Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Krazy For Kaz

This has been a really rough winter, weather-wise. When rough weather hits, I always think about our nation’s farmers who are out toiling and working hard to bring us our fruits, vegetables, grains, meats and everything else we need to sustain life. Winemaking is farming, too and this past week, the El Niño has crept up on us. California has been slammed with torrential rains and potential mudslides. It has made me think of all those small, family wineries out there--the ones I consider the backbone of the American wine industry. I had a chance to meet many of these winemakers at the 2009 Wine Bloggers Conference. My heart goes out to each and every one of them and all the hard work they’re putting in to live the American dream and run a successful winery.

One such person is Rick Kasmier, affectionately known as “Kaz” to his loyal followers and friends. He and his family own a small winery called Kaz Winery, located near Kenwood in Sonoma County, California. He was one of the many I met at the conference and his fun, infectious personality made me want to get to know him and the winery better. We spoke outside after the conference and he let me know he was interested in bringing attention to his wines in my home state of Iowa. I had never visited the winery and/or tried any of his wines before. Rick runs an organic winery and produces his wines in very small lots—one to four barrels per. Some of his wines are made from rare varietals, one of which I will discuss later in this story. The winery itself has been open since 2003 and his cult of devoted followers have been dubbed “Kazoholics”. This unique winery had me so intrigued, I contacted Rick and shortly thereafter, I received a small box of samples. And I mean small. At first, I thought it was a joke because Kaz is a really funny guy! I opened up the small parcel to find some tiny little generic sample bottes of wine, all hand-labeled. I thought they were barrel samples. In a way, they were. After a short explanation, I finally understood. You can’t give away your product when you don’t have a lot to give. But he wanted me to try it and that was the important part. This was the “Kaz” way of doing it. Call it “Kooky” or “Krazy”. I happily went along with it…

I was amazed at how delicious they all were for being organic wines---made with the use of wild yeasts and without the use of preservatives, using the wines’ acidity to preserve them. I sampled them over the span of a week’s time, making sure I didn’t wait too long. Below were some of my favorites:

2007 Bullseye Petit Sirah—This wine was rich, full-bodied and dark berry delicious! I detected a bit of mocha in it.

2005 Red Said Fred—A blend of Zinfandel, Petit Sirah, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot. A very unusual blend but it works! Elegant without being over the top. The Zinfandel adds a bit of sweetness I adored.

2006 Machismo Counoise—“What in the world is that?” you ask? Counoise(pronounced “Koon Waz”) is a Rhône varietal mostly used as a blending grape but nice on its own as in Kaz’ rendition. Pinot Noir-like but with a kick—peppery and spicy.

Bodega Bay Portworks White Port---Oh my God! When I tasted this, I thought I died and went to heaven. I was never a big fan of dessert wines or port, but this “white port” made of Chardonnay tasted so nutty and delicious! Like a big bowl of hazelnut cream! Highly recommended!

What fun wines and what a fun place this would be to visit. They even have something they call “Barrel Sample Of The Month” where you can bottle it or jug it and take it home. (see photo below)

I personally cannot wait to visit and sample some more! In the meantime, I will keep listening to his weekly radio show (taped live every Wednesday evening on http://www.winebizradio.com/ with co-host Randy Hall) and tuning in for the wine-related mayhem and madness each week. I was fortunate enough to be a guest on the show back in September and had a great time chatting with them! For a current list of wines and and more info on the winery, please go to www.kazwinery.com.

So if you’re in the Sonoma Valley and want somewhere fun to visit, I would recommend visiting this man and learning more about his legacy. He’s doing a fantastic job!

1 comment:

  1. Great write up Grace and you are right - he's doing a great job and what a fun place to visit. Over the holidays I popped open his 2002 Mary Tauge Blend and it was by far the favorite of the evening. The tasting room is tons of fun and so convenient off the Sonoma Highway! I tell all my customers to make time to go to Kaz!