2005 Kindred Wines “Amber Ridge Vineyard” Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley

The Northern California wine scene is like a giant spreading metropolis. I think I read a few days ago that a building over 20 stories is completed in Shanghai every 12 days or something crazy like that. Northern California wine country is experiencing its own boom of expansion, and wineries big and small are popping up all over.

One of my greatest joys is looking through the nooks, crannies, and back-alleyways of this boomtown for brand new wines that have a great future ahead of them. While the search is fun, finding them can be exhilarating — an adjective that fairly describes my first taste of Kindred Wines Pinot Noir.

Kindred is one of the latest serious wine labels to come out of that petri dish of boutique winemaking called Crushpad. For those unfamiliar with Crushpad, it is a “we-help-you-do-it-yourself” professional winemaking facility here in San Francisco. Their primary offering involves sourcing very high quality grapes for anyone who wants to pay for them, and providing the facilities, materials, and know-how for that person (or group of people) to make a barrel or more of wine, and then actually label, package, and sell it if so desired. What’s interesting about the operation is that it provides everything from turn-key winemaking for people who have no idea what they are doing — newbies can be as involved as they like in the decision-making and labor — to full custom crush facilities for professional winemakers to do their thing without any assistance from the Crushpad team.

As a result, for every dozen customers that are making a barrel of wine that they will simply bottle and enjoy with friends, or serve in their restaurant as a very good house wine, there are a few people who are using Crushpad to launch legitimate, viable, and increasingly successful boutique wine brands.

Kindred Wines was founded in 2005 by seven close friends: Roberto Garces, Peter Punongbayan, Myung Kim, Kevin Carleton, Tim Halloran, Vince Wong, Michelle Chen. This group has known each other in some cases as far back as high school on the East Coast. Conceived from the beginning as a serious wine venture and an equal and active partnership between the seven, Kindred benefits from the particular talents of each individual, some of whom have spent portions of their careers in the food and wine industry.

Most day to day winemaking decisions are guided by Garces, with the help of two key Crushpad consultants: wine industry veteran Mike Zitzlaff (who spent over two decades making wine and managing wineries in Australia) and Kian Tavakoli (ex Opus One and Clos du Val winemaker). Halloran manages operations for the outfit, and the others contribute expertise in marketing and sales, among other things.

2005 is the winery’s first vintage, and they have already shown that they are interested in “getting it right” by releasing each of their wines only when they think they are ready, rather than sticking to a predefined release schedule. This wine was aged for 11 months in French oak barrels (50% new) made by the Remond cooperage, and then left to age in the bottle until July of this year. This extended bottle aging, the clonal selection (Pinot Noir clones 115 and 667), and the barrels are what the team credit for what I can only call the wine’s unusual character. This wine tastes like a well aged California Pinot Noir from a top producer. It already has a bouquet that is not unlike some of the ten to fifteen year old Rochioli and Williams-Selyem Pinots that I have opened recently.

What this character means for this wines potential to age, I do not know. I have never tasted a young wine that has these characteristics to it before. It might go kaput in a couple of years, it might just keep on singing. What I do know is that this is the best wine to come out of the Crushpad operation yet, and a stunning debut for a new label. 47 cases were produced.

The Kindred portfolio includes small quantities of a white Rhone blend and a Syrah in addition to this Pinot Noir, and they will be releasing a Bordeaux blend in the next month or two.

Tasting Notes:
A pale blood red color in the glass, fading to a light orange at the rim, this wine has an immediately arresting nose of redcurrant, smoked meats, and the astonishing floral/caramel bouquet of a wine 10 years its elder. In the mouth it is best described as ethereal, offering delicate and smooth flavors of raspberry, spice, smoke, and brown sugar. I don’t know where the winemaker hid the alcohol in this wine but I’d never know it was close to 15%. I’m too busy swooning over the aromatics and the slow-motion-feather-falling finish that floats on and on. Frankly wonderful.

Food Pairing:
Because this wine is so light in style, I’d want to pair it with something delicate and simple so as to appreciate the wine’s finer points. I think it would go fantastically with a simple roast duck confit.

Overall Score: 9/9.5

How Much?: $45

This wine is available for purchase from the winery’s web site only.