March 5, 2020 | Ralph Sands
I finally did it; I played wine tourist and it was fun!
In my 43 years in the business of wine I have been blessed to have hundreds of fantastic culinary and wine experiences in Europe, Asia as well as here in America; the one thing they all have in common is that they were all work related.
Hanging out, relaxing and enjoying the beauty of wine country is not something I do very often. Last year on Valentine’s Day, February 14th my wife Kim and I were invited by the owners of Kokomo Winery, Erik Miller and Randy Peters to attend their 9th annual Winemaker Dinner inside the winery with their “Wine Club Members”.
At PrimeCellar, Kokomo has become a superstar in our portfolio; consistently producing delicious wines that are loaded with beautifully ripe fruit with silky textures while also offering fantastic value. The only downside is that they tend to sell out quickly! Ever since Dr. Wong and I tasted the wines and met Eric, Randy and Kamia, I’ve been telling all my friends, family and my customers here at K&L Wine Merchants about their wines and urge them to join their Wine Club.
There are very few wineries in California that have such great support from their Wine Club membership. It only takes one stop into the Kokomo tasting room on Dry Creek Road to feel how special they treat their guests; the tasting room manager Ross James is a local legend and is almost as popular as the wines. After meeting Ross, many people sign right up for the Club and Ross ends up signing as many bottles as Erik, the winemaker!
The Famous Ross addresses the crowd.
Last year I had my friend Ken in town from Victoria, Canada and I poured him a glass of 2016 Kokomo Cabernet Sauvignon from the “Ruth’s Vineyard”; he immediately said, I need to have some of this! He thought it was one of those very expensive Napa Cabernets Sauvignons; he was shocked when I told him it was from the Alexander Valley of Sonoma and one of the best buys in all of California Cabernet.
This started the process! Ken signed right up for the Kokomo Wine club and has it shipped to a friend in Washington State and we started making plans to attend the 10th annual Winemaker dinner the next year.
And attend we did! On our way to our Healdsburg Hotel we made a stop at a small estate on West Dry Creek Road called Flanagan. Eric Flanagan produces about 4,000 cases of wines from the Sonoma Coast. Visits are by appointment only and all wines are sold thru there mailing list and wine club members with a few restaurant accounts. His Chardonnays are from the famous vineyard’s sites of Platt, Ritchie and Bacigalupi; the Pinot’s come from Platt, Sun Chase, Gap’s View and Sonoma Stage. The Vioginer and Syrah come from the Bennett Valley. The wines are delicious, and the tasting experience is highly recommended. Contact phone is 707-591-6860.
A spectacular day in the Dry Creek Valley of Sonoma
After a quick check in and freshen up; we are “party fresh” again and ready for our 4:30 sharp pick up by the bus on our way to Kokomo. We are greeted by the Co-Ownership, Winemaker Erik Miller and his wife Kamia, Grape grower Randy Peters and his wife Robin and a smiling staff with a glass of their Sparkling wine the 2015 Blanc de Blanc from the Peter’s Vineyard. I immediately grab my buddy Ken, and told him, you must see the Timber Crest Vineyard, the source of so many of the Kokomo wines and located right behind the winery, and off we went.
The timing of this event could not have been better; Ken made the trek as a result of his taste of the “Ruth’s Vineyard” Cabernet Sauvignon and as luck would have it, at this dinner Kokomo was honoring the owners of Timber Crest and the 100 acer Ruth Vineyard; Ruth and Ronald Waltenspeil. From the very beginning their support for Erik and Kokomo has been strong and has evolved into a very special relationship.
Erik Miller addresses his customers at his 10th Winemaker Dinner in the cellar!
Success in the ultra-competitive California wine business is never guaranteed. In Erik’s own words… “Ruth and Ronald have been extremely helpful to me over the years! They rented me my winery when I was 20 something years old and took a chance on me. They have also let us expand into now 4 buildings up here while other wineries are trying for that space as well. They have also been mentors to Kamia and I as they ran a business together for some 60 years now. They are always extra special to us and I think they feel a bit of our success because Kokomo started here and has grown here.”
The evening was a special tribute to this special relationship; but the best was yet to come! Chef Jessie Mc Quarrie and his company “Feast Catering” located in Santa Rosa were seriously on top of their game; the courses were served hot and were perfectly paired with the Kokomo wines.
A big “Hats off” to Jessie and his team, as perfectly serving 112 people in a wine cellar is not an easy task. Jessie was also issued a bit of a culinary challenge for this feast; before Timber Crest was a grape producing vineyard, it was a large orchard that grew a full spectrum of fruits and the property was a major “dried fruit” producer in Sonoma County. Jessie was tasked with including “dried fruit” in every course, and he made it very tasty!
The 1st course was “Charred Avacado, with The Farm’s Meyer Lemon and Dungeness Crab” served with Erik’s 2018 Peters Vineyard Chardonnay. From the first sip I was impressed and a bit surprised. I have not always been a big fan of their Chardonnay’s, as big ripeness and hints of butter are just not my style. This wine was fresh, firm and focused, without a hint of over-ripeness. When Erik passed by the table, I told him, I think this is the best Chardonnay you have ever made!
The 2nd course was “Sonoma Duck with Dried Fruits and Foraged Mushrooms. Served with the wine that has made the Dry Creek Valley world famous, Zinfandel, the 2017 from the Timber Crest Vineyard.
With course #3 it gets even richer and more decadent. Sonoma Lamb Shoulder with Carrots, Vadouvan & Dried Apricot served with The 2017 Timber Crest Malbec. This small production of around 600 cases is often overlooked but its bold, deep blueberry fruit is lively and strong, and it paired perfectly.
Course #4 featured the “Braised Beef Short Rib with Silky Grits, Winter Greens & Sundried Tomato Jus” served with the hallmark wine of the evening, 2017 “Ruth’s Vineyard” Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. Randy Peters is a 4th generation grower and he says the key elements to this great vineyard are twofold; heavy deposits of great gravel that the Cabernet adores, and the exposure to daytime temperatures that can be in the 90’s while reverting to 55 degrees at night, preserving freshness and color.
Jessie was introduced to a nice ovation while the 5th course of “Persimmon Gelato with Cardamon Cake” was served.
It was a fantastic evening for all of us and you could see the happiness in the faces of the Kokomo customers, many that traveled great distances to enjoy Erik and Randy wines in the exact spot where they are made. We can’t wait for next years dinner! Hopefully you will make plans to join us, you have almost a full year.
At PrimeCellar; we bring these delicious wines direct to you in Asia.
Cheers and warmest regards from the Dry Creek Valley.
Next month I will continue my tourist experience to the town of Healdsburg and over the hill to the Napa Valley.