Updated: Jul 18, 2018
It’s a rare occasion when one can break bread with a table of strangers and instantly feel like part of a community. Last month I attended a dinner hosted by the winemaker of Kenwood Vineyards, Pat Henderson, and enjoyed more than just great food & wine. Of course we talked about the geography of the Russian River Valley and malolactic fermentation, but more than that we talked about…life.
As a wine blogger and enthusiast, it’s so easy to get caught up in the whole Instagram blogging world. What’s everyone else drinking? What tastings are they attending? What’s a cool wine I can post that my followers will relate to? Who's partnering up with who? It’s almost like I momentarily forget why I love wine so much in the first place. During dinner, Pat told us one of his favorite wines in the world was probably the cheapest wine he’s ever purchased (also no longer even produced). Do you want to know why that was? Because it was the first bottle him and his wife shared on their first date. Let that soak in for a minute...the winemaker of a prestigious Sonoma winery will always remember (with love) that cheap bottle of characterless wine. That is because wine is more than fruit fermenting in oak barrels…it’s a memory, an emotion, a feeling.
As a winemaker, Pat understands how to take these connections and passions and apply the science. As we are artists of our own lives making choices that will affect our outcomes, Pat is the “choreographer” of his wine. Every decision he makes will affect the way the wine will look, taste and feel. Kenwood Vineyards practices small-lot wine making which means they pick, ferment and age each small plot separately. This attention to detail ensures the fruit can be the absolute best expression of itself from that specific terroir. From there, Pat gets to decide how and if blending will occur.
As we sipped the juicy yet Earthy Six Ridges Pinot Noir, we spoke about the Sonoma wild fires and how the entire community banded together offering their homes and businesses to those affected. Competitive vineyards or not, Sonoma became one and the outpouring of support was unmatched. I learned that Kenwood even gave their employees a full paid day of the work week to volunteer in the relief efforts. Although the vintage we were drinking was 2015, I was growing an even deeper appreciation for the wine, the land where it came from and the hands that produced it with love.
My final thoughts after an evening with Pat Henderson & Kenwood Vineyards would be don’t ever forget WHY wine is so special to you. It’s not just science, it’s not just sales and making a profit (although obviously for some this is essential for one’s livelihood) …it’s about connections, memories and emotions. It’s about finding your passion within the glass. Your wine moment.
*All opinions in this article are my own