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By James Knight
"Wine tasting." Quick, what comes to mind? An alien invasion from planet Tommy Bahama? Although it's a big hit with out-of-towners, sometimes for local residents, the activity suffers from the same "special occasion" stigma that wine itself does. At best, it's something to do when the relations fly in. At worst, it's tragically uncool.
(Overheard, one snarky video store employee said in reference to the movie Sideways, "If I wanted to see desperate loser wine tasters, I'd just go outside!" Ha ha! But over a decade ago it was the apogee of hip to grimly suck malt liquor out of 40-ounce bottles while wearing 1970s athletic apparel. You kids got anything new on that? I didn't think so.)
It's astounding, the locals young and old who have never been, or only "that one time." Teetotalers notwithstanding, what's not to like about free wine, offered in a kaleidoscope of ever-changing variety? Try before you buy? You don't have to recite pseudo-technical babble to appease the angry wine gods. Wines and their characteristics are like people; you only really get to know them over time, so relax. Just don't tie your sweater over your polo.
Kokomo Winery could hardly have made it easier. Their new little urban tasting room is right off Santa Rosa's downtown freeway exit. View of a parking lot. No bucolic preciousness here, and on my evening visit--myself notwithstanding--no desperate losers.
Backstory: Kokomo means "here." Where? Kokomo, Ind. Why? This guy Erik Miller lands in Dry Creek Valley, finds his calling, etcetera, names winery after his home town. And? Opens the tasting room in the one city that thinks it's in the Midwest instead of the capital of wine country. That's the best part.
So how's the wine? Other than the sweet and crisp 2005 Mendocino County Sauvignon Blanc ($16), it's about the reds. The 2005 Perotti Zinfandel ($22) nearly jumps up out of the glass to give a raspberry-flavored smooch on the nose. The 2005 Timber Crest Zinfandel ($26) took me on a pleasant ramble through a country junkyard, brambleberry vines spilling over rusted cars, a nostalgic whiff of oil. Yes, the 2005 Petite Sirah ($22) is tannic, don't panic. Steak, blackberries and cigar--it's an entrée, a dessert and a vice. The 2005 Pinot Noir ($45) hints subtly of smoked Tofurky and spice, while the 2005 Dry Creek Valley Syrah ($22) comes on like a forest fire, all pine cones and smoke.
But so much for what I say. Check it out for yourself. Kokomo offers food and special discounts at its grand opening on Sunday, April 15. Ooh, I wanna take you down to Kokomo Winery Tasting Room, 305 Davis St., Santa Rosa. Open daily, noon to 7pm. 707.542.6580.
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