Kathryn Kennedy: Where have you been all my life ?

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Jonathan Sirot
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Kathryn Kennedy: Where have you been all my life ?

#1 Post by Jonathan Sirot » September 13th, 2019, 3:27 am

I have been drinking California Cabs for around 25 years and have tried many standard bearers from various regions. However I had never tried a Kathryn Kennedy Cab before although I had heard great things. Recently helping a friend sell a collection I procured 2 bottles of the 2001

I brought a bottle with me to the Old Pink House in Savannah on Tuesday night for a modest corkage fee. Food and service were quite good Had the half crispy duck.

We brought the 01 KK, a 14 Fourier Vougeout and a Filaine DMY Champagne. They were all quite enjoyable but the star of the show was the Kathrryn Kennedy. As soon as I smelled the nose I knew I was in for a treat. Fairly dark purple in color. In the old school camp definitely plenty of fruit cherry and chocolate and other flavors I cant recall but perfect balance and a lingering finish. We did pop and pour and it needed no air to flourish although it got slightly better as the night progressed. Fully mature yet still has plenty of life left. On the 2nd day a remaining glass was still almost perfect It was one of the best old school cabs I have had recently. Up there very close to its SCM neighbors Ridge MB. To my palate I would give the wine a 94+ score and I dont hand out high scores like candy

Any others tried the 01 or fans of this winery, and are they still made in the same mold now that Kathryns son Marty is at the Helm ?
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Re: Kathryn Kennedy: Where have you been all my life ?

#2 Post by Neal.Mollen » September 13th, 2019, 6:02 am

Thanks for the note! I am not really a cal cab guy, but I've never even heard of this producer. I'll sit back and see what the folks in the know say.
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Re: Kathryn Kennedy: Where have you been all my life ?

#3 Post by B Thorne » September 13th, 2019, 7:09 am

Great note - I, too, have never heard of KK..I am interested to see what the people say. After reading your note I might have to snag a few bottles and see what it's all about for myself.
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Re: Kathryn Kennedy: Where have you been all my life ?

#4 Post by Robert.A.Jr. » September 13th, 2019, 7:29 am

New releases not cheap, around $200+. I do not think she’s the winemaker now.

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Re: Kathryn Kennedy: Where have you been all my life ?

#5 Post by R. Smith » September 13th, 2019, 7:43 am

Robert.A.Jr. wrote:
September 13th, 2019, 7:29 am
New releases not cheap, around $200+. I do not think she’s the winemaker now.
Kathryn Kennedy passed away in 2009. :(
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Re: Kathryn Kennedy: Where have you been all my life ?

#6 Post by Robert.A.Jr. » September 13th, 2019, 8:01 am

R. Smith wrote:
September 13th, 2019, 7:43 am
Robert.A.Jr. wrote:
September 13th, 2019, 7:29 am
New releases not cheap, around $200+. I do not think she’s the winemaker now.
Kathryn Kennedy passed away in 2009. :(
So I was right, yes?

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Re: Kathryn Kennedy: Where have you been all my life ?

#7 Post by Ian Brand » September 13th, 2019, 8:20 am

Kathryn Kennedy has very quietly been producing great Cabernets for decades. Kathryn's son Marty Mathis is the winemaker and has been forever.
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Re: Kathryn Kennedy: Where have you been all my life ?

#8 Post by Sean_S » September 13th, 2019, 8:26 am

KK is great producer. Her son Marty Mathis is the winemaker and has been for many years. They make 3-4 wines usually. A Sauv Blanc, Small Batch Santa Cruz Mountains Cab (Good QPR usually), The estate Cabernet, and Sparkling. Marty also bottles another brand called Lateral which is a Sonoma County Bordeaux blend. After KK passed away Marty sold off most of the estate in Saratoga and there is only a tiny portion left. The style has grown a bit more concentrated and using a bit more new oak. We drank a '12 a few weeks ago and was singing. Not quite the classic California old claret that you had but an outstanding wine. If you look around you can find the new releases for ~150 and you can backfill for much cheaper than that. I had two '97's last year that were amazing. Technically they are below 600Ft but they were grandfathered into the SCM AVA due to their legacy and long contribution to local winemaking. Always looking for older bottles at auction and Marty has a huge library for sale if you contact them. I picked up an 04 and and 06 lately for $70 and $90 respectively. I still buy new releases as well.

