and environmental lab that tested ground water and soil samples for pollutants. My response to “What do you do for a living?” at parties is much more favorable now, because everybody understands wine.

Are you married?
I just got married this past May at San Francisco City Hall. I met my husband online, which is very modern. After almost giving up, I typed in a phrase that summed up my sense of humor: “The Simpsons” and up he popped. We’re a 74 percent match, so I’m still trying to figure out where the missing 26 percent is. To me, we seem to be 100 percent what each of us needs, including the times when we disagree.

What do you love to do outside of work?
I love to spend time kayaking and hiking in Point Reyes or any of the lovely areas surrounding Petaluma. We do a lot of camping in Oregon, where my husband is from because it’s less restrictive when it comes to dogs. Our dog goes with us everywhere he can. Of course, my other passion is eating delicious food and there’s no shortage of that in the Bay Area. I often tell people that you really can’t be a good winemaker if all you eat is fast food.

If you could have stopped aging at any point in your life up to the present, how old would you want to remain?
Can I choose two days ago? This has been a great year for me. Professionally, I finally arrived at a point in my career that I’d been working toward for a decade. There’s a level of contentment I have right now, and I can truly say I love what I do and feel confident doing it.

If you could suddenly possess an extraordinary talent in one of the arts, what would you like it to be?Painting. I love color but often struggle to find the right one on my own. When I visit museums—something I’ve really started to do on business trips—I find my emotions tend to respond to something with just the right hues in it, even above what the substance is.

Do you have any superstitions?
During harvest I try to stop people from saying, “This looks like an easy day, we’ll get out of here early, ”or “things are going great,” because that always seemed to be followed by some ridiculous problem with equipment and the day turns into a 20-hour ordeal. I knock on wood constantly.

If you could look into the future to find out one thing, what would you want to know?
I wouldn’t want to know anything. What a distraction that would be to living here and now.

What compliment did you receive recently that you really savored?
I recently had a lunch with a travel writer and her friend, where the writer fell in love with my Chardonnay even though she rarely enjoyed the varietal. I really take those wins to heart, because I know I’m going down one of the right paths.

If you could spend one hour doing absolutely anything, what would it be?
Sitting in my hammock and watching the sunset with my dog and my husband. We do this often in the summer to reset.


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