Kenneth Volk – Southern California

This morning, I set to work on my latest post.  After tonight’s tasting though, I got all hot and bothered to blog about these wines!  We tasted five wines (which took an hour and a half by the way..) and I’d like to share two with you!  There was a rep from Kenneth Volk Wineries, who has worked with this particular company for 25 years…hence the reason this tasting was an hour and a half…he had a lot of information to share! This vineyard is located in Santa Barbara’s Santa Maria valley in Southern California.  Hey, I’ve been to Santa Barbara!  I was however, only 20 and 21 years old at the time.  Looking at vineyards and wineries was the furthest thing from my mind, nor did I even know of their existence! Anyway, all that to say…I really enjoyed these wines, and would never have tried them otherwise. Oh..and next time I’m in Santa Barbara?  I’ll be paying a visit to this winery.

Kenneth Volk
2010 Jaybird Chardonnay
Santa Maria Valley, California USA
Fine Wines by Liquor Select

Kenneth Volk
2009 Negrette
San Benito County, California USA
Fine Wines by Liquor Select

 This was truly a really great Chardonnay!  Before I had ANY information at all, the first thing I got on the nose was bananas.  I’ve never smelled bananas in a wine before, but there’s always a first for everything!  There was also pineapples and peaches, but then when I tasted it, I got this overwhelming taste of oak!  But guess what?  This Chardonnay is UN-oaked.  Thus the name of the wine – Jaybird.  You know the term…Naked as a Jaybird?  Well, this wine is “naked”.  Not aged in oak barrels like the traditional Chardonnay, which would then impart that “oakey” taste.  Rather, aged in stainless steel on the lees (the dead yeast cells that are formed after the fermentation process).  And because it’s aged on the lees, it would tend to have that creaminess, and emulate tastes of oak as well. That’s why my brain said Oak. Along with that, I also got tastes of olives and even a hint of honey. I wouldn’t have guessed it was at 14.8% alcohol, because it seemed very light bodied in my mouth.  Lovely.  I WILL return to purchase this wine.

First of all, what is the Negrette grape?  Has anyone ever heard of this grape? Wow, I had no idea what this was!  Certainly intriguing stories behind this grape!  Of course, it came from France, and anything that comes from there has GOT to have a story!  Originally found in the Southwest of France; 40-50 km NW of Toulouse, this grape is similar to the Pinot Noir grape. Very black, small bunches, thin-skinned grapes.  But, unlike the Pinot grapes, these are even tinier and so fragile, that Kenneth Volk puts tissue paper between each layer of grapes when pressing!  So finicky are they, that the French coined them the “little black bitches”!  The folks at Kenneth Volk vineyards though prefer to call it an “heirloom varietal” and an “under appreciated rarity”.  Much better description though don’t you think?!?  Lots of smoke, mushrooms and forest floor on the nose, and super huge amounts of basil and oregano on the palate.  Really well rounded, with not too much tannin.  I enjoyed this wine…perhaps because it was different, but also because it reminded me, in many ways, of that elusive Pinot Noir with beautiful aromas and tastes that I’m trying to find….all for under 30 bucks.  Perhaps I’ve even found it, in this tiny little black grape.

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