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Re: Kathryn Kennedy: Where have you been all my life ?

#9 Post by Al Osterheld » September 13th, 2019, 8:58 am

I first ran into Marty and the Kathryn Kennedy wines at a wine event back in the 1980s, great wines. The original estate vineyard was planted in 1973 at a time when large parts of Silicon Valley were devoted to agriculture. Eventually, the vineyard became a small island in a sea of houses. I think she had another winemaker for the first year or two (winery established in 1979), but Marty has made the wines since 1981.

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Re: Kathryn Kennedy: Where have you been all my life ?

#10 Post by Nathan Smyth » September 13th, 2019, 9:24 am

Based on nothing but a tiny amount of anecdotal experience, I suspect that 2001 is a vintage which a lot of people will wish they would have taken more seriously.

Kinda like 2001 in Burgundy - very similar anecdotal experience there.

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Re: Kathryn Kennedy: Where have you been all my life ?

#11 Post by Matthew King » September 13th, 2019, 9:31 am

Her Syrah from Santa Cruz Mountains in 90s remains my favorite expression of the grape in CA to date ...
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Re: Kathryn Kennedy: Where have you been all my life ?

#12 Post by ryancurry » September 13th, 2019, 10:12 am

I love the wines. Very long lived. Classic SCM.
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Re: Kathryn Kennedy: Where have you been all my life ?

#13 Post by Wes Barton » September 13th, 2019, 12:33 pm

Matthew King wrote:
September 13th, 2019, 9:31 am
Her Syrah from Santa Cruz Mountains in 90s remains my favorite expression of the grape in CA to date ...
Unfortunately, that great Syrah vineyard they sourced from got ripped out for housing. They have made other Syrah since, but I don't see any on their site.

Yes, Marty has been the winemaker since '81. He and his Mom customized the vine training on their estate, as she continued to be actively involved in the vineyard.

It was other family members who forced the sale of the estate vineyard. The vast majority was ripped out. What remains is the upslope from Pierce road leading up to a pair of houses. The owners of those houses own the two halves of the estate vineyard, which he has under a long term lease. He owns the lot in front where the wines (Estate and Small Lot) are made. The other wines and a second label (excellent qpr stuff) somewhere else.

To compensate for the much lower production of the Estate, he's been making more of the Small Lot. For a club member package, he bottled some SVDs of some of the components. He poured the Bates Ranch at the Silcon Valley Wine Auction this year. Very impressive.
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Re: Kathryn Kennedy: Where have you been all my life ?

#14 Post by Bob Davis » September 13th, 2019, 1:27 pm

One of the 2 best Cabernets I've ever tasted was the 1987 Kathryn Kennedy. ( the others 1979 Roudon-Smith). Both Santa Cruz Mtn. wines.

KK's String of Pearls Club was the best wine club I've ever tried.
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Re: Kathryn Kennedy: Where have you been all my life ?

#15 Post by Nathan Smyth » September 13th, 2019, 2:49 pm

Wes Barton wrote:
September 13th, 2019, 12:33 pm
It was other family members who forced the sale of the estate vineyard.
SMDH.

That's tragic.

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Re: Kathryn Kennedy: Where have you been all my life ?

#16 Post by Sean_S » September 13th, 2019, 4:42 pm

Just ran across this email offer on the "Lateral" from last week.

https://mailchi.mp/e5d2bf7c60c8/new-rel ... 059f768710

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Re: Kathryn Kennedy: Where have you been all my life ?

#17 Post by GregT » September 13th, 2019, 7:01 pm

I remember thinking it was so sad when she passed and the family couldn't agree to keep the business that she'd worked on her whole life. But for some reason, there were a lot of her wines suddenly on clearance in NYC and I did pick up a number of them. Always solid under the radar wines.

