December 1, 2015 § Leave a comment
We are fortunate enough to have been in business for 10 years now and it has become very clear to me what has afforded us this success. I feel like we have some of the most loyal and supportive customers in the world. We refer to our wine club members as our Kokomo Family, and they seem to have the largest megaphones about our brand. Just yesterday I popped in on a group of 8 friendly ladies that were taking advantage of their complimentary cheese pairing in our reserve room to celebrate a birthday. They couldn’t wait to tell me that four of them had just joined our wine club and they were all buying our shirts. There is really no better feeling than to share in someone’s excitement about what you are creating, and it affirms that the path I’ve chosen is right.
You would think that your biggest supporters and fans would be your family, but that is not always the case. It’s not that my family isn’t a huge support, but more that complete strangers seem to turn into fans that inevitably become the most excited about what we are doing. It almost feels like we are their favorite sports team, and they root us on and wear our gear to show their friends how proud they are to be our fans. I know we don’t have the most luxurious of tasting rooms, but we are flattered that they take pictures of themselves and their friends at our bar. It’s as if they are some place truly special, and maybe they are. I will never take this for granted and it continues to give me the motivation to do better and better each and every day.
September 24, 2015 § Leave a comment
Harvest started fast and furious on August 21st and never really let up until the end of September. An early bud break starting in February made for an early bloom which pushed everything forward for the earliest vintage on record. The month of February was actually warmer than the month of May in Northern California.
I knew it would be an interesting year as my wife and I were expecting our second son right in the middle of harvest, Oden Miller was born Sept 17th. Luckily it turned out we had gotten in the majority of our fruit by that time, with only Cabernet Sauvignon remaining. The final months of the 2015 vintage were very up and down in temperature swings. The week of September 7th we saw 100+ degree temperatures for 5 consecutive days only to have it rain on the following week, which was actually a blessing. Sugars had spiked with the intense heat and although we had some good hang time there was, of course, dehydration and raisining going on in the vineyard. The rain helped to rehydrate the berries and sugars went back 1-2 full brix.
Overall I would call the 2015 vintage a success. Sugars were high but acids were generally high as well and the colors have been intense. The tannins seem big so far, although it is still early, and the crop size was definitely down about 30% from the previous vintages. Every vintage has its challenges and victories and 2015 will certainly be a vintage I will never forget!
June 16, 2015 § Leave a comment
We have recently switched our labels over to what is known as silk screen labels. The look of our new labels is as if it was painted, or etched on the bottle. It is a very clean look. I have received a lot of feedback and compliments on them, and I know how important looks can be.
Besides coming up with a name for your winery, what the label is going to look like is always one of the most painstaking decisions. Until it is actually on that bottle of wine, and in your hands, you really don’t know what it is going to look like. As a consumer, how much weight do you give to a label? Even though you think you are judging quite a bit from a label, if the wine happens to be on a restaurant wine list, you typically don’t even get to look at the label. Envisioning myself walking through a grocery store and looking at a wall of labels to see how our label would stand out is really of no use. I do not want my wine sold in grocery stores, as I prefer to have them on restaurant wine lists.
I do, however, want all of our beloved customers to feel proud when they have our bottle on their kitchen table and are showing it off to their friends. I think that the time and level of detail that we spend on the label is in direct correlation with the level of detail and care that we give to our wines. My main objective with our labels is to make sure that they are timeless, clean, and classy, because when it is all said and done that label should define a fifty-year old vineyard, two week fermentation, two years of aging in French Oak barrels, and all of the hard work it has taken to put this product in its beautiful package.
April 3, 2015 § Leave a comment
The vineyard life is a “romantic” lifestyle, but I don’t think that everyone is privy to all of the challenges that farmers may face. We are currently in the Spring months and monitoring the new growth of our vines. Randy Peters, grower for Kokomo, came to me a couple of weeks ago with the concern that as much as 20% of his vines are not looking healthy. As we continue to monitor these vines and talk to neighbor growers we have heard similar stories that they too were experiencing this sudden vine death. Just when we thought we made it through one of our main concerns every year, frost season, we were faced with yet another serious challenge. I will keep you posted on what we find out, but at this point we believe it has something to do with Pierce’s Disease, which is caused by a little mosquito-like insect called the glassy winged sharp shooter.
