Meet the Napa Valley ROOTS Team
Shannon Murray Kuleto
Writer, Researcher, Editor
“What amazing stories we have to tell here, and looking through the lens of history can be so inspiring.
When we bring the honest, unvarnished humanity of past struggles and choices back to life,
we deepen our understandings not only of our present
but also of how each of us can choose, are choosing, to shape a spirited future.”
Shannon Kuleto is curious about everything. And she’s been captivated by history since her childhood in Tennessee’s Blue Ridge Mountains where her family ties reach back before the Revolutionary War.
After her long flirtation with civil engineering, a B.S. from Georgia Tech, and a year working abroad in Belgium, Shannon was thrilled at last to study history full-time. She did her Master’s work at Georgia State University in Atlanta, and taught there for a few years before surprising everyone and heading west in her early thirties. After a rough California welcome–which included losing her new home to wildfire–Shannon found that like so many of the luckiest pioneers of old, she’d only truly come home when she planted her roots in the Napa Valley.
Shannon began her unexpected Napa Valley career first as a vintner in the 1990s. She and partner, Pat, developed an 800-acre hillside ranch (Kuleto Estate winery and vineyards), and built a stone-and-timber home with spectacular views, while raising their son, Daniel. Next, Shannon moved into town, and brought her communications talents to her work close to home–with the schools, the library, the local Choral Society, and various history and preservation groups. She helped lead the collaborative effort to build the Vine Trail, a safe and scenic hike-and-bike path on track to connect the whole valley. She’s also been a vocal part of the St Helena Star editorial board since 2009.
Over those years, Shannon’s engagement with the land, and with winegrower and preservation concerns spurred a deeper involvement in local political and environmental questions, and, most especially, the rich stories of Napa Valley people and places. Her lifelong fascination with making connections between past and future continues to inspire her life in St Helena as a writer and nonprofit advocate. She remains, above all, a champion for local history and heritage.
Shannon is currently working on a range of creative projects in addition to Napa Valley ROOTS, including a novel (set in St Helena over 300 years), and, with colleague Diane Dillon, a history of Napa Valley governance, including profiles of each elected supervisor since 1850.
Writer, Researcher, Genealogist
In January 2023, Diane stepped down from her fifth and final term as Napa County District 3 Supervisor, and turned her attention to Napa Valley Roots. Diane is a fifth-generation Napan–and her education is quintessentially Californian as well. Diane earned her B.A. in Anthropology (UCSB) and M.A. in Library Science (UCLA) before her J.D. from UC Davis led her to two decades of private law practice in Napa Valley.
Diane grew up in Napa, fascinated to hear about great-grandparents’ pioneer days, and her grandmother’s tales of horse and buggy trips over rough dirt roads from Conn Valley to cross St. Helena’s Pope Street bridge, or the even more adventurous journey over the winding Mt. St. Helena road to visit relatives in Lake County and at the quicksilver mines.
With such deep roots here, it’s unsurprising that throughout her career, Diane has actively supported local history and preservation organizations, as well as the local genealogy society, nor that her post-BOS plans center around research and writing about local history as well. Few natives can match her for depth of local knowledge!
Diane has also been a dedicated family historian for decades, using every spare moment on business trips or holidays to visit archives, museums, and of course, historic cemeteries, and painstakingly cataloguing her findings in countless files–and now online. Diane began applying those hard-won genealogical skills some years ago to tracking all the family trees of each and every person elected Napa County Supervisor since 1850. That tree now holds nearly 8,000 profiles supported by over 23,000 records and has served as the foundation for first, the County’s display of Supervisor photos, and second, Diane’s work-in-progress book project surveying the history of Napa County governance.
You can look at the County’s photo/bio displays of past supervisors here.