We’ll start with full disclosure: after meeting Kathleen at a tasting appointment a few years ago, Inman Family Wines is the only ‘Wine Club’ that I belong to and Kathleen has become a friend. And now that I have aspirations of making a jump into the wine industry she has been a great help in making contacts. As a way to pay that invaluable resource back I have been helping with some of the foundation strategy work for her yet-to-be-released website update. I made the trip to Sonoma on Tuesday to have an in-person strategy session with Kathleen, but before we got started she gave me a quick tour of the Martin Ray facility that she uses to make her wines and a quick barrel tasting of the 2008 Inman Family Wines.
We started with Kathleen’s current experiment: a 2008 Chardonnay from a vineyard (can’t remember the name) on the southwestern corner of the RRV. The spot has a very cool climate with lots of ocean influence. She only made two barrels of this - one stainless and one 100% new oak. First taste was from the stainless: Wow! Nose was full of bright/crisp lemons and wet rocks, mouth was more lemons with hazelnuts and laser-beam acidity! Second taste was from the 100% oak: Double Wow! Same lemons on the nose but with some toasty hazelnuts. Mouth-feel was much more broad, but with zero ‘oakiness’ - more hazelnuts, lemons and minerals - still had great acidity that puckered my tongue, but more noticeable tannin that sucked my cheeks to my teeth! Kathleen then made a quick blend of the two barrels, which yielded a very well balanced lemon/acid/mineral wine that still had nice broad mouthfeel! What a wine - this was a dead ringer for the Domaine Michelot Meursault that I enjoyed a few weeks ago! (notes here: http://www.wineberserkers.com/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=8005" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;) Then Kathleen decided to drop a bomb on my supposed wine knowledge up to that point: this wine (both barrels) had gone through FULL ML!! I couldn’t believe that a wine that still had so much acid had gone through ML, but she said it was because the grapes were harvested at 21 brix! I guess she was very nervous at harvest - the fruit was still very acidic with little else going on. This wine is definitely not the norm for Cali Cardonnay!
I was still enjoying my little glass of Meursault - oh, I mean chardonnay when she pulled a sample of the RRV blend, so I quickly drained my glass. This was the final blend of her 2008 RRV Pinot - from three vineyards, the nose jumped out of the glass - classic cherry cola/vanilla coke with some baker’s spice. Nice acid in the mouth with more cherries and spice - seems to have a touch more structure than the '06 RRV that is the current release. Nice wine that is very aromatic in its current state.
On to the 2008 OGV - Kathleen’s top wine from her estate vineyard. I had previously tasted this out of barrel at the RRV Barrel Tasting weekend - where it was a very rambunctious little kid. The frosts of 2008 were very bad for Kathleen’s Olivet Grange Vineyard, so the wine that she did produce was riper than usual and very concentrated. But this sample was the final blend and much different. Still a notch ‘bigger’ than the previous OGV wines, the sample had an interesting cedar note on the nose along with more minerality than I’m used to in Inman wines. Still very balanced, high-toned red fruits and plenty of acidity. Very young with lots of structure - I think this wine will be very long lived with more of everything stuffed into the bottle.
Overall these wines showed very well - with the Chardonnay stealing the show for me! I’ve yet to try another Cali Chard that even comes close to this (although this is what I imagine the Rhys Alpine Chard to be like) - with Roulot and Michelot Meursault being the closest thing I could compare it to. Kathleen thinks the stainless barrel tastes like Chablis and the oak barrel tastes like Meursault. Fair enough - just save a few bottles for me!!
Full Disclosure Again: I am friends with Kathleen and have been doing some website strategy work for her to boost my resume, but I have zero $$ interest.