Wine honors avalanche victim’s love of nature |

Wine honors avalanche victim’s love of nature

Josh MillerRon Florian, proprietor of Florian's Fine Wines and Specialty Foods, holds a bottle of "Kathy's Cuvee," produced in honor of Truckee resident Kathy Polucha Kessler.

Tuesday was the one-year anniversary of avalanche victim Kathy Polucha Kessler’s death.

A lot has been done in the past year to memorialize the active Truckee community member’s life. Friends have made trips in the spirit of Polucha Kessler’s love of outdoors. A tree was planted at Truckee River Regional Park, her favorite place to spend Wednesday evenings in the summer. Thousands of dollars have been donated to the Truckee Donner Land Trust for the Donner Lake Rim Trail in her name.

Now Talisman Cellars, a Napa winemaker, has bottled a wine to raise money for a bridge on the Donner Lake Rim Trail in memory of Polucha Kessler. The wine is called “Kathy’s Cuvee.”

“Back in July, Scott (Rich) had a bottle with a label mock-up, and it brought tears to my eyes. I was truly touched,” said Scott Kessler, Polucha Kessler’s husband of two years.

Rich chose to have the proceeds go to Donner Lake Rim Trail because it was one of Polucha Kessler’s many crusades in Tahoe.

“She was really looking forward to the completion of that trail,” said Scott Rich, who owns Talisman Cellars with his wife, Marta. “Kathy was really, really special, and she touched everybody in a very, very special way. She loved life.”

Rich met Polucha Kessler’s husband in the late ’70s and later met Kathy.

At Polucha Kessler’s memorial service there was a group asking for donations for the Donner Lake Rim Trail in her name, and Rich and his wife got an idea.

“We thought, ‘Wow, we have the opportunity to make a much greater impact than an individual could through our business,'” Rich said.

And so he bottled his 2001 Carneros pinot noir and labeled it in Kathy’s name. All profits from Kathy’s Cuvee will go toward building a bridge in her honor.

To Scott Kessler, a bridge would be very appropriate to honor his wife, he said.

“It’s a great thing for the community and the Land Trust. For those guys to donate all that money so that we might be able to fund a bridge in her memory – that would be incredible. Bridges are a place to stop and gather and ponder,” Kessler said.

Rich said he hasn’t set a goal for how much money he will need to build the bridge.

“Our goal isn’t really a monetary goal. It’s a more substantial goal: It’s building a bridge on the trail Kathy really wanted,” he said.

In a prepared statement, land trust Executive Director Perry Norris wrote the profits from the wine will allow the land trust to proceed with a bridge on the trail in Upper Gregory Creek Canyon. This summer, the land trust expects to build two bridges, which help prevent erosion on the trail.

So far, three miles of the Donner Lake Rim Trail have been adopted in Polucha Kessler’s name, at $1,000 per quarter mile.

“We’ve had a huge outpouring of support in [Polucha Kessler’s memory],” said land trust Associate Director Tanya Africa. “We really appreciate someone who had such a strong support of our project.”

Talisman Cellars made 40 cases of Kathy’s Cuvee and is selling the wine at $40 per bottle. Orders can be placed with Talisman Cellars by phone at (707) 258-5722 or e-mail at

Three Truckee restaurants – Cottonwood, Pacific Crest and Pianeta – have purchased Kathy’s Cuvee from Talisman Cellars at retail price and will offer the wine on their lists at a slight mark-up, Rich said. Florian’s Fine Wine and Specialty Foods currently has Kathy’s Cuvee on its shelves and is giving all proceeds to the bridge-building effort.

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