Grape(s): Pinot Noir
Localization: Sonoma Mountain, California, USA
Tasting Notes: With deep dark ruby color, this has subtle aromas of lavender, tea, black cherries, berries, and cocoa that grow more pronounced as the wine airs. The expansive palate shows bold red and black fruit, spice, chocolate, and minerals with nuances that evolve, minute by minute and sip by sip. There’s a brooding quality here that makes it clear: as great as it is now, it will only get better. It’s built for the cellar, with a firm tannic structure and elegant savory texture. Already delicious, it will be at its very best between 2023 and 2033. When young and sporting bold tannins, pair it with a fine steak marbled with plenty of fat.
Food pairing: As it ages, softens, and harmonizes, this food-versatile beauty will love to be paired with Beef Bourguignon or Cassoulet with Duck Confit.
The Domain: Martin van der Kamp started making wine in the late 60s, buying much of his fruit from the vineyard he would one-day call home for his wife and six children. When they bought the land in ‘89 it was mostly Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon, with a few acres planted to Chardonnay and Golden Chasselas (an old-time grape planted during Prohibition to make altar wines). Martin and Dixie were then in the champagne business. They cherished the original Pinot Noir vines, which are still carefully maintained and are among the oldest still producing in Sonoma County. The rest of the 25-acre vineyard was replanted to a variety of Pinot Noir clones as well as the hard-to-find Pinot Meunier, traditionally used in classic champagne blends. As time went on, Martin and Dixie became aware that being caretakers of this unique place spoke more to their passions and beliefs, so with their son, Ulysses, who was taking charge of the vineyard and farming operations, they left the business of making and selling wine and turned their energies to the land. The grapes have responded, prized by the wineries who offer their wines as vineyard designates.
The homestead is, in the truest sense, a working family farm. While the vineyard is awarded celebrity status, the rest of the farm is dedicated to gardens, hens and roosters, orchards, and cultural quests. Its success is due to the unity of natural resources that sustain them, and of equal importance, the deep connection the van der Kamps feels for the land. Along with Martin and Dixie, Ulysses lives with his family on the property as do two other families who provide the extra labor the farm requires year-round; between them all, they grow and raise all that they need. They farm in a manner that is sustainable and when they talk about farming, it is not just the physical activity they speak of, but a spiritual one as well.
Ulysses has farmed at his core, being a descendent on his father's side of the Napa Petersen’s who started growing grapes in 1879 and shortly after, began winemaking. Biodiversity is at the heart of his farming practices and what guides him. Rather than a monoculture, which rails against nature's balance, biodiversity joins all forms of agriculture in a sustainable way that best reflects nature. Ulysses knows every aspect of the farm, every turn, and dip in the landscape, and like any good farmer, he learns from each season, responding to changes rather than reacting to them. He prunes each of the vines himself and in the growing season, walks the vineyard daily assessing the development of each cluster. Martin once commented “the best fertilizer for a vineyard is the shadow of the farmer” and farmer Ulysses casts a long, loving shadow.
The care given by the vineyard resonates in the relationship they have with the wineries and winemakers that buy their fruit - it is not just about the wine produced, but a personal connection and shared values. It is more than quality farming that produces such outstanding fruit - there is something more here - Dixie says it is a healing place. In the book, The One-Straw Revolution, Masanobu Fukuoka writes, “The ultimate goal of farming is not the growing of crops, but the cultivation and perfection of human beings.”