Thursday, April 17, 2008

UNLVino: Kamen Estate Wines

Kamen Estate Wines is owned by Robert Kamen, a screenwriter of films including “The Karate Kid” series, “The Fifth Element”, and the “Transporter” series. I met Robert at the tasting and he was animated, personable and obviously passionate about his wines.

In 1980, Robert purchased about 280 acres of the southwestern slopes of the Mayacamas Range in Sonoma County. This land was rugged, overgrown, extremely rocky and very remote. There were no roads leading to it and there were no power lines either. If he wanted to transform the land, he had a long and laborious road ahead.

But Robert had a desire to plant vineyards on this land, especially of Cabernet Sauvignon. So he brought in viticulturist Phil Coturri (of the Coturri Winery, one of my favorite wineries) to oversee this huge development. Both men shared a philosophy of preserving the wildness of the place with as little intervention as possible. This led to a commitment to organic farming, a rarity in those days.

Once the vineyards were operational, and bearing fruit, Robert initially sold the grapes to other Sonoma wineries. But he eventually decided to try making his own wine. His first wine was a 1999 Cabernet Sauvignon.

Today, Kamen Estate is located at elevations reaching 1100' to 1450' in the southwestern Mayacamas Range. The official appellation is Sonoma Valley, a smaller sub-appellation of Sonoma County. More specifically, the vineyards are on the southwestern slopes of Mt. Veeder. There are 36 acres of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot as well as a few acres of Syrah.

I only tasted the 2005 Kamen Syrah (about $70). Only 200 cases of this wine were produced and it was just released in March 2008. It is 100% Estate grown Syrah at elevations from 1100' to 1450' and has an alcohol content of 15.1%. The Syrah clone for their original planting came from Cote Rotie and Hermitage. In the 2005 vintage, the grapes were larger than usual and the fruit was incredibly lush resulting in very opulent wines.

The Syrah was inky dark, so purple it almost seemed black. It had a compelling nose of black fruits, spice and cocoa. On the palate, it was a powerful, rich wine that was loaded with a myriad of flavors including ripe plum, blackberry, cocoa, coffee, licorice, spice, and a little vanilla. It was a lush, smooth wine where the tannins were well integrated in the wine. It had a lingering and satisfying finish. A complex, well balanced and delicious wine that definitely impresses. Certainly worth its price.

I will seek out their Cabernet as well. Kamen wines are available in Massachusetts from Classic Wine Imports so they should be able to be found.


Tracy said...

We're regulars at RM Seafood in Las Vegas and the Sommelier, Jeff, treats us occasionally to special bottles he doesn't put on the wine list. The 2004 Kamen Syrah was the treat last night. He didn't let us taste it, he just decanted and poured it. He said it was his presumptuous moment for the evening and he was right on the mark. The first taste gave me goosebumps. Luscious!!

Richard Auffrey said...

Hi Tracy and welcome to my blog. I am glad to see that you enjoyed this Syrah too. And it is always good to have a sommelier who you can trust to bring you excellent wine.

I just picked up a bottle of the Kamen Cabernet over the weekend and very much look forward to tasting that.