Days after his 30th birthday, Taylor Berkley Boydstun, ’08 LAS, suffered a heart attack. He spent three days in a coma. Upon waking—painfully aware of his mortality—Boydstun began to reconsider his life.
He had been working as a wine cellar master, putting in 60 to 80 hours per week. He had loved wine since his first visit to California’s wine country; he was blown away by the beauty of the Napa and Sonoma Valleys, and equally stunned that people actually made a living in wine. Perhaps he could, too.
But the road to becoming a vintner is long and difficult. Boydstun started his apprenticeship in the fields, doing back-breaking work in New Zealand vineyards. In winemaking, experience is measured by how many harvests you’ve completed. Each harvest is short, lasting a month or two, so Boydstun tried to fit in as many as possible, sometimes traveling across hemispheres to work two harvests a year.
By 2016, at age 30, Boydstun had worked 10 harvests, and he was quickly becoming a seasoned vintner. But after his heart attack, he realized his work had taken him far from the Napa Valley vineyards and far from the process of winemaking.
That led him to launch his own winery, T. Berkley Wines, four months after his recovery. “I got into wine for a love of the craft,” he says. “I really wanted to put my name on something.”
T. Berkley Wines had meager beginnings. Because an acre of vineyard land in Napa Valley costs between $300,000 and $1 million (and growing requires at least five acres), Boydstun purchased the grapes and produced his wine at a friend’s winery. In 2018, Boydstun moved to Teachworth Winery in the Diamond Mountain District, where he now lives, creates his wine and manages Teachworth’s estate.
Boydstun’s next big goal is to distribute his wine to different markets, including Vermont and his home state of Illinois. He also hopes to expand his operations by acquiring his own vineyard.
For now, Boydstun focuses his efforts on two prominent varietals: Chenin Blanc and Cabernet Franc. Each year, he releases new bottles of wine on his birthday, March 27, as a reminder of what he wants from life. “This is a project that, at its heart, was tied to my continuing to be here.”