Kaz Vineyard & Winery: Serious Organic Wine for the Not-So-Serious
Why so serious? Photo by Jaymi Heimbuch
Hidden away in the Valley of the Moon is an organic winemaker who is very serious about winemaking. His name is Richard Kasmier but he goes by Kaz. And like some modern-day alchemist, he whips offbeat grape varieties like Lenoir and Nebbiolo into the kind of outspoken wines we have come to expect from California. But don't visit Kaz expecting esoteric wine chatter or any sort of "wine country" attitude, it's not their style. The family-run tasting room is littered with offbeat humor and a hometown feel that will make you think you are just that, home.
Hair sold separately. Photo by Jaymi Heimbuch
Offbeat winery and wine maker
Kaz has been making wine since 1985 when the success of his photography studio afforded his family two acres of land, which was originally a walnut grove, in Sonoma Valley. Kaz made his first batch of organic wine in 1986. About ten years later, the family packed their van, left Southern California and relocated to the vineyard. And while Kaz helped start two tasting rooms in Kenwood, it wasn't until 2003 that the Kaz label was officially launched.
Strawberry fields forever. Photo by Jaymi Heimbuch
A year ago, the winery installed over 28 solar panels on top of its tasting room roof. The 3.2 Kw installation provides all the power needed for wine production and day-to-day operation, but also for the Kaz family home which is right next door. The small-scale operation is completely managed by the Kaz family which includes his wife Sandi, daughter Kristin and son Ryan. Producing about 1,000 cases of wine each year with a process that could almost be described as "by hand," it is in fact the smallest Sonoma Valley producer with a public tasting room.
Planted between the rows of grape vines are a variety of weeds and plants that not only replenish the soil but also attract a plethora of different of bugs. Even strawberries and zucchinis are used in the same vein. Being free from pesticide use, the winery makes use of many fighter bugs like ladybugs and lacewings. Mildew growth on the grapes is hindered by common cornstarch. And whatever is grown and not used ends up right back at the vines in the form of compost.
A tapped barrel for a serious barrel tasting. Photo by Jaymi Heimbuch
B.Y.O.J. - Bring Your Own Jug
The wines themselves are not for everyone. It's not a lack of quality or depth but that Kaz's experiments will run the gamut with your palette. You'll be hard pressed to love them all but that is hardly the point. Consider Kaz's Mainliner which is 100% Lenoir, a varietal that has been missing from the winemaker for about ten years. The 120-year-old vine produces a wine that is much like a Tarantino film, think Kill Bill. And while the wine pairs nicely with food due to its medium body and lower tannins, Lenoir has the uncanny ability to open quickly and settle into a nice Kubrick film.
But size doesn't matter with this winery. Since Kaz wines are only available at the tasting room or through a wine club membership, you're going to want to visit. Through Kaz is very serious about winemaking, he is anything but serious. The tasting room is filled with wine barrels that are tapped for a quick tasting. Jugs are also available for you to fill, cork and label yourself with labels made from hand-colored vintage Kaz family photos.
In fact, you can even bring your own jug if you like. I suggest you bring a few.
Got jugs? Photo by Jaymi Heimbuch
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Kaz Wine Pairings
Indian-Spiced Tomato Soup
Maple-Lemon Crème Brulée With Amaretti Cookie
Seared Brussels Sprouts with a Smoked Gouda Sauce and Freshly Grated Horseradish
More Recipes from the Green Wine Guide
Homemade Pizza with Caramelized Onions, Blue Cheese and Thyme
Chèvre-Stuffed Dates with Pomegranate Molasses and Chili Oil
Tempeh, Broccoli, and Red Bell Pepper Stir Fry
Chiogga Beets with Vanilla Bean Vinaigrette and Toasted Hazelnuts
Winter Salad with Roasted Root Vegetables and a Balsamic Reduction
Risotto with a Portabella Duxelle
More from the Green Wine Guide
Medlock Ames' Organic Vineyard Features Mini Cows and a Century-Old Biker Bar
Going "Beyond Organic" with Jacuzzi Vineyards and Cline Cellars