She was a real pioneer too, picking a spot outside of Napa and more or less doing everything herself. If I'm not mistaken, the first vines were own-root as well? Not sure about that exactly though.
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Re: Kathryn Kennedy: Where have you been all my life ?

#18 Post by Al Osterheld » September 13th, 2019, 8:15 pm

Supposedly, she was motivated to plant the vineyard after tasting a Martin Ray Cabernet from a vineyard nearby. Yes, I think she planted own-rooted (not sure if all the vines, though).

It's not uncommon for small family vineyards to be sold in certain parts of CA when parents pass, especially when only one of the kids is involved in the wine business. The land has become too valuable for housing as opposed to growing grapes, and the kid who is ITB isn't able to buy out their siblings.

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Re: Kathryn Kennedy: Where have you been all my life ?

#19 Post by Ian Alper » September 14th, 2019, 9:02 am

I was honored to be invited to her memorial. She was a pioneer. The 3 liter cabs, most with 20+ years on them, all drank wonderfully. What struck me more were some of the slides showing her planting the vineyard. In the back-round, no homes at all could be seen. Now it is probably some of the most expensive land in our country. The story I heard was she was a single mother trying to figure out how to support her family and someone said to plant cab.

Marty is a really down to earth, friendly guy and has been making the wine for most of the time in a small building on the property. I have been surprised his wines are not better known since they are purposefully old school, lower alcohol juice.

A few years ago he gave a tasting/talk at Soif (our local, Santa Cruz wine bar). It was memorable. At one point I met eyes with Partricia, the owner of Soif, and we both just grinned at how (I don't know quite what word to use but perhaps touched?) we both were to hear him talk about his wines and vision. He was very clear that he was making his wines to age, and that the flavors and balance that emerge by keeping the alcohol lower were worth the wait.

His Syrah was special. From the Maridon vineyard, a small backyard plot on the ridge above his property. At the time, it was the most I had ever spent on a Syrah (maybe $65). Perhaps the best domestic Syrah I have ever had.

I found this old article that provides some more info:

https://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/ ... 871203.php

Many years ago, I had the privilege of "volunteering" with Marty to help with bottling. The mobile bottling truck would come to the property - quite the Rube Goldberg set up. We would spend the day bottling and then Marty would start popping corks. Unforgettable.

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Re: Kathryn Kennedy: Where have you been all my life ?

#20 Post by Leonard Taylor » September 14th, 2019, 10:35 am

I was in the String of Pearls club years ago and I love these wines. I still have two bottles. A 1999 "B-Style" and a 2002 Cabernet. The CT drinking windows say they are long gone but I doubt it. I once tried to find the winery on the way up to Ridge and I think I did but it was in the garage of a house in town. I didn't ring the doorbell.
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Re: Kathryn Kennedy: Where have you been all my life ?

#21 Post by Sean Devaney » September 14th, 2019, 11:11 am

Jonathan, so happy you have discovered one of California's hidden gems. Great age-worthy cabs that are made in a very old school style.

To add a little more history to this thread:
-The story I have heard is that Katheryn planted the vineyard to prevent an eminent domain action from taking part of her property to allow access to a neighbors property to develop. By turning her property into an working agricultural farm the neighbor had to find a different route.
-IIRC Jeffery Patterson of Mount Eden Vineyards helped with the planning and planting of the vineyard.
-The first two crops from the Kennedy vineyard were produced by Mount Eden Vineyards under their (now defunct) MEV label as "Kennedy Vineyard" cab (1976 & 1977.) Would love to try these wines today.

Marty is a great guy making wonderful wines. Really nice to see him at the Silicon Valley Auction last spring.

Edit to add this link to an oral history with Katheryn: http://drbenniontrustfund.org/Wines_and ... Winery.pdf

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Re: Kathryn Kennedy: Where have you been all my life ?

#22 Post by Steve Anderson » September 14th, 2019, 11:30 am

I have had the 1995 several times in the past two years and it has been beautiful.

