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January 2015 People: Second Act/Kerith Overstreet

Stories of winery owners who had successful careers in other fields first are plentiful. Kerith Overstreet, winemaker and cofounder (with her husband, Brian, an entrepreneur) of Healdsburg’s Bruliam Wines, puts a slight twist on the tale. There’s no tech fortune or golden parachute behind Bruliam, just a mom looking for a more fulfilling way to blend work and family.
“I graduated college in 1994 and medical school in ’98,” she begins. “After an internship in general surgery, I took a year off before returning to medicine in surgical pathology. I was a recipient of two fellowships and published some articles—I was definitely on an academic track.” Positions with the VA and Kaiser Permanente followed, but Overstreet just couldn’t seem to find the right niche.
When she became pregnant in 2002, she realized it was time to make a change. “We’d always loved wine; we’d had a social tasting club with friends for years. So on a whim, we bought some winegrapes and I made one barrel of wine at Crushpad.
“I was a scholar. I could read a textbook, so that’s how I got started. Almost immediately, I fell in love with the combination of physical work, science and artistry that is winemaking.”
Officially founded in 2008, Bruliam Wines (“Bruliam” combines the beginnings of the couple’s three children’s names) now produces about 1,000 total annual cases of multiple single-vineyard Pinot Noirs, sourced from renowned growers and sites across Northern California.
More than just another boutique winery, though, the Overstreets have chosen to use Bruliam as a way to “express our gratitude for the gifts we’ve been given by this life,” says Kerith. All profits from wine sales (after operating expenses) are donated to charity. Every penny. And which organization(s) will benefit is decided by the Bruliam Brigade, the small-but-loyal group of allocation buyers who make up the majority of the winery’s customers, as well as restaurant and retail partners.
Letting supporters choose, says Kerith, “makes for more personal, meaningful gifting.” To date, nearly 65 national and local organizations have received funds from Bruliam.

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