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A toast to a neurosurgeon-turned-vintner

Retired neurosurgeon Thomas Kenefick, M.D., has found that both medicine and winemaking require a solid base of chemistry knowledge. (Photo courtesy of Kenefick Ranch Winery)

University of Minnesota alumnus Thomas Kenefick, M.D. (Class of 1960), followed an unconventional retirement path when he started Kenefick Ranch Winery in Napa Valley in 2000. “There aren’t a lot of neurosurgeon-winemakers,” he acknowledges.

Kenefick, who completed his residency at Mayo Clinic in Rochester and practiced at California’s Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco, has been growing wine grapes since 1978. He draws parallels between the science of winemaking and medicine.

“Winemaking [involves] a fair amount of chemistry,” he says, offering the study of grape deficiencies and alcohol and acid levels as examples. Though he’s working with wine these days rather than patients, he describes “mending” an average vineyard and transforming it into a “super-healthy” ranch.

Eager to share his latest vocation with his Medical School classmates, Kenefick provided the wine for his class reunion dinner last September. “I really enjoyed seeing people who I haven’t seen in 50 years,” he says. And his classmates seemed to enjoy the wine; many contacted him afterward to find out where to buy it.

For the past few years, Kenefick also has donated wine to WineFest — A Toast to Children’s Health, an annual wine charity event that benefits University of Minnesota Amplatz Children’s Hospital (learn more at

Visit to learn more about Kenefick Ranch Winery. The 125-acre vineyard property at the foothills of the Palisade Mountains produces primarily Bordeaux varietals.

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