February 6, 2018 § Leave a comment
The 2017 vintage was the most emotional vintage that I have had yet. We were blessed in the winter with an above average rainfall and the moisture content of the soil was excellent. On Father’s Day weekend, we saw our first significant heat wave. It got up to 109 around Sonoma County, which is unusual particularly for that time of the year. Our second heat wave of the year really hit us at a tough time of the year, right before harvest, and set records for the hottest day ever in the Bay Area. Luckily, our vines had an exceptional winter and spring rainfalls, and they were surprisingly resilient. The temperatures reached 115 degrees, and the grape clusters had some dehydration and raisining, but the weather cooled off and we saw a pretty big drop in sugars. I have talked to other winemakers and it was as big of a drop in sugar that they had seen after heat.
I woke up on that Monday morning of October 9th, and immediately smelled something smokey. I had bbq’ed the evening prior, so I thought that I must have left the grill on. As I looked outside it was apparent that Santa Rosa was on FIRE! That event would mark the rest of the vintage and really make it emotional to finish harvest with our head high and continue making our wines. Our fruit was spared from any smoke taint, and the only thing that was still out was our Cab. The days following at the winery were quite eerie. During a time of year that has been usually our most busy, we saw no one for almost two weeks. As we were continuing to work on our wines that were in the winery, we would get text messages coming in from the Sonoma County alert system telling us that our neighborhoods were being evacuated. I felt bad to have our guys there making wines as the fate of their homes were up in the air. We brought our last grapes of the year in on October 12th, and were surprised at the impeccable condition of the fruit.
As I continue to taste these 2017 wines, the old quote, “Through adversity builds character,” comes to mind. I do not think that the results of the fires, or for that matter, the extreme heat, will be a key factor in the quality of the wines to come. Sonoma County will never forget the 2017 vintage, and I think that it brought this community together in a way that only tragedy can. #SonomaStrong
September 12, 2016 § Leave a comment
Every year is a different year that brings us a whole new look at the vineyards and how the weather transformed that particular vintage. This year has been no exception, everything started off early with high heat and an overall early set. Then came the month of August, when everything slowed way down and the fog was persistent. We are now right in the middle of Harvest and things are shaping up to be, yet again, another stellar vintage. Flavors are intense, crop loads are in balance, acid is prevalent, and physiological maturity is being attained. The real challenge this year is getting pick dates when you want them, as everyone is trying to get their fruit off the vine at the same time. Having a partner that is the grower is, of course, a huge luxury for Kokomo. We have been nailing our pick dates, and I could not be happier about the quality of the fruit.
Today is September 12th and we have brought in the majority of our Zinfandel, Chardonnay, and Pinot, plus our Sauvignon Blanc and Grenache for the Rosé is all in. We had to do extra thinning on the Chardonnay because of the threat of Botrytis, but the fruit that came in was impeccable and the balance is zen-like. The Zinfandel has some “raisining”, like it does every year, that we’re sorting out. Overall, though, the Zin is in really good shape and the flavors are fresh and zippy. Our Merlot and Malbec are in as well, and the color is already intense with a black tea and blueberry aromas wafting from the tank. We are seeing full lignification of stems, which gives us the opportunity to do more whole cluster fermentation this year. The native yeast population seems to be very abundant as fermentations are rocking and rolling.
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.