I know this link has been posted in one of the history threads, but there is an interview with Kathryn and Marty from 1994 that covers the origin and history of the winery up until that time. It is from Wines and Winemakers of the Santa Cruz Mountains - An Oral History 1992-1994 from Charles L. Sullivan. Link is to the Table of Contents since there are a number of interviews that are probably of interest (I particularly enjoyed the Gemello interview). Just scroll down the list for Kathryn Kennedy.

http://drbenniontrustfund.org/Wines_and ... es%29.html

Cheers!

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Re: Kathryn Kennedy: Where have you been all my life ?

#23 Post by Steve Anderson » September 14th, 2019, 11:31 am

Just saw that Sean beat me to the link!
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Re: Kathryn Kennedy: Where have you been all my life ?

#24 Post by Tom Blackwood » September 17th, 2019, 10:53 pm

I was fortunate to have started my wine career at Kathryn Kennedy. I had just returned from the first Gulf War, and was celebrating my return with a friend who opened a 1985 Kathryn Kennedy (and 1986 Gaja Barbaresco...it was a fun night!). Let's just say I got the "wine bug" that all of us are all too familiar with and I never looked back on an almost 30-year career working with wine. It all started the next day, when I called the winery to see if I could visit. Debbie (Marty's wife) informed me they were not open to the public but they were bottling the next day and I was welcome to come help. We bottled the very small 1990 Estate Cabernet (the last dry-farmed vintage) and I had so much fun (especially when I got paid with Estate Cabernet) that I ended up volunteering at the winery for the next 4+ years, even spending my multi-week "vacations" working harvest alongside Marty and other dedicated volunteers. After missing most of the 1995 harvest because of work, I gave up my big paycheck in the City and became Marty's Assistant winemaker. Under his direction, we moved and expanded the 1996 Lateral production to Silver Mountain Winery. I continued on for the 1997 vintage before moving to the North Bay, while Marty hired Chris Condos to be his Lateral Winemaker and eventually his Lateral co-proprietor. They have done a great job over the last 20+ years turning Lateral into an excellent 100% organic Napa Merlot/Cabernet Franc blend.

From my memory, the Estate vineyard was planted on its own roots (cuttings from Martin Ray) in 1973 to stop a planned road that was being proposed to cut through their property. The original Estate was owned by Kathryn, her sister and her brother...the property did expand to over 12 acres in the late 1980's and retracted over the last 15 years to I believe 8 acres and now even less. Marty always knew that the property would eventually be sold, as it really was a family compound, in prime Silicon Valley Real Estate. I believe at one-time the estate could be considered the most valuable vineyard in the Bay Area. Not for the vineyard but for potential home values. Marty did a great job holding on for as long as he has and too have some of the original own-rooted vineyard still producing almost 50 years later is historic.

Also, the first vintage was 1977 (not 1976) under the MEV label (great wine) and Kathryn's first vintage under her own label was 1979. Jeffrey turned over wine making duties to Marty in 1981 and eventually Marty took over fully after Kathryn's death, but it was really his winery for many years prior. I could go on with many other stories and details, but I tell the story of the 1996 Syrah from the Maridon Vineyard. I hate to even mention this amazing wine, as I am always on the hunt for more bottles, but one of my proudest moments, as the Assistant winemaker was when Darryl Groom, former Penfolds Grange winemaker declared that the 1996 Maridon Syrah was the greatest American Syrah he had ever tasted. This was the first harvest off the 3rd leaf and we actually harvested raisin clusters just a day prior to the harvest. We had no great expectations but knew it was special from the barrel. I believe Marty produced 4 vintages from this amazing vineyard which was pulled out for homes after the death of the owners.

This is my longest post ever but I want to praise Kathryn...she was a Stanford educated, divorced, single mom...and then she became a wine pioneer. She was the first women in California and maybe the New World to have a wine named after herself. There are so many great female winemakers and owners, going back a hundred fifty years in California, and Kathryn is one of them and I am fortunate to have been a part of the great history of this amazing vineyard and winery. Thanks for reading. I love seeing the love on Berserkers for Kathryn Kennedy, as I have so many great memories and Marty deserves the praise and support.
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Re: Kathryn Kennedy: Where have you been all my life ?

