Ken Zinns: Broc Bottling Legend

There's winemaking. Then there's all the essential work that makes wine possible.

We're fortunate to have wonderful and hard-working people walk through the cellar door and make Broc wine possible. Oftentimes that critical work is much less glamorous. Late harvest nights. Long bottling days. It takes a community to make wine. (Any winemaker who tells you differently is lying.)

Ken Zinns is one of those folks we're so fortunate to work with. Technically, an architect by trade, he's become a powerhouse and not-so-secret weapon in the Bay Area wine scene. Ken has helped countless wineries over several decades with wine production from the busy harvest crush to bottling. To say he's a legend wouldn't be a superlative, just read this profile on his impact on the wine scene. Ken's worked with Broc since 2008 on a number of projects, but most importantly bottling. 

Next time you pop a bottle of Broc wine, thank Ken and the team who bottled it. Read on for our conversation with Ken about how he got started in wine.
What brought you to wine?
I guess visiting wineries in the 1990s was a factor after I started taking more of a serious interest in wine following a few night-time wine appreciation classes I took in the early 1990s at UC Berkeley extension. Maybe I showed more of an interest in how the wine was made to winemakers I visited. I know that one factor was that I'd always had a side hustle when I worked as an architect….What got me started in wine was a meeting with winemaker Tom Leaf of Grapeleaf Cellars in Berkeley in mid-2001 (later Broc’s first official home) - giving him a bunch of wine shipper boxes I'd accumulated and that I learned he could use - and he invited me to help out at his winery if I was interested. That got the snowball rolling...
My first wine work was in July 2001 with Tom at Grapeleaf Cellars around the corner on Camelia Street - many wineries have been in that space dating back to the 1970s, including Edmunds St. John - and my first bottling there (manual bottling) was about a month later. I helped out a bit during crush that fall and things went from there. Harrington Wines and Eno Wines were just starting out at that time in the same building and I began to work with them as well. Other than helping to pour wine at tastings and other events, all of my wine work has been in production. 
Do you have any formal wine education?
Other than taking a bunch of 1-2 day winemaking and viticulture classes at UC Davis extension in the mid-2000s I don't have any formal wine education - everything else I learned as I worked in the cellar.

When did you start working at Broc?
My first work at Broc was helping a little during crush in 2008 after Chris moved into the Camelia Street space after Bryan Harrington moved his winery to San Francisco - I also helped Chris a little during crush in 2010. I believe my first bottling with Broc was in 2010 and I've bottled with Broc regularly since then. 
What’s a fun memory from your many vintages?
Interesting and different experiences at Broc have included helping with canned wines, as I haven't done that anywhere else. Same with my small part in the Pét-nat production process.
Fun memories at Broc (all while Chris was around the corner at Camelia Street) - helping Chris move three large upright wood tanks into the rear outdoor space of the Camelia street winery from another space in Berkeley. They barely fit through the door opening, and it took awhile to figure out how to set up bases for tanks - just some large pieces of wood underneath. 
Another fun memory at Camelia Street was helping to load Carignan clusters with a pitchfork into a tall stainless steel tank for carbonic fermentation, standing high up on a ladder next to a macrobin that was forklifted up to the top of the tank. Like much I've done at various small wineries, that was not exactly OSHA-compliant.
Really amazing to me how much and how smoothly Broc Cellars has grown to where it is now from when it occupied just a part of the tiny winery space on Camelia Street.
What are your favorite Broc wines?
There's many. My consistent favorites include the KouKou Cabernet FrancAmore Bianco (especially the current one), Love Rosé, and Vine Starr Zin.