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From French Literature to Crushing Grapes in Sonoma County — New Zoom Star Kathleen Inman’s Wine Life is Full of Soul

Rosé, Champagne, Pinot Noir and More

BY // 11.24.20

I love to talk about wine with people who share my passion for it. We open bottles, we trade stories about travel and soil types, terroir and residual sugar, and we talk of taste and food and restaurants. We recommend wines to one another, we drink, and we learn a lot.

In Wine Talk, I introduce you to friends, acquaintances, and people I meet as I make my way around the world, individuals who love wine as much as I do, who live to taste, who farm and make wine. You’ll appreciate their insight, and I hope you’ll learn something from them as well. 

Kathleen Inman. Whenever I hear that name my mind immediately goes to France. Inman makes wine in Sonoma County as the owner of Inman Family Wines, but the story behind her Endless Crush rosé captivated me when I first heard it, and since I love Provence. . .

I don’t know why I waited so long to feature Inman in Wine Talk, because she is a great conversationalist — a Zoom tasting earlier this year confirmed my initial impression, which I made based on quotes, articles and conversations with others. Her laugh rang through, and when I heard it during the virtual tasting it was uncannily similar to the one I heard in my head when reading descriptions of Inman.

Inman loves rosé, and she loves Champagne, and her way with pinot noir makes me happy. She studied French literature in college, which is another reason I look forward to meeting her (Baudelaire, Rimbaud. . . what’s not to like?).

Oh yes, she farms the Olivet Grange Vineyard, from which comes some fine pinot noir and pinot gris fruit.

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Memories of Provence …

If you are seeking a new rosé to add to your list, order some Endless Crush. During our tasting, I sampled Inman’s 2017 Russian River Valley pinot noir Special Blend. I loved it. Complex, elegant, wonderful acidity and a fascinating fruit makeup (Olivet Grange, Sexton Road Ranch, and Vine Hill). This wine grandly represents Inman’s approach to her craft.

Let’s get to her Wine Talk.

James Brock: Tell us about three wines you think are drinking well at the moment. How about a food pairing for each one?

Kathleen Inman: First, 2018 and 2019 Domaine Tempier Bandol Rosé. I pair this with anything and everything. Kermit Lynch or Wine.com, $56

Next, 2019 Crocker & Starr Sauvignon Blanc Crocker Estate. Although it’s a little heavier in alcohol than past vintages, I have been drinking this recently. Crocker & Starr is the only wine club I belong to. I paired it recently with a caponata using eggplants and tomatoes from my garden. Purchased from the winery, $40

2015 Inman Family Extra Brut Luxe Cuvée, a blend of chardonnay and pinot noir that spent years on the yeast. It’s currently a favorite of my husband’s, Simon, and is $78 (available from the winery only).

Inman Family WInes Experience from Inman Family Wines on Vimeo.

JB: If cost was no consideration, tell us the one bottle you would add to your personal collection, and why?

KI: 2004 Krug Clos du Mesnil would be my choice. I had a bottle of this last year for my birthday, and it was very delicious. Clos du Mesnil, a tiny, walled vineyard, is a little gem. Krug, my favorite Champagne house, makes from it a single-vineyard, single-vintage, single-varietal sparkling wine that has mouthwatering chardonnay fruit, crystalline acidity and such a sense of place.

This wine inspired me in making my sparkling wines; although they are made from pinot noir from the Inman Family OGV Estate vineyard, I kept the structure single-vineyard, single-vintage, and single-varietal, inspired by the Krug wines I love.

Do not tear down this wall.

 

Kathleen Inman with some Pinot Noir.

JB: What is your favorite grape, and why?

KI: I have to be really predictable here: It is pinot noir that I am most passionate about. I love it in all of its guises: rich and redolent in ripe fruit, elegant and savory with texture like silk satin, made into rosés, made into sparkling wines. . . all the pinots!

JB: How about one bottle that our readers should buy now to cellar for 10 years, to celebrate a birth, anniversary, or other red-letter day? 

KI: We tend to buy vintage port for birth years since it can cellar for much longer than 10 years, but of course, not every year is a vintage year. Of my own wines, the OGV Estate pinot noirs really come into their own after 10 years. I would recommend the 2017 vintage. It is elegant, and each time I taste it, it has a subtle, haunting character that is more beguiling as the months pass. I would love to have this in 2027 with a seared duck breast with lentils and sautéed spinach.

JB: Where is your go-to place when you want to have a glass or bottle?

KI: COVID-19 has made us very solitary homebodies these days. However, in pre-pandemic days, Corkage, in Bath, Somerset, UK was our favorite place to enjoy wine by the glass or the bottle with small plates. We have been going there often for some years. A fantastic list. I do miss being able to travel.

JB: If there was one thing you wish everyone would keep in mind when buying and drinking wine, what is it?

KI: On the business side, I think wine consumers should keep in mind that the best way to support small wineries is to buy from them directly. Distributors and retailers all make more money than the winery when a consumer purchases at a store. About 50 to 60 percent of the price of that bottle is all the winery gets — and from that they have to pay the taxes as well as the production costs. As often as you can, support wineries by buying direct.

JB: What is your “wine eureka moment,” the incident/taste/encounter that put you and wine on an intimate plane forever?

KI: My “wine eureka moment” that led to my passion for wine — as a consumer and later as a maker — was probably when I did a wine-tasting class offered by a local retailer when I was at UC Santa Barbara. I was fascinated by how the same grape grown in different places could result in wines that tasted so different, and then grapes grown in the same place but made by different people into wine were also different.

Add in vintage differences and the variations were endlessly fascinating. Pinot noir and riesling were my first wine loves, but when I discovered Champagne. . . wow!

JB: What is your favorite wine reference in a work of literature or a film?

KI: Can I give two? Having studied a lot of French literature at university, I am a fan of the French Symbolist poets, and Baudelaire’s “L’âme du vin” (“The Soul of Wine”) is a favorite, but I would be remiss if I did not mention my friend Regine Rousseau, who, besides being a wine entrepreneur (Shall We Wine is her business), is a poet. Her recently published book — Searching for Cloves and Lilies: The Wine Edition — pairs her poems with wines, including one paired with my Endless Crush Rosé of Pinot Noir.

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