Several years ago, The Captain and I were headed back to our cabin after a long, hard day of wine tasting in Sonoma County when we made a discovery. Although it sounds so very wine country of us, it really had been rough putting up with the jostling Sideways crowd at Ravenswood jamming themselves between us, thrusting their souvenir glass in our faces as they vied for the hostesses' bottle. I've never witnessed such heathen behavior in all my days of bartending. (Okay, there was that one time when the bachelor party's guest of honor passed out in the bar and peed his pants.)
But the final straw came when we hit B.R. Cohn and encountered the roving band of yupsters who felt it necessary to give us the hairy eyeball simply because we deigned to wear jeans in wine country. See, I don't do well with the hairy eyeball. So after buying a bottle of one of their wines (I can't remember which), and a bottle of the yummy Balsamic and Garlic Herb Dipping Oil, we jumped in the car and sped off, leaving the yupsters choking on a cloud of dust.
We headed in the direction of the cabin we were staying in and as we turned onto Adobe Canyon Rd., we made our discovery. A lil' sign humbly announcing the Kaz Winery shone in the late afternoon sunlight up ahead. Got it in you for one more? The Captain asked. Damn straight! I had to get the yuppie taste out of my mouth somehow. He slammed on the brakes and cut a hard right (or was it a left?) into the tiny dirt parking lot.
We walked into a small barn, dimly lit, echoing with the strains of AC/DC. The Captain and I looked at each other and knew we were home. The tasting room was staffed by the son of Kaz and his girlfriend (now wife), who explained that the winery was Papa Kaz's dream pursued. A commercial photographer, Kaz quit his job when his basement winemaking endeavors grew too powerful to resist. We paid our two bucks and proceeded to taste every wine they carried.
Which wasn't hard to do because the winery's size limited them to probably half a dozen red wines and a few killer ports (I don't even like port). Each wine we tasted was a little juicier than the one that came before, and we were immediately impressed. We walked away with a bottle hand-scrawled with "Sangiovese, 2003" (or was it 'o4?), and a membership in their wine club (my first and only wine club membership ever).
Since then, Kaz has been sending us bottle after bottle of big red wine. They like to play with lesser known grapes—their motto, in fact, is there's no harm in experimenting—such as mourvedre, petit verdot, carignon and others, and the experimentation pays off. And although they've had some growing pains, there has rarely been a miss with them.
A few months ago, I ordered a bottle of Outbound, a 2004 Cabernet Franc. Oh, my lord. Dark purple, light earth and spice, and ripe black fruit juiciness. I ordered another bottle as soon as possible. While Kaz's wines really aren't for everyone—they tend to scare away our non-wine drinking friends with their robust flavors and tannins—they are a phenomenal young winery who deserves far more attention than they seem to get. Please check 'em out if you're ever near Kenwood.
Images in this post © Kaz Winery.