Uncorked Ventures Blog
We originally met Anthony a couple of years back when we happened to have a free afternoon in Paso Robles and through a conversation with the folks over at Barrel 27, it was suggested that Anthony was someone we absolutely had to meet, oh and as is typical in Paso, they called over and made our appointment for us. Paso’s a small winemaking community that really does look out for one and other. While plenty of wine regions talk about their comradely, as an outsider it seems more apparent in Paso than it does elsewhere.
In a lot of ways, Anthony represents exactly what’s so exciting about the whole scene in Paso Robles. First, he’s young. In fact he’s probably the only winemaker (at a major winery at least and Denner is among the 3 most important properties in Paso) I’ve come across clearly younger than I am. Secondly, he was among the first class of winemakers coming out of Cal Poly San Luis Obispo’s viticulture department. For generations UC Davis has in essence, been the only game in town when it comes to educating winemakers in California. Calpoly, given it’s proximity to the outstanding wine regions in both Paso and Santa Barbara stands to push Davis in ways that no other domestic winemaker training program has been able to, to date. Lastly and most importantly, he makes damn good wine.
If you were to ask my wife and I to make a list of winery based wine clubs that we’d gladly join at full retail, we’d probably both create a rather short list. After all, it’s easy to get accustomed to samples and buying at California wholesale or better. In any case, Kinero would be the only winery at we’d both include on our lists that focuses on white wine. That’s partly because the wine is really good, they are undoubtedly complex white wines and it’s also partly because we have both enjoyed our time and conversations with Anthony when we’ve met him in person, even picking up a few cases of wine at one point at his house on a Sunday afternoon as we were driving through Paso Robles. With any small winery, even one coming from an established winemaker, personality counts.
So what makes the wines at Kinero so unique and perhaps more importantly, how do these white wines differ than those Anthony makes at Denner Vineyards?
To start, I find there to be a greater amount of acidity in the Kinero offerings. The Denner white’s really do remind me of what you might associate with a style in Napa, bigger and rounder fruit. Tasting room and critical stars all, to be sure. Kinero offers, in my estimation a more natural expression of the grapes involved especially the Rustler (Roussane) and Alice (Grenache Blanc).
Secondly, you’ll also note that there is a notable difference in price points involved for the wine’s we are talking about. At $22 Alice is among the best deals in California wine and at $30 the Rustler deserves an even greater amount of attention than it already receives in the press.
The Rustler I think also introduces a concept why winemaker personal labels can be an interesting and unique way to access great wine.
Denner Vineyards is located next door to the famed James Berry Vineyard. If you aren’t familiar with James Berry (you should be) Robert Parker once called it one of the 5 Grand Cru vineyards in the state of California. That is, if we borrowed the French naming convention for the quality of a site, the James Berry Vineyard would be among the 5 best in the state and the absolute best in Paso Robles. Owned by Saxum Vineyards, their James Berry vineyard designate wines have consistently achieved critical scores of 95 points and above, often while costing $70 or more per bottle.
With Kinero’s Rustler priced at $30, that’s an incredible opportunity to taste some of the best fruit in California and really the world, at an affordable, reasonable price point.
Oh and if you’re wondering how that relationship between a rival winemaker and a great winery might have been born, the James Berry and Denner Vineyards are separated by what amounts to a golf cart path.
I hope you’ve enjoyed the short intro to Kinero Cellars and Anthony Yount. He is a winemaker and a wine label worth checking out the next time you’re looking for an interesting, unique and simply good white wine.
We've realized that we've referred to winemakers personal labels a number of times in this space, without ever really talking about what we mean by that, which by the way is in no way a standard piece of industry jargon.
When we talk about a winemaker's personal label, we're usually talking about a winemaker who makes the wine at one vineyard (one that you probably have heard of) while making a smaller amount of wine, selling it himself (or herself) with little or no help.
Often the wine is made at the same facility where the winemaker works during the day and the fruit is generally purchased from vineyards that have larger than normal yields for the year (although more frequently vineyard owners are realizing that winemakers pay their bills and are offering longer term contracts to start ups).
In any case a winemaker personal label is often a nice way to get a really, really nice deal on a bottle of wine.
