Archive for the ‘Winery of the Month’ Category
It’s time to bring it back home to Russian River Valley, and feature one of our unsung heroines, Kathleen Inman of Inman Family Wines.
Welcome to our third selection of winery of the month. In keeping with the theme of previous selections, this title is awarded too wineries whose wines have been epiphany experiences (and often still are) and for outstanding contributions to the wine industry, community, and environment.Inman Family Wines, nearby in Russian River Valley, is overdue for this recognition.
Uncompromising Wine Making Philosophy
Kathleen, on her 10th vintage, has come into her own as a world class wine maker, making Pinot Noir (and a few other treats) in styles she believes in. She isn’t into scores or trend chasing, and never relents in her pursuit of wine making the has an expression of place and vintage, with minimal intervention, making the very best wine that she can.
Kathleen has been rewarded by solid steady growth – while many small wineries have decreased production, Inman continues to steadily expand each year, reaching 3400 cases in 2011.
A Trailblazer in Eco-Friendly Practices in The Vineyard & Winery (Eco-Ethics)
Secondly, Kathleen has been repeatedly recognized for her many industry leading accomplishments in sustainability and green practices, both in the vineyard and the winery. Not because they are sexy marketing buzz words, but principles she has believed in, and practiced, long before they became in vogue.
Rather than re-write them all here, they are captured in several documents on the Inman website, drill down a bit, starting here. I challenge you to find a local winery that has invested more per capita in water reclamation, recycled materials, and sustainability. (And an electric car charging staton to boot!)
I should point out as well that while I say Kathleen, who beyond any doubt is the workhorse of this labor of love – there is a family behind the story, as it seems almost necessary to make it as a small winery. Kathleen’s husband Simon, has stood by, supported and thrown in many hand of assistance, on top of his legal pursuits. Kathleen and Simon have two wonderful daughters they dote on, whom can be found helping out around the tasting room during college semester breaks. One can only hope at least one will eventually get the bug and become second generation. Sadly, I am close to Kathleen’s age, or I’d ask for adoption.
A Foodie At Heart
Kathleen is all about food, and pairing it with wine. Unfortunately ‘food friendly’ has become an overused word in the industry, but Kathleen lives, breathes, and …eats it. Even in the early stages of wine making of a vintage, when doing barrel samples, she is thinking ahead of foods and sauces that will pair well. Her recipes have been published as well as recorded professionally.
You can check out many of her recipes here: http://www.inmanfamilywines.com/Recipes?
This close family and their support of Kathleen’s pursuit is an excellent start for the story behind the wine of the week, the ‘Endless Crush.’ No its not a horror story about the 2011 Harvest that seemed it would never end, but the love story of Kathleen & Simon.
For their 20th wedding Anniversary Kathleen wanted to make a special romantic wine for Simon, and started making a special rose’ every other year. Kathleen being Kathleen, this was of course a true rose’, not a saignee or juice bleed off. That means that grapes that could go into a $50 Pinot Noir, were instead being used for a Rose’ wine, which no matter how wonderful, can’t sell for that price, thus profit is given up for love. Endless Crush rose’ is done every other year, is a wonderful wine that quickly sells out.
For their 25th anniversary, Kathleen wanted to start a new tradition that was extra special. She had been studying closely the various methods of making sparkling wine (we are no longer allowed to call it champagne,) and decided to release a special sparkling brut Rose’, from Pinot Noir.
There are many remarkable things about this sparkling wine. One is that is unusual for California wine is that no sugar in the final ‘dosage’ is added. A dosage is added right before final corking, and has a varying degrees of sugar (thus sweetness) depending on the style. The dosage sweetness can come from a variety of things, including the current vintage sweet juice itself.
In this case Kathleen added 2% of barrel aged 2009 OGV Estate Pinot Noir for added complexity and to tint the wine ever so slightly.
This makes the sparkling wine in line with other Kathleen’s other wines, higher in acidity, making them truly food friendly.
To The Eye: Just the slightest tinge of pink.
One the Nose: Lots of strawberry, citrus and a hint of bread yeast
In The Mouth: I am not a bubbles snob, but my appreciation has definitely grown the last few years, and this is a gem, not a surprise given how much I like Kathleen’s other wines. Bright in the mouth, great acidity combined with rich texture and mouthfeel, lingering finish and some minerality, this is a unique work of art.
Recommendation: An amazing bottle of sparkling, made by a champion of the earth, with a romantic story behind it. Can there be any greater gift?
Food Pairing: Kathleen recommends “The recipe for crab and scallop cakes are a natural with the bubbles”
Happy Holidays & Cheers!
Winery of the Month: Highlights of Bonny Doon Vineyard’s ‘Day of the Doon’ at San Juan Bautista ‘Popelouchum’ Vineyard
On Sunday, September 18, 2011, Bonny Doon Vineyard celebrated Day of the Doon IX, its annual gathering of the tribes honoring its faithful D.E.W.N. Wine Club members.
