I love a good rosé. I’m also very picky about my rosé. From pale pink to deep salmon, a rosé of pinot noir can be all over the map, but generally speaking, it is delicious.
I have been fortunate enough to know Inman Fammily Wines, and by extension winemaker Kathleen Inman, and her husband Simon, for several years now. Growing from a small industrial warehouse near the Santa Rosa, CA airport, to the current winery on Olivet Lane, Inman focuses on Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, and Chardonnay grown from the special grapes grown in the Russian River Valley.
Winemaker Kathleen Inman realized her dreams when she traded in spreadsheets for cover crops, to start Inman Family Wine. She was recently honored with the Women for WineSense Rising Star award, which is presented annual to women who demonstrate extreme leadership, or are innovators in the industry. Inman is a leading advocate of natural wine, and wine that possesses a more restrained and elegant style from the Russian River Valley, with moderate alcohol levels and healthy, natural acidity.
A Napa Valley native, Inman fell in love with wine as a student at UCSB, holding a summer job at Napa Creek Winery. After years as a finance executive in England, she and her husband returned to California to indulge her passion for Pinot Noir. She obtained the 10.45-acre Olivet Grange property in Sonoma County and began planting it following organic farming practices in the year 2000.
The estate vineyard, Olivet Grange, is organically farmed and sustainable practices are used to produce the best fruit possible. Here on the estate, the focus on the environment is clear: the winery itself is built of reclaimed materials, employing redwood, eco friendly labels, reusable wine bags, and renewable energy sources. If you drive an electric car, you can even juice up in the parking area!
This year, Inman Family Wines celebrates the 10th anniversary since its first harvest in 2002. In honor of the 10th anniversary, Inman Family has announced plans for a year of celebration, starting with an exclusive retrospective tasting featuring a complete vertical of the Estate’s Olivet Grange Vineyard Pinot Noir. At this special tasting, a dinner paired to this wines will follow, which promises to be amazing.
Tickets are extremely limited for this exclusive event on October 13th at the winery, so get yours now for $125. You can get yours by calling 707-293-9576.
Hope to see you there!
No pinot should be opened before it’s time! In this case, it’s been sleeping for a few years, so I think the 2009 David Bynum Russian River Valley Pinot Noir is safe to be consumed.
This is what I consider to be the now classic Russian River Valley Pinot Noir. It i big and rich, and full of chewy black cherries. After a pass through my trusty Soiree however, the wine opened up to some sarsaparilla and pomegranate notes and was much calmer.
While this is a large and robust pinot, RRV is tending that way. I think there are two primary reasons for this: Firstly, the global climate shift has changed weather patterns and made the area have more degree days than in previous years. Secondly, the palate of the masses likes a bolder pinot, tending towards syrah. This is similar to areas like the Santa Lucia Highlands, as well as the Santa Ynez Valley, made famous by Miles & Jack. There is a lightness of raspberry and bright red fruit hiding under all of that chewy cherry, but it’s dampened by the bitter quinine finish. The baking spices are strong, especially the clove notes which numb the tongue a touch.
This is certainly a candidate for decanting, as well as aeration, but could use some serious opening up time.
For $30, it’s averagely priced, but I’d like to see this about the $20 range. At 14.9% AVB it’s also going to knock your socks off if you’re not careful! If you can find it for less than retail, and you enjoy a larger pinot, you should TRY THIS!
This wine was provided by Rodney Strong, paretn company of Davis Bynum, for consideration and sipping. It’s been hiding in my cellar so it’s aged to perfection!
Often times, people have the assumption that larger is better; whether it’s in wine, packages of snacks at Costco, or houses with more bedrooms than people in the town where I went to boarding school, the message is bigger is better. Even in wine, the message can be bigger is better; while not referring to size, it often shows up in large production labels, that assume that releasing 10,000 cases means they are successful. It also shows up stylistically, when wines become Fraken-fied, with additives and strange concoctions of science much more than art.
My choice, therefore, is to spend as much money as I can on supporting smaller, local producers who not only need to cash more, but have more creativity and stylistic control than – dare I say it – that label with the Kangaroo on it down the street.
Luckily for me, I was invited to the Micro Winery Open House at Inspiration Custom Crush in Santa Rosa recently. Here, several smaller wineries - including Inspiration, were pouring their wares. I have a few highlights from the event and a shamless plug for a fellow blogger turned winemaker who is doing some great things with Rhone varitals.
