When prompted with the never-absent question “Why did you go to Princeton?”,
Courtney Kingston ’92 proudly pointed to the Program in Latin American Studies (PLAS) as one of her most compelling reasons.
This doesn’t come as a surprise as both her dad, Michael Kingston ’62, and brother, Timothy Kingston ’87, had a history with studying Latin American studies at Princeton. While her dad, who graduated five years before the creation of PLAS in 1967, focused his studies and thesis on Latin American history, her brother, who interestingly had the same thesis advisor as his dad, obtained a PLAS certificate during PLAS’ 20th anniversary in 1987. Graduating from the Woodrow Wilson School in 1992, Courtney continued her family tradition by obtaining a PLAS certificate.
As a second generation Chilean-American, Courtney had a special relationship with Latin America that she was able to pursue throughout her Princeton education. Titled “A Crisis of Justice – Civil Liberties under the Pinochet Regime and during the Democratic Transition,” her thesis reconnected her to her family heritage and to Chile. In fact, the first time she traveled to Chile was as part of her thesis research. She recalls, “my time at Princeton was the beginning of my passion to learn about Latin America and Chile.”
Right after graduation, Courtney, who has always had an entrepreneurial mentality, got a job in the booming Tech industry in San Francisco. After almost ten years of hard work, Kingston, who had escalated to a senior position at an internet company, decided it was time to try something new, but familiar. “When I turned 30, I decided I needed a lifestyle change where I could enjoy a more balanced life,” she said.
Courtney went on to think about ways in which she could help her family farm, which is located in Valparaiso, Chile. While pursuing an MBA at Stanford, Courtney wrote a business plan that had little to do with cattle and traditional farming: She wanted to plant a vineyard in the Casablanca Valley, zone known to be a wine-producing region.
At first, she tested the waters by working more closely with her family farm, which allowed her to explore the region and learn more about the vineyard industry. In 1998, with the help of her brother, she founded Kingston Family Vineyards, which quickly innovated the market by planting pinot noir, a variety of red grapes that are difficult to cultivate and transform to wine. “Pinot noir is really hard to grow, but if you can do it well then you have something special,” she mentioned.
Almost twenty years later, Courtney is proud of Kingston Family Vineyards, which has been recognized as “among the best wineries in Chile” (Stephen Tanzer) and for “making some of Chile’s best pinots” (Food & Wine). While it was an unexpected career path, founding Kingston Family Vineyards has given Courtney a path to both reconnecting to her family and a way of putting her entrepreneurial skills into practice.
When asked about advices to current undergraduate students at Princeton, Courtney said, “Follow your passion and try new things. Soak it all in!”