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Omaha Magazine

Project Built A New Passion: Kent Therkelsen's Love of Wine

May 27, 2022 01:24PM ● By Sara Locke
kent therkelsen's wine cellar

Photo by Sarah Lemke

Those who have commissioned a build from Kent Therkelsen’s business, KRT Construction, are aware that he’s particular about quality. If the work isn’t up to his standards—from the materials he approves, to the team of nearly two dozen he employs—the project isn’t complete. “I love my work, I love design. This is absolutely what I choose to do,” Therkelsen reflected. “But when it’s time to relax, I’m going to be sure I’m relaxing just as hard as I work.”

What exactly does Olympic-caliber down-time look like? “When I’m playing golf, spending time by the pool, or drinking wine, then that’s 100% what I’m doing,” he said. “I told my wife that if I’m in the hot tub with a glass of wine, it’s like the rest of the day never happened.” 

His affinity for fine wines began when a friend requested a unique build. “Donn Raymond is a buddy of mine, and he’d just moved back to town. We play golf together every week in the summer, and one day he asked me to build him a wine cellar.” 

Therkelsen put his signature enthusiasm into the build, which housed Raymond’s 550-bottle collection. As he worked, his friend began to lean into him about wine. “I was a strict Coors Lite drinker. Wine just never held any interest for me, but a cold Coors after a long day got the job done.”

One evening in 2004, after attending a Husker recruitment event, Raymond invited some friends to play cards and see his newly finished basement and wine cellar. 

“Donn poured me a glass and was determined to find a wine I’d like. I took one drink and said ‘I’ve got to be honest, that is terrible,’” Therkelsen said. “He looked proud and said, ‘We’ve established that you have a good palate. That is a terrible wine.’ Then he poured a different glass and it was pretty good. He said it should be, that bottle is $100.”

Therkelsen, the consummate student, set to work becoming as knowledgeable as possible about his new passion. He has crushed grapes at Roar Vineyard, taken vacations to Napa Valley, enjoyed drinking a glass in Australia, and hosted wine makers at his in-home speakeasy.

“Kent has an amazing ability to connect,” Raymond insisted. “He makes friends with everybody, and finds some common ground immediately, from the owner of a vineyard in California to a retailer in Missouri who turned him onto a new bottle. Whether it’s wine or architecture or just hanging out and shooting the breeze, he has this caring heart. He really wants to talk through and understand how to make any design or situation or event better.”

“For me,” Raymond said, “wine is a time commitment. A way to slow things down and be more intentional about the time you’re spending with a client or a friend.”

Raymond and Therkelsen have made wine the savory soundtrack of their friendship.

“I built a dozen or so wine cellars after Donn’s, and then in 2017, he told me he had a problem with his. ‘It’s a warranty issue,’ he said. ‘It’s not big enough, I need a new one!’ So, I built him a new one that holds just shy of 1,200 bottles and moved the old build into my house.”

These days, Therkelsen has become an experience curator for his friends and associates. Sometimes from his home, sometimes on tours of California vineyards, from Russian River Valley to Monterey Bay. “I like using these flavors to connect with a moment,” he said. “We don’t drink to forget or to escape, we use wine to celebrate. Now when we taste this vintage, we remember that we drank that on Donn’s 50th birthday. We had this bottle on our anniversary. Life is just too short not to drink good wine.”

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This article originally appeared in the June/July 2022  issue of B2B Magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.  

Photo by Sarah Lemke


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