#25 Post by Steve Anderson » September 17th, 2019, 11:37 pm

Tom, thanks for the update. What an interesting story!
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Re: Kathryn Kennedy: Where have you been all my life ?

#26 Post by Al Osterheld » September 18th, 2019, 6:34 am

Yes, great story. I had a few bottles of their first few vintages of Maridon Syrah, but think I drank them all.

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Re: Kathryn Kennedy: Where have you been all my life ?

#27 Post by Tom Blackwood » September 18th, 2019, 6:53 pm

Al Osterheld wrote:
September 18th, 2019, 6:34 am
I had a few bottles of their first few vintages of Maridon Syrah, but think I drank them all.

-Al
I have 1 bottle of the 1996 Syrah left and a pretty good collection of older Kennedy wines including a prized 1977 MEV and even a 3.0L of the 2001, which started this thread. It has always been a great wine.
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Re: Kathryn Kennedy: Where have you been all my life ?

#28 Post by Sean_S » September 18th, 2019, 8:08 pm

Had the 2006 Estate last night for dessert after a large collection of Rhys. It was damn tasty and very primary at 13 years. The group did not leave a drop left in the bottle.....
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Re: Kathryn Kennedy: Where have you been all my life ?

#29 Post by Ian Alper » September 18th, 2019, 9:28 pm

That was a tasty bottle Sean!

Tom - so where do you live these days? I have a few older bottles and it would be great to do a KK offline!

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Re: Kathryn Kennedy: Where have you been all my life ?

#30 Post by Wes Barton » September 19th, 2019, 12:33 am

Yes, very tasty bottle, Sean.
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Re: Kathryn Kennedy: Where have you been all my life ?

#31 Post by Jonathan Sirot » September 19th, 2019, 4:11 am

Ian Alper wrote:
September 18th, 2019, 9:28 pm
That was a tasty bottle Sean!

Tom - so where do you live these days? I have a few older bottles and it would be great to do a KK offline!
Ian, sounds like a great idea, especially considering I started this great thread, would be interested in attending, if it happens, and would consider combining the event with a planned west coast trip. If Marty could join that would be a thrill, and a theme I have never seen.

Also a big thanks to Tom and Sean for your inside perspective. Knowing the whole story of what a remarkable woman Kathryn was, and her pioneering spirit made a great wine even more magical. I did after hearing such positive feedback, call Marty. Had a great conversation, and am working on getting an order sent my way. champagne.gif

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Re: Kathryn Kennedy: Where have you been all my life ?

#32 Post by Tom Blackwood » September 19th, 2019, 7:04 am

An offline is a great idea and though I live in Napa, I would be happy to travel to a more central location in the Bay Area. I promise to go deep into the cellar, though Marty has an amazing Library, so it could be special if he could attend.
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Re: Kathryn Kennedy: Where have you been all my life ?

#33 Post by Hank Victor » September 19th, 2019, 11:58 am

Tom Blackwood wrote:
September 17th, 2019, 10:53 pm
I was fortunate to have started my wine career at Kathryn Kennedy. I had just returned from the first Gulf War, and was celebrating my return with a friend who opened a 1985 Kathryn Kennedy (and 1986 Gaja Barbaresco...it was a fun night!). Let's just say I got the "wine bug" that all of us are all too familiar with and I never looked back on an almost 30-year career working with wine. It all started the next day, when I called the winery to see if I could visit. Debbie (Marty's wife) informed me they were not open to the public but they were bottling the next day and I was welcome to come help. We bottled the very small 1990 Estate Cabernet (the last dry-farmed vintage) and I had so much fun (especially when I got paid with Estate Cabernet) that I ended up volunteering at the winery for the next 4+ years, even spending my multi-week "vacations" working harvest alongside Marty and other dedicated volunteers. After missing most of the 1995 harvest because of work, I gave up my big paycheck in the City and became Marty's Assistant winemaker. Under his direction, we moved and expanded the 1996 Lateral production to Silver Mountain Winery. I continued on for the 1997 vintage before moving to the North Bay, while Marty hired Chris Condos to be his Lateral Winemaker and eventually his Lateral co-proprietor. They have done a great job over the last 20+ years turning Lateral into an excellent 100% organic Napa Merlot/Cabernet Franc blend.

