Kokomo’s complex wines get start in midwest

I am a total cork dork and will fully admit that the rock stars of my world are winemakers, growers, educators and people crazy and passionate enough about wine to devote almost all of their living and breathing moments to this noble beverage.

I’ve shared dinner and a raised a few glasses of wine with Fred Dame, President of the Guild of Sommeliers Education Foundation.  Dennis Cakebread and I have shared a few words on the phone, I am privileged to know Jerry Lhor and his family and Peter Seghesio has led a wine tasting dinner for me and about 40 guests.  I’ve met Lynn Penner-Ashe of Oregon wine fame and have yet to succeed in getting her wine to South Dakota, but I will continue trying!  Whenever I have any Argyle wines I think about meeting Rollin Soles and thinking that he looked like a Texas cowboy with his handlebar mustache and boots, but man can he makes a beautiful sparkling wine.

Last week I had another “rock star” moment with a visit by Erik Miller, owner and winemaker for Kokomo Winery in Dry Creek Valley California.  He was in town for the South Dakota launch of his 2012 Kokomo Cuvée and the grand opening of Sioux Falls’ newest entertainment venue, The District.  He stopped in to our store for a few hours to sample wines, sign a few bottles and to catch up while we tried several of his new releases.

Erik is a smart man, really thoughtful about his wine, fun to chat with and completely down to earth.  Considering he was raised in Kokomo, Indiana I think we can include him as a Midwesterner with the rest of us.  Did I say that he makes really great wine? 

We started with his 2012 Chardonnay and it was just my style.  Very Burgundian (meaning in the French Style) where the true nature of the Chardonnay is allowed to shine and not obliterated with heavy oak.  We haven’t seen many 2012 vintages hit our shelves yet so this wine is young, but shows a racy acidity with beautiful tropical notes and gentle vanilla flavors. 

All of the reds we continued to sample were 2012 vintages.  I asked Erik if he was concerned that the release was too early and he admitted that it had been a gamble but the wines were showing extremely well and ready to go.  These are small production wines, most of them under 1800 cases produced.  I trust that Erik would never let a wine escape his control if he wasn’t fully committed to its quality.  This is his promise to the retailers who support him and our customers who buy his wine.

The 2012 Pinot Noir is the perfect example of Erik’s commitment to creating complex and beautiful wine.  If you read his blog (and you really should – www.kokomowinery.com) you get the inside scoop on what he does, why he does it and how we get to reap the rewards in being able to drink the finished product.  Erik “builds” his wines throughout the harvest as depicted in his blog about the 2012 Pinot Noir.

“Complexity is something that we must have to separate ourselves from the larger production wines on the market. On our Peters Vineyard Pinot Noir, we had three different picks. We picked the first round of fruit at 13.6 alcohol, which left plenty of bright, vibrant acidity. This fruit yields very food friendly flavors, with less alcohol, red fruit on the nose and a more Burgundian palate. We picked the second batch of fruit at 14.4, which provides very balanced flavors. Our last pick, at 14.9 alcohol, is the “crowd pleaser” and yielded considerably fleshier fruit with riper, juicier flavors.” writes Miller.

The 2012 Kokomo Cuvée, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Malbec, Merlot, Grenache, and Petite Sirah, is still one of my favorites.  This wine is great on its own and fantastic with food.  I actually had a couple of glasses the night before the tasting and decanted it for an hour before drinking the second glass which really opened the flavors and aromas in this wine.  The Zinfandel has super brambly flavors of dark fruit and spice.  I think some barbequed/braised short ribs are in our future with this wine as its partner!

Regardless of which Kokomo wine you decide to drink (please drink them all, you won’t be disappointed) Erik has embraced South Dakota and we’ve embraced him back.  Not hard considering his wine is great and he is a great guy. It must be the Midwesterner in all of us!