Kari Heerdt and her husband purchased Round Peak Vineyard in North Carolina in 2008. (Photo provided)

A Growing Business

Driving back to their home in Oakland, Calif., after visiting vineyards in the San Francisco Bay Area, Krannert alumna Kari Heerdt (MSM ‘95) and her husband, Ken Gulaian, would fantasize about leaving the corporate world behind and opening their own winery.

Today it’s reality. In 2008, the two purchased Round Peak Vineyard, a 30-acre property nestled in the foothills of North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains in Mount Airy. Heerdt moved to North Carolina when she was named senior vice president of human resources for Talecris Biotherapeutics –– a position she continues to hold.

“When we moved to North Carolina, my husband decided to leave his corporate job and start our own business,” Heerdt says. As they searched for a business opportunity, the Midwestern natives stumbled upon a winery for sale — both having never sampled North Carolina wine.

“When we moved to North Carolina, my husband decided to leave his corporate job and start our own business.”
A longtime connoisseur of the vine — going back to her days as president of the Krannert Graduate Student Association when she organized wine tasting events — Heerdt says she held a preconceived notion about North Carolina wines.

“Being a self-proclaimed wine connoisseur, I had a snobbish view,” she admits. “I assumed the wine wasn’t good.” Checking out Round Peak was a good excuse to explore North Carolina wine country. She was stunned.

“We found a quality that really surprised us,” Heerdt says. “The wine industry in North Carolina is so new — only about 10 to 15 years old — yet the quality I was detecting from the wines was far ahead of the history.”

Round Peak specializes in French and Italian varietals made from grapes planted on 13 acres of its property. Heerdt says the Yadkin Valley region, where they are located, has climate conditions more favorable to growing European grapes. The wines have captured numerous awards at regional wine competitions.

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