From my memory, the Estate vineyard was planted on its own roots (cuttings from Martin Ray) in 1973 to stop a planned road that was being proposed to cut through their property. The original Estate was owned by Kathryn, her sister and her brother...the property did expand to over 12 acres in the late 1980's and retracted over the last 15 years to I believe 8 acres and now even less. Marty always knew that the property would eventually be sold, as it really was a family compound, in prime Silicon Valley Real Estate. I believe at one-time the estate could be considered the most valuable vineyard in the Bay Area. Not for the vineyard but for potential home values. Marty did a great job holding on for as long as he has and too have some of the original own-rooted vineyard still producing almost 50 years later is historic.

Also, the first vintage was 1977 (not 1976) under the MEV label (great wine) and Kathryn's first vintage under her own label was 1979. Jeffrey turned over wine making duties to Marty in 1981 and eventually Marty took over fully after Kathryn's death, but it was really his winery for many years prior. I could go on with many other stories and details, but I tell the story of the 1996 Syrah from the Maridon Vineyard. I hate to even mention this amazing wine, as I am always on the hunt for more bottles, but one of my proudest moments, as the Assistant winemaker was when Darryl Groom, former Penfolds Grange winemaker declared that the 1996 Maridon Syrah was the greatest American Syrah he had ever tasted. This was the first harvest off the 3rd leaf and we actually harvested raisin clusters just a day prior to the harvest. We had no great expectations but knew it was special from the barrel. I believe Marty produced 4 vintages from this amazing vineyard which was pulled out for homes after the death of the owners.

This is my longest post ever but I want to praise Kathryn...she was a Stanford educated, divorced, single mom...and then she became a wine pioneer. She was the first women in California and maybe the New World to have a wine named after herself. There are so many great female winemakers and owners, going back a hundred fifty years in California, and Kathryn is one of them and I am fortunate to have been a part of the great history of this amazing vineyard and winery. Thanks for reading. I love seeing the love on Berserkers for Kathryn Kennedy, as I have so many great memories and Marty deserves the praise and support.

After your post I went on the hunt to find some 1996 Syrah. After a bit of searching I found a retailer in California who has a few bottles. Todd Serota at VinoQuest has 10 bottles. Here was his message when I inquired.

"Interesting that you're expressing interest in this wine as very few people
seem to know that it even exists. Almost all of the other bottles I've sold
were after I tasted people on it. It's fantastic stuff, as you likely know.
Anyway, I show 10 bottles in inventory @ $120 each that I bought directly
from the winery on release and have cellared perfectly ever since. Please
let me know what you'd like to do. Thanks."



FYI I am not associated with Todd or VinoQuest. I have also yet to purchase from VinoQuest. Just wanted to share.
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Re: Kathryn Kennedy: Where have you been all my life ?

#34 Post by Sean_S » September 19th, 2019, 11:39 pm

I Know Todd from the race track way back when I used live in NC. Todd used to run some darn good track days. He even came all the way out to VIR and we had a blast.

Sean
CT: Seanwsmithm3
Summit Rd, Redwood Estates, CA

James Cross
Posts: 305
Joined: May 3rd, 2010, 10:48 am

Re: Kathryn Kennedy: Where have you been all my life ?

#35 Post by James Cross » September 20th, 2019, 8:24 am

I remember Todd from the old Wine Spectator Boards when they were popular. He used to do "Serota Scores." I also remember he had a glowing review of the 96 Maridon from the 1998 Hospice du Rhone. The Maridon stole the show at that event even in the company of Alban, Qupe, A Murray. I bought some of the 96 and 97 but sort of lost track after that, vaguely remembering the above story about the vineyard being replaced by mansions.

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