As an advocate and brand ambassador, I was pleased to be able to attend, doubly so because the day was to conclude with a special naming ceremony for the new San Juan Batista vineyard.
Reader input: You will notice this blog post is lighter on verbiage, and more focused on picture content. It’s a format I am borrowing from food bloggers, that allows me to publish faster, and share more – let me know want you think.
Whats Going on in San Juan Bautista?
Several years ago, Randall Grahm made a decision to refocus, after having grown into high volume producer of wine, across multiple labels. The successful Big House and Cardinal Zin labels were sold off, and the funds used to purchase a 280-acre site in San Juan Bautista, combined with a decision to focus solely on the Bonny Doon brand.
The San Juan Bautista project is home to a number of revolutionary agricultural and viticulural experiments, centered on a new substance called “biochar” a form of highly porous charcoal that increases water retention and promotes beneficial microflora and soil fertility, and hybridizing a grape variety from seed, rarely done, and yet to be commercial success.
There is an excellent article in Edible Monterey Bay – I highly encourage you read for more details: “GRAHM’S GAMBLE: A risky quest to make a unique
American wine in San Juan Bautista“
I am a fan and admirer of Randall, and have been fortunate enough to get to know him a bit more these last few years, and even get occasional advice. Recently he took time out of a busy day hauling pears from Mendocino to Santa Cruz, to stop and taste the Rhone whites from my new tiny label about to launch – Two Shepherds.
Randall Grahm is often referred to as the original “Rhone Ranger.”
In honor of his vision, unwavering dedication, and always boldly willing to gamble and go where others have not tread before, the culmination and result of 30 years of contributions to the US Wine industry, that we name Bonny Doon as Winery of the Month.
(edit – the phenomenal, dedicated, Bonny Doon team, equally share and have earned this. )
Day of the Doon 2011 – Photo Journal
The event started with a special ceremony and songs by members of the Ohlone native Americans, who originally inhabited and were caretakers of this area.
Next we had a walking tour and overview of the property.
As a special treat, we then paired sparkling wine with a tomato tasting, and compared tomatoes grown in biochar and dry farmed versus normal.
Next Randall spent some time answering questions about biochar, the vineyard, and other things, while we enjoyed some wine. (Truly a rough day.) As you can see, I was paying rapt attention.
Also for your enjoyment, I captured a bit of video footage – here Randall talks about the challenges of planting grenache from seed.
Next we were treated to a special vertical tasting of magnums of 2001, 2003, and 2005 Cigare Volant (and/or some lovely Sangria.) and some nibbles. (No pictures of food sorry, I need to get better at food porn.)
And then it was time to eat and drink! Dinner that is – as if we hadn’t already been all afternoon.
After many great courses of food and wine, we moved outdoors, under the stars for a special naming ceremony of the San Juan Bautista vineyard.
DEWNies traversed labyrinth builder Lars Howlett’s site-specific creation, lit by candlelight. Ohlone Chief Sonne Reyna delivered an invocation, inviting the spirits of the land to return to this sacred place. The 280-acre property was formally given the name “Popelouchum.”
Pronounced “Pop-loh-shoom,” is the Mutsun language word the Ohlone natives historically used for the site. Its secondary meaning is “paradise,” a quality evident to all who visited this special day.
In his official press annoucement Randall Grahm said:
“Day of the Doon events have always been perhaps a bit theatrical, but the intent of this year’s celebration was to set aside theatricality for its own sake. Sharing Popelouchum with our dear friends, we proclaimed our unremitting dedication to the discovery of the terroir of this very special place, and to letting the land speak in its own unique voice.”
Indeed. I look forward to next year and following the progress of this great labor of love. Perhaps I can even convince Randall to let me have grenache seedling for my own new grenache vineyard!
Terroir: My Spiritual Journey (Part 1) (Randall Grahm blog)
It struck me recently I have been quite negligent in my wine reviews. Somehow I had missed ever publishing a review of Tablas Creek. How could this be? I consider myself a vocal fan, what in marketing and social media terms we refer to as a 'brand ambassador.' The term, which I use regularly in wine marketing presentations, refers to a customer/consumer (generally) that is passionate about a company and its product's and essentially is a walking billboard, compensated in no way.
If I am asked for an opinion on where to taste in Paso Robles – my answer is Tablas Creek. Name a leading US Rhone producer? Tablas Creek. US producer who makes refined, elegant non new world palate Rhones? Tablas Creek. One of my favorite xxxx varietals? Tablas Creek. I frequently gush about them on Facebook, Twitter, give them high scores on Cellartracker (although I often enjoy their wines so much, I don't take the time to pick them apart and don't always record notes.)
