The Somm Journal

Dec 2015-Jan 2016

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Page 36 of 124

{ sonoma spotlight } 36 { THE SOMM JOURNAL } DECEMBER/JANUARY 2015/2016 A dramatic view of the Kenwood Vineyards property. IF YOU WANT TO KNOW THE HISTORY OF WINEMAKING in Sonoma, you can just take a shortcut through Kenwood Vineyards. Their historic winery, built by the Pagani Brothers in 1906 and acquired by the Lee family in 1970, is celebrating the 110th vintage produced within their walls. You could also meander through the Jack London Ranch on Sonoma Mountain, through vineyards once tended by famous American novelist and author Jack London. London bought the property in 1905, but it wasn't until 1972 that a descendant of his planted the vineyard to Cabernet Sauvignon, and partnered with Kenwood Winery to produce one of the first vineyard-designated wines of Sonoma. This deep history and connection to the land resonates to this day at Kenwood Vineyards. "I live on the same mountain that Jack London called home," says Kenwood Senior Winemaker Pat Henderson, "which is a really special connection." At the heart of this connection is the small-lot winemaking that has been a hallmark of Kenwood wines since the beginning. It is a practice that Henderson learned from Kenwood's original wine - maker, Mike Lee. Each lot is hand-harvested and vinified separately before blending. "He really taught me the art of small-lot winemak- ing. Knowing the land, the history, the fruit—and putting together a plan that gives each lot its best treatment from vine to glass. As a winemaker, mastering blending unlocks an incredible amount of power, and I learned to appreciate that under the tutelage of Mike Lee," explains Henderson. To help achieve this individual treatment, Kenwood has 125 small stainless steel fermenting tanks and 12,000 small oak barrels. "Each vineyard is grown, raised, picked, pressed, fermented and aged separately to preserve its unique flavors," according to Henderson. The vision at Kenwood Vineyards is to craft the best wines that Sonoma has to offer. However, if you've ever visited Sonoma, you know that it possesses a great diversity of soil, climate, and aspect that requires small-lot techniques and bottlings to really bring the wines to life. Kenwood is experiencing a renaissance in this regard, by introducing a new range of wines called "Six Ridges." These wines will be limited in quantity, and produced in a reserve style. Henderson notes, "There were certain appellations that we really wanted to highlight, so we singled out those lots that always rise to top and gave them special treatment from the vineyard to the winery. The name Six Ridges is a tribute to the mountains and ridges that border our vineyards and influence Sonoma's terroir." The resulting wines will be varietal expressions of the best appellations in Sonoma: Sauvignon Blanc from Sonoma Coast, Merlot and Zinfandel from Dry Creek, Cabernet Sauvignon from Alexander Valley and Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from Russian River Valley. Henderson is enthusiastic about the results so far. "I'm really excited about the 2014 Six Ridges Pinot Noir. It's a blend of three Russian River vineyards and is 100 percent Pinot Noir aged in 100 percent French oak. We haven't quite finished the blending yet, but it's been tasting very, very, good!" There will also be a selection of single-vineyard wines to comple - ment the existing Sonoma tier, Artist Series and their classic, rug- ged Jack London Cabernet Sauvignon—a true original California cult classic. Produced from Jack London's own vineyard on Sonoma Mountain, this wine speaks to the heritage and legacy that Jack London himself provided. A little-known fact is that London was the first to bring sustainable farming practices to the United States. You will find traces of his theories on this topic in his 1913 novel The Valley of the Moon, which takes place, in part, in Sonoma's farm - ing communities. Sustainability continues to be a focus at Kenwood. Pat Henderson's first vintage at Kenwood was in 1983, when he was a harvest intern. Since then, the winery has been through several changes of ownership, including its acquisition by Pernod New Energy at Kenwood THE HISTORIC PROPERTY IN THE HEART OF SONOMA EXPERIENCES A RENAISSANCE by David D. Denton, CWE, CSS, IBWE

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