First up, Wesley Ashley Wines‘ Intelligent Design Cuvee Blanc is a Rhône style
blend of Vioginer, Roussanne, and Grenache Blanc from Santa Barbara. The Viognier adds a nice aromatic note, while the Roussanne gives a crisp acidity that would be perfect for a summer sipper. We all know by now, that I love a good Grenache Blanc, and the 20% addition to this blend rounds out the white and gives it a solid body. This is no wimpy wine! Classic flavors of nectarine and apricot show up under the floral notes of the viognier.
Also from Wesley Ashely, the 2009 Intellivent Design Cuvee is another classic Rhône blend of Grenache, Syrah, and Petite Sirah. The Grenache, which is 75% of the blend, shows off its strawberry spice, with the Syrah adding some great backbone.
YOu can find Wesley Ashely Wines at the winery by appointment, The Wine Mine in Oakland, and several restaurants around the bay area.
This is a winery to watch!
Keeping on the Rhône theme, next up we meet the Two Shepherds. William Allen, a fellow wine blogger over at Simple Hedonisms, and partner Michelle Berger launched Two Shepherds wine to focus on Rhône style wines from California with distinction.
So far so good I’d say! It takes extreme talent and guts to start a winery, particularly if you’re day job is in sales, as William’s is. Having known him for a few years now, I have seen first hand the sheer tenacity that it takes to launch a brand, learn about the chemistry of winemaking, the ins and outs of running a business and also trying to pay the bills. Kudos to a successful launch!
I was one of the lucky few to taste the delicious Grenache Blanc, which is sadly sold out now – but it was a great example of a Rhône white, that balances out acidity with the creamy subtle sweetness. Some GBs can be either too acidic (I’ve had a few from Spain) or too full bodied which implies sweetness. The Two Shepherds balances those two, with a nice minerality, white peach, lemon lime flavors, followed by a flinty finish. I am eagerly waiting for more of this to be bottled so I can nab some for the cellar!
Also from Two Shepherds, the MRV is a classic white Rhône blend, comprised of Marsanne, Roussanne, and Viognier. I enjoyed a bottle of this last night with Butternut squash Lasagna, and the creamy body of the MR balanced the sweetness of the Butternet perfectly. The Addition of the viogner adds a touch of honeysuckle.
There are two red offerings from Two Shepherds, the GSM, and the SM (Syrah/Mourvedre). The GSM blend is a bit different than your average southern Rhone, or for that matter, Paso Robles Rhone blend, as the Grenache in this blend adds acidity and flavors to develop that are unique to the area. The lighter style blends perfectly with the fuller bodied Syrah and Mourvedre, to create a masterpiece of bright red berry, spice box, and a lingering flavor that I personally can only describe as Grenache.
This wine isn’t technically released, but it will be soon and I suggest buying a bottle and letting it sleep for a bit. If not, give it some air before you sip and swirl.
The Syrah/Mourvedre blend uses the same Syrah from Russian River, and is blended equally with Mourvedre. The SM is slightly fuller bodied than the GSM, as you don’t have the higher acid in the Grenache to lighten the load. It is also delicious and would be fantastic with roast chicken, a burger, or cassoulet.
You can find Two Shepherds wines at the winery by appointment, and via mail order, but also at K&L Wine Merchants, Wicked Wines in HBG, and several restaurants in the Bay Area including The Girl & Fig, Spoonbar, and Toast Wine Lounge. Click here for details.
The moral of this story? Seek out those small producers. They work in small lots, and can be more creative than people making large amounts of wine. Have fun discovering them. The custom crush / coop tasting room is more and more popular, as it allows smaller brands to showcase their wines while sharing costs for capital expenditures.
Now, I don’t harbor any fantasies of being able to be a chemist and make my own wine, but it sure is fun to live vicariously! I’ve picked up some of the pieces of the puzzle on the way, and while I don’t think I could go it on my own, I do lust after a barrel or two of Pinot Noir in my future.
Some of my other favorite coop tasting rooms:
- Winery Collective – San Francisco
- The Wine Yard – Santa Rosa
- The urban wineries of Coffey Lane (that’s my own name) – The NPA, Carol Shelton, Vinify Winery Collective & Custom Crush, Inspiration Custom Crush, all located in the same complex as the micro wineries featured in this post.
Explore your town! There are Urban wineries in San Francisco such as Dogpatch Wineworks and Bluxome Street. Oakland and Alameda have an urban explosion.
Support your local winemaker! You won’t be sorry!