It always amazes me how many different challenges we face on a year to year basis trying to raise wine grapes. There are, of course, birds, varmints and deer to be controlled. More recently, our focus has been on nematodes living below the soil that have caused such viruses as fan leaf and red blotch. This year’s vine death has been a little more perplexing because we don’t know exactly what it is; however, we are taking samples of the vine into the lab and are anxiously awaiting the results. The main objective is to live harmoniously with all of nature in a way that losses are minimized and toxins are never used. We will keep bringing you the best wines we possibly can, but we can only do that with the healthiest vineyards, and that is an ongoing commitment and challenge that separates the farmers from the boys.
March 31, 2015 § Leave a comment
As a winemaker I find it very difficult to be completely satisfied with one of my wines. I love them all like they are one of my children, but I immediately go to what could be better and become very critical of anything that I make. I was talking to another winemaker about this dilemma and the analogy that he used is getting a sandwich from a deli. Why does it always taste better when the deli makes the sandwich versus when you make your own sandwich at home?
I am learning to deal with this uber sensitivity towards my own wines in several ways. The first way is to taste our wines blind in a lineup amongst other wines from our area. The other, though a little superficial, is accepting our accolades with open arms and believing in them. I have a personal determination to make the best possible wines that I can, and I have entered into a craft which takes a lifetime of learning. It can be said that it takes a decade for the vine to understand the land and another decade for the winemaker to understand a particular vineyard. It is a good thing that I have patience, and my guarantee to all of our supporters is that I put 100% of my effort to each and every wine that bears the Kokomo label.
January 7, 2015 § 1 Comment
At our recent staff holiday party I decided to open up a bunch of our library wines. It was very interesting to me to find which wines were aging gracefully and still had life left, and which wines are on their way out and seemed a little dull.
I often get the question “how long will a wine age?” The two main components for aging a wine are tannin and acidity. But just like in our lives, I feel like one of the main factors for a long healthy life is balance. The overall favorite wine of all the ones we opened happened to be the very first Pinot Noir that I ever made. It was completely unfiltered, un-fined and a beautiful example of what balance is. Although Pinot Noirs do not have much tannin to give, their acidity is typically what helps them to age gracefully.
Young wines are typically more flashy, full of fruit, and screaming for attention right out of the glass; whereas, these beautifully aged wines need to be appreciated in a deeper and more intricate way. Their aromatics tend to be more earth and spice related, as opposed to the fresh fruit of a younger wine. But what I truly admire about these mature wines is the gracefulness on the palate. Because wine is a living thing, it changes with every passing year in the bottle. The effect this time has on the palate is to soften the tannins, mellow the acidity, and harmonize the mouth feel into a silky, seamless balance that can only be attained with age.
I will always maintain a library of the wines we make. As their father, I believe it is a critical step in appreciating everything they have to give.
November 17, 2014 § Leave a comment
I often get asked about malo-lactic fermentation and how it plays into the character of a wine. Right now in my cellar most of our wines are going through malo-lactic (“ML” for short) fermentation. The easiest way to explain this type of fermentation is that instead of a yeast, it is a bacteria that is doing the work. Instead of converting sugar to alcohol (primary fermentation), it is converting malic acid into lactic acid. Malic acid can best be described as a green apple tart acidity found in wines. Lactic acid can best be described as a softer, richer mouth feel that in Chardonnay is referred to as “buttery.” The only wines we make that forego malo-lactic fermentation are our Sauvignon Blanc, Grenache Rosé, Muscat Blanc, and our Sparkling.
Wines will typically go through malo-lactic fermentation on their own if not inoculated because this bacteria is in our winery and in our barrels. I choose to inoculate for ML so we have more control over the process, and more importantly, control over when the process is completed. Tasting our 2014 red wines that we just made can be very scary this time of year. When the wine is going through ML the aromatics put off are definitely a little funky. But as an experienced winemaker, I have learned that patience is a virtue. I am still tasting through these wines for the character of the vintage, and most times I am able to tell if they are through ML just by aromatics. It is an extended part of harvest that most people don’t think about, but I cannot fully rest until all of my barrels are topped and protected, and this will not happen until ML is completed.