I am not alone, many industry writers agree. On a recent trip to Paso Robles for Hospice du Rhone, I had the good fortune to ride down with Lisa Shara Hall, esteemed Senior Editor Wine Business Monthly and author of Wines of the Pacific Northwest. We were on a tight schedule for HdR and only had time for one stop, to let Lisa experience what I thought was demonstrative of a Paso leader. This is not an easy woman to impress, as you might expect, and she was, as she complimented General Manager Jason Haas, and thanked me later.
I am no Patrick Comiskey (writer, Wines & Spirits, Rhone lover, and working on a book on the history of US Rhones) but I have been around enough to recognize the incredible impact they have had on the proliferation of Rhone plantings in the US. You can read some of the history here.
The history of Tablas Creek and their contributions deserve far more coverage than I am going to put into a wine review, and perhaps I will re-tell their story in a separate piece. They tend to be fairly humble about it themselves, although their website is a wealth of information about Rhone varieties, and one of the best single online sources of information. Jason also publishes a blog on the website. He doesn't promote it heavily nor does it receive the full recognition it deserves – its one of the best written winery blogs in existent in my discoveries, especially if you are a Rhone lover. Jason has also played a significant role (told here) in the growth and evolution of the Rhone Rangers, and its been my pleasure to work with him this year as an active supporting member.
Tablas has played a strong leadership role in the US Rhone movement. Their assistance in helping propagate Rhone grapevines to other growers, instead of keeping to themselves. contributed greatly to the role of Paso Robles as the stronghold of Rhone wines in this country. For this reason, I select Tablas Creek, as the first of my 'Winery of the Month.'
This wine has an interesting origin and a new path for Tablas, that I wholly applaud both in conc
ept and especially in the results. Jason outline the full story in a blog post. While it sounds like a good problem to have, Tablas Creek has run out of wine several years in a row. Growth of sales, combined with drought years double hit them, with a variance as high as 7k cases less production. DTC wine sales have grown to 10k cases a year. As a result, for several years in a row, distributors received less wine than requested. This is not a good problem to have, frustration like this can result in loss of a distributor.
Prior to Patelin, Tablas Creek had never sourced fruit from the outside, it was always estate. Yet Rhone growers in Paso Robles had excess, the last few years, and many of them had planted Tablas clones. Tablas decided to combine these two phenomenon and create a relief valve. By purchasing fruit from top, sustainable local growers, for this single label, they are able to buffer demand in lean harvest years, and have a home for excess fruit in bumper harvests. Its also a few dollars less than their other white blend, Côtes de Tablas Blanc.
The two new wines are named Patelin de Tablas and Patelin de Tablas Blanc. Patelin is French slang roughly translated as “country neighborhood”. Growers were chosen for the care they take in their vineyards, and for the track records of the wines that these vineyards have produced. All are in the neighborhood. The growers are named explicitly on the labels; each wine will list the vineyards that contributed fruit, with the percentage of the wine that each accounted for.
Wine Review – Tablas Creek 2010 Patelin de Tablas Blanc
As someone now making Rhone whites, bottling soon, and trying to figure out my blend, I have huge new appreciation for the complexity, and less available direct experience in Rhone wines making in Northern California that I can refer to. I am working with the same four varietals for my small personal project, and could only hope to achieve a wine of this quality.
While the Côtes de Tablas Blanc. is more Viognier based, with Grenache Blanc as the smallest component, the Patelin Blanc leads with Grenache Blanc (50%), then 33% Viognier, 10% Roussanne, and 7% Marsanne. Whole cluster pressed, and fermented in stainless steel, only native yeasts were used. Bottled in February 2011.
- Viognier from the biodynamically-farmed Chequera Vineyard in the cool Templeton Gap
- Tablas-clone Roussanne, Marsanne and Grenache Blanc from the Edward Sellers Vineyard in the Templeton Gap
- Tablas-clone Grenache Blanc from the Dawson's Creek Vineyard in the limestone-rich El Pomar region of Templeton
- Tablas-clone Grenache Blanc from Catherine's Vineyard in El Pomar
- Grenache Blanc from the Tablas Creek estate vineyard.
Color: Vibrant, clear, pale yellow straw.
On the Nose: Stone fruit, citrus, hint of floral.
In the Mouth: Be sure to drink this at proper temperature (aka not overchilled) to experience its nuances. For a wine that is $20 retail, it has a lot of complexity. Light, pleasant and fresh, on the front palate, it picks up weight and density in the mid palate, coating the tonque, and finishing with great mouthfeel and lingering acidity, and some minerality. A pleasing combination of lemon, peach, more stone fruit and citrus. Pairs well with a variety of foods due to the mouthfeel and acidity, fish, chicken, paella,
Recommendations: Buy, drink, before gone. Priced like a house wine, drinks like Friday night bottle. $20 retail. (or join Vinsiders Wine Club, $16.) Buy it online. Look for these National distributors. You Bay area people can find it at K&L Wine as well. (11 left, hurry!) 93 Points, Highly Recommend.