The 2009 Monterey Pinot was a sleeper hit. As I mentioned, I don’t care for the flavor profiles I often find in Monterey Pinot. There is an oddness in there, and something that doesn’t sit well with me, in the form of green sticks and odd leaves. But this example has dusty dried cherries and strawberries, and while it was a bit tight at first, opened up to white pepper with a lot of floral influence. Again for $15 it’s a crowd pleaser. Solid B.
The 2010 Carneros Pinot was, as is expected, big and jammy with bright raspberry. I personally thought it was a little hot, and bold but silky. Even though it was big and jammy, the body was lighter, which was somewhat surprising for a Carneros wine. There was a lot of darker fruit hiding in there. Not my fave. C+
My personal favorite glass was the 2010 Rodgers Creek Pinot. This single vineyard designate is the only wine that is finished with cork and showed Earthy mellow mushroom, bark, sarsaparilla and spicy gingerbread. In a way it reminded me of a Coca Cola cake (it’s a southern thing). The foggy terrain of Rodgers Creek gives this a stunning baking spice palate that I just love. I couldn’t quite believe that this was only $30, and it definitely gets n A in my book.
The moral of this story is that it pays to dig a bit under those big brands. They often hide premium wines under their hats that you might not otherwise approach. Since I prefer to dig under the vines for smaller, less well known wines, I am appreciative to find a larger production winery that is focusing on quality, even when quantity makes the bankers happy.
Thanks to Alison and Laura from The Barn Group for a lovely evening!
It’s a terrible thing, be able to enjoy sparkling wines whenever I want to. I personally love bubbles with potato chips, hamburgers, and at the ballpark, but that’s just me. I’m a firm believe that wine (especailly sparkling wine) is made to celebrate life, and not just life’s special occasions!
In celebration of my life and my friends, Iwas
invited crashed dinner with friends, including the venerable Chuck Hayward of JJ Buckley Wine, his Girl Friday Paige (also of JJ Buckley) and my sistah from anotha motha, as well as Joy Sterling, CEO of Iron Horse Vineyards, the far western Sonoma County bubble house.
Iron Horse was founded by Audrey and Barry Sterling in 1976, in a quiet corner of Green Valley, in the lush rolling hills of Green Valley. This western Sonoma area is in the rainy side of town, and it’s a perfect place to grow Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. So off they went, to grow grapes for still wine.
But why would a vineyard, known for creating delicious Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, make the leap to sparkling? It’s not exactly easy. The answer is easy - necessity is the mother of invention. In 1980, the first vintage of sparkling wine was made when there was an excess of still wine. Since 1985, Iron Horse sparkling wine has been served in the White House continuously. Not too shabby for a creative solution to a common problem.
Audrey and Barry passed on the Iron Horse legacy to their children, Joy and Laurence. Joy, educated in paris and at Yale (yeah, she’s a smart cookie that one), is the face of Iron Horse and the CEO. Her brother Laurence and his wife Terry live on property and he is the Director of Operations.
I was lucky enough to meet Joy through Paige several years ago, and it’s so much fun to drink with her! But that’s enough about that. Never one to say no to a glass of stars, we ran through all (oh yes all) of the current releases at dinner.
2006 Classic Vintage Brut is fresh and bright, and has a classic (no pun intended) flavor of freshly baked bread. There is a ton of fresh lemon and bright crisp citrus as well. With 68% Pinot Noir, it’s a great example of a Green Valley wine.
The 2007 Wedding Cuvee has a lot more color than in most years. The gorgeous strawberry and raspberry notes had a fresh floral feeling, with rose petals and cream. Delicious! This is probably my favorite Iron Horse sparkling wine.
The 2006 Brut Rose is a gorgeous deep salmon blush color. With Blood orange and oom on the nose and almost a bit of tomato, this purpose made rose has a rich flavor that brings some thing different to the table.
The 2006 Russian Cuvee is another classic, with buttered popcorn flavors springled with fresh yeast. It is slightly sweeter than the others and has delcious stonefruit falvors . This is my other favorite! Starting it’s life as the same base wine as the Classic Vintage Brut, the Russian is given a richer dosage (more sugar). This makes the Russian more opulent, and fitting for any Czar. It’s got a touch of sweetness, and was created for the Reagan-Gorbachev summit at the end of the Cold War. Pretty cool!
Iron Horse Vineyards is located on Ross Station Road, just outside of Sebastopol in western Sonoma County. If you go, make sure you you bring your four wheel drive and mud boots in the winter, and a hat int he summer! Sitting on the top of a hill above the vineyards in the valley, you will be able to sip wine among the apple trees, in the outdoor tasting bar. There is no table serviec here, just pure fun!