Saturday, June 15, 2013

Kamen Estate Wines – Stellar Wines at the Sonoma Square

The Founder

Kamen Estate Wines was founded by Robert Mark Kamen. Robert grew up in a city housing project in the Bronx but then rose up beyond his humble beginnings to earn a Ph.D in American Studies from the University of Pennsylvania. He is most widely known as an American screenwriter as he has been writing for major motion pictures for over 25 years. He is best known as creator and co-creator of the 1984 film Karate Kid (starring Ralph Macchio and Pat Morita), the 1981 film Taps (starring George C. Scott and Timothy Hutton, with Ronny Cox, Tom Cruise, Sean Penn, and Evan Handler in supporting roles), and the 1995 Napa Valley featured movie A Walk in the Clouds (starring Keanu Reeves, Aitana Sánchez-Gijón, Anthony Quinn, Giancarlo Giannini). Robert has also been a collaborator with French writer, director and producer Luc Besson as they worked together on the 1994 Natalie Portman and Jean Reno thriller The Professional, the 1997 sci-fi action film The Fifth Element (starring Bruce Willis, Gary Oldman, Ian Holm, and Milla Jovovich) as well as the 2002 film The Transporter (starring Jason Statham, Qi Shu, and Matt Schulze), and the 2008 action-thriller Taken (starring Liam Neeson, Maggie Grace, and Leland Orser).

The Vineyards

In 1980, prior to creating Karate Kid, Robert came to Sonoma to celebrate the sale of his first screen play. While hiking the rugged hillsides of the Southern Mayacamas Mountians, he came upon a 280 acre property with panoramic views of the San Francisco Bay. The land was undeveloped as it was without roads, water or electricity. But, a week after viewing the property he purchased the land with the goal to grow the highest quality mountain grown Cabernet Sauvignon.

Initially the fruit grown at Kamen Estate was sold to premium Sonoma wineries. But then tragedy struck in 1996 with a wild fire destroyed half of the vineyard along with Robert’s home. Rising out of the ashes Robert decided to not only regain what was lost but take on a new venture in creating his own wines. During the replanting new selections of Cabernet clones were chosen and different rootstocks were used and three years later came the first release of Kamen Estate Cabernet Sauvignon in 1999.

The Tasting Room

The Kamen Estate Wines tasting room is located in downtown Sonoma. It is small with a simple no frills tasting bar but conveniently located among the many tasting rooms and restaurants that surround the village square. They also offer private tours and tastings in their mountain vineyard and experience the views of the Mayacamas Mountains and San Francisco Bay. During the tour guests will taste four wines complemented by artisanal cheese and charcuterie. These tours are available by advance appointment only.  

The Wines

While visiting the tasting room in downtown Sonoma I sampled the following wines:

The first sample was the 2012 Sauvignon Blanc. The wine is a blend of 100% Estate Grown Sauvignon Blanc and Sauvignon Musque. Musque wines are clones of varietals that are muscat-like. Sometimes the resulting wines are so successful that they become a distinct varietal. For example, Gewürztraminer is a musque of Traminer that has now eclipsed its parent in popularity. The vines for the 2012 Sauvignon Blanc are grown at elevations of 1100’ to 1450 feet in certified organic and biodynamic vineyards. It is clear water-white with a tint of green when viewed at the right angle. On the nose it has vibrant aromas of lemon-grass, grapefruit and wet stone. On the palate it is light in body, very crisp with a refreshing long lasting finish. This is a hallmark California Sauvignon Blanc, but it is also one of the most expensive I have ever tasted as it sells for $45 a bottle.

The second pour was 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon – Sonoma County. The wine is made of 100% Estate Grown Cabernet Sauvignon grown at elevations of 1100’ to 1450 feet in certified organic and biodynamic vineyards. This wine is ruby red with expressive aromas of blueberries, black cherries and a very distinct wet slate minerality. On the palate it is very delicate and velvety with refined tannins. It has a medium body and a medium+ length finish. A very nice Cab but a bit steep at $80 a bottle.

The third wine was the 2010 “Writer’s Bock.” This is a proprietary blend of 40% Syrah, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon and 30% Petite Sirah.  It is dark purple, almost black, at the core to violet at the rim and it stains the glass when swirled. On the nose it exudes aromas of cassis, dark chocolate, new leather and a hint of smoke. On the palate it delivers intense and concentrated flavors of black cherries, mocha and a touch of spice. It is full bodied with gripping tannins, ample acidity and has a lengthy silky finish. An absolutely delicious wine, it sells for $58 a bottle.

The final pour was the 2010 Syrah. The grapes for this wine come from three distinct one acre blocks: High Block at 1400’ in elevation with south-southeast exposures, Middle Block at 1200' with due south exposures and Low Block at 1100' facing northwest. It is inky purple and stains the glass when swirled. On the nose it has aromas of black fruits, smoke, bacon fat. On the palate it is medium bodied with ample acidity and a medium length finish. A delicious wine but this is probably one of the most expensive Syrahs with this type of profile that I have ever tasted, it sells for $70 a bottle.

For more information or to visit:

Kamen Estate Wines

111B East Napa Street

Sonoma, California 95476

Phone: 1-707-938-7292

Open Saturday and Sunday 1 – 5 PM.