What's New in Paso Robles
So, we’ve written about a few wineries in Paso Robles already but over the past few weeks and months a few interesting wineries have been introduced to us. We thought our readers and eventually our customers, would enjoy these wines as we all continue to search for more great wine. Over the remainder of the week, we’ll be featuring three wineries from Paso that you should probably know, for a variety of reasons.
The wineries of Paso Robles are crafting incredible wines that are priced fairly for the quality and the area still offers a unique and a tasting atmosphere where the average consumer can enjoy themselves at a variety of vineyards. Paso has been called everything from the “Next Napa” to “Like visiting Napa in the 1970’s” while I don’t want to comment on either of those statements, I know that it does seem that the cheaper land prices and great sense of working together in Paso pervades the wine industry and leads to really, really good wine especially given the price points involved.
In any case, there’s a lot of really interesting stuff going on in Paso from their continued focus on Rhone varietals, to increasingly high quality Cabernet Sauvignon and their continued, if sometimes futile search for vineyard sites cool enough for Pinot Noir. Perhaps the most interesting group of wines being produced in Paso are white wines which are made from Rhone’s, but are dense and interesting enough to make even the most ardent “I don’t drink white’s” guy stand up and take notice.
Vigeron is a French term for someone who not only grows grapes, but then makes wine with them. We think of estate wineries in those terms here in California, but the French term means something smaller, usually a winery and farming operation run by a single individual, or by a family who not only owns the land, but plans on keeping it for generations to come.
Every once in a while you end up running into a bottle of wine that you really like, even when it comes from an unexpected place. I’ve already talked about the chagrin that often overtakes me when I have a friend, or a neighbor who suggests a friend’s wine, or a wine that they really like. I mean, if I had a couple of bucks for every time someone suggested that we purchase some wine from their friend who was making it in their garage, or this great wine from a 1M+ case winery, well my wife and I would be choosing better restaurants.
Enter a bottle from Lang & Reed Wine Company.
I was blown away.
Lang & Reed fits the mold of a winery which would open, make some good wine and then rapidly scale up production before being sold. But it hasn’t. I thought that would be the model for Lang & Reed based on the founders having a long stretch of experience in the wine industry, which in this case seems to have made them sure that building a brand for themselves and theoretically their children, makes more sense.
A husband and wife team of Tracey and John Skupny own Lang & Reed Wine Company. John’s resume in Napa Valley and beyond is longer than virtually any others than you could possibly find, but stops in the marketing departments of Caymus (in the 80’s no less!) and Coppola certainly would open the entire world of Napa to him in terms of grower relationships and the opportunities that help to create a world class wine. His wife and business partner Tracey spent over a decade in the marketing & sales departments at Spotswoode (I warned you, good connections abound) before taking time off to raise their two sons (something I can greatly appreciate in terms of the amount of work, stress and the lack of genuine road map given I have my son a couple of afternoons a week) and as the kids have grown closer to adulthood, has focused more attention on the winery. She’s also the director of the Napa Valley Vintners Board of Directors, so it’s pretty clear that Lang & Reed are every bit of a partnership.
What really interested me about Lang & Reed was the fact that despite a St. Helena address, they have chosen to focus their winery project on Cabernet Franc. There are a number of issues with Cabernet Franc, not the least of which is that the average consumer isn’t necessarily going to choose a bottle of it when a more familiar Cabernet Sauvignon or Pinot Noir is present.
The winery offers two versions of the Cabernet Franc, an entry level more approachable bottle (the one I was able to taste) priced at $24 retail and a more structured and dense, single vineyard offering priced at $48. While the number of available varietal specific Cabernet Franc’s isn’t wide even here in the Bay Area, I’d have to say this was among my favorite versions of the varietal that I’ve tasted over the past three years (well right up there with Mark David).
Oh and as you’ll look around their website, you’ll notice their love for animals, especially a set of Saluki dogs. We’re lucky to have neighbors who have a couple of them a few doors down and I can attest that the dogs really are intelligent and incredibly gentle with the variety of little kids trying to do everything short of ride them around the block.
Lastly, I can’t help but say that we need more wineries like this in Napa Valley, but elsewhere as well. Focusing on a more obscure varietal like Cabernet Franc should be something that those of us in the industry respect and average consumers try to support when possible. More choices in terms of wineries and types of wines is a good thing for consumers and Lang & Reed is a great example of a winery taking a chance of sorts, but crafting a really high quality wine at the same time.
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