Her passion is coming to fruition - as your first Emerging Vintner Mentorship Recipient
Last year Kyle was spending her days in virtual school with her 9th graders and her free time learning about wine. Kyle was eager to take her wine education further, so she took a chance. One application to The Roots Fund, one year and four plane tickets to Napa later — now her dreams are taking flight.
Kyle is the honoree recipient of Naked & The Roots Fund’s Emerging Vintner Program and has been funded to craft her own exclusive wines in Napa Valley — with none other than winemaking legend Daniel Baron as her mentor (sharing all of his winemaking stories while hiking steep blocks!).
From teacher to student, Kyle is getting a crash course on winemaking — from first crush to putting her very own label on her very first bottles of wine that she’s making just for you. Follow Kyle’s inspiring journey and see what happens when passion and opportunity meet!
Kyle Burke's Story
It’s a common theme among most — if not all — of our winemakers, but before discovering Naked Wines, Kyle never dreamed that she’d be able to have her name on a bottle of wine. Why? Because there was nothing close to “winemaker” anywhere on her resume. For Kyle, wine was always a hobby — not a career.
“I’ve always been a mom, wife, and Career Development teacher to ninth graders. I had no inclination that I would one day have an opportunity to learn, and possibly begin making a living doing something I simply enjoyed.”
Kyle came to Naked Wines by way of our Roots Fund Emerging Vintner program. In 2020 Naked pledged to make a $500,000 commitment to support BIPOC representation in wine. Kyle was selected as our honoree recipient of our winemaker mentoring program — to give budding BIPOC winemakers the opportunity to launch their own wines with the mentorship of our winemakers, designers, portfolio experts and marketing teams. Now Kyle is teamed up with Daniel Baron, signed a contract for some grapes from Two Brothers Vineyard and her dreams are in motion.
But what brought Kyle to the Roots Fund?
Beyond being a mom, wife, and teacher, Kyle has always been an artist. As we all know, winemaking falls somewhere between art and science — closer to either end depending on who you ask. Since she was a child, Kyle has found solace in the meticulous and solitary process of drawing.
“My first joy was art. I was that awkward child who sat quietly, trying not to be seen… for fear of being teased. I drew pictures to keep my mind calm, and soon art became not only my shield, but my superpower.”
Growing up in Richmond and spending the last 20 years in Baltimore, she had no way of knowing that she could find the same type of solace in the meticulous and often solitary process of winemaking — Maryland’s wine scene wasn’t exactly booming in the 1980’s! Her parents, a math teacher and banker, encouraged Kyle to pursue “a more stable career,” and although it didn’t engage her superpowers, she decided on a degree in Urban Planning. Art became the thing she could tap into after a long day of studying something she “wasn’t really interested in.”
Art Gave Way to Wine
Her art practice remained a constant as she worked her way up and down the East Coast, from Virginia to New York City, in a multitude of jobs. Only one of these was related to Urban Planning, but all of them offered industry events, parties, and happy hours where she became more acquainted with wine.
Steadily, wine became another of her hobbies — first, sharing a glass with co-workers or other new mothers, then hosting wine and painting parties, casually studying enology and wine regions, accepting the title of Friend Group Wine Educator, and eventually making her own bottles to share with her tasting group. She found that working with wine tapped into the same creative energy as art, and led a vibrant extracurricular life during her years as a Career Development teacher.
“When my husband casually said to me, ‘There’s a shortage of wine in the state of Maryland because of you…so, since you love drinking all of the wine, why don’t you learn how to make it?’ he was joking and he was serious at the same time. I had no vineyard, no land, no grapes, and absolutely no money! What I did have was creativity, ingenuity, research, passion, and a desire to create something from nothing.”
When she realized she needed to find a way to fund her quickly growing hobby, Kyle took the advice she’d been giving to ninth graders for a decade. She followed her passion, leaned into what gave her energy, and began applying for scholarships and programs related to wine education. In 2019, she was awarded the “She Can” Scholarship from Women of the Vine and Spirits and The McBride Sisters. In 2020, during the height of the Pandemic, she applied for a WSET 2 certification class scholarship through The Roots Fund, but was offered so much more than she bargained for.
An Angel-Funded Dream
“The Roots Fund awarded my WSET 2 scholarship AND sent my application to be considered for their program with Naked Wines, sponsoring a burgeoning winemaker to learn how to produce, bottle and distribute their own wine globally. Thanks to them, I am currently working with one of THE BEST winemakers in the world: Mr. Daniel Baron, founding winemaker at Silver Oak and Dominus — now at Naked Wines. Dan is mentoring me on the day-to-day tasks, science, and intricacies of winemaking, while keeping me laughing and trying to kill me walking up and down those steep blocks!”
Kyle couldn’t be prouder to be able to offer her first commercial wine to Angels, as a thank you for funding her mentorship with Daniel Baron. Because of Angel support, the teacher was able to become the student again and begin a journey that will change the trajectory of her life.