Kaena Winery - A Diamond in the Rough

Kaena Winery Tasting Manager Chloe Yost.jpg
Chloe Yost - Tasting Room Manager

Recently Tracy and I decided to take a drive to the Santa Ynez area.  We have not been there in a while and Tracy had a couple of places that were recommended to us by a good friend of ours, Mindy Bezjian. For those of you that have not been to Los Olivos, it is a place that you need to add to your bucket list. The town is very quaint with numerous shops.  If you want to taste wines, olive oils or even eat at some very unique small restaurants you will find plenty to do.  The first stop that was recommended by Mindy was the Kaena Winery tasting room in downtown Los Olivos.  Walking in we were warmly greeted by Jennifer Lindley and asked if we would like to taste their wines.  Who could refuse such an offer. Jennifer kicked off our experience with a beautiful 2013 Sauvignon Blanc from Ballard Canyon.   Soon we were joined by Chloe Yost who is the Tasting Room Manager and Marketing Specialist for Kaena Wines.  Chloe began providing details on their winery and wines as we sampled the Sauvignon Blanc .  She injected that most of the fruit used in their wines come from the Ballard Canyon.  This Sauvignon Blanc was beautiful offering aromatics and tastes of pineapple and citrus with a clean crispness from a beautiful acid balance.  What was unique is that the wine finished fairly dry.  Chloe commented that Kaena sur lie about 50% of their wines for 6 months and the Sauvignon Blanc is one of them.  This process of leaving the wine on the grapes or yeast (most common) binds proteins to tannins which will remove tannins and provide better mouthfeel.  The process also absorbs oxygen which helps protect the wine.  Sur lie adds a beautiful complexity to wines as seen in this Sauvignon blanc. Chloe also provided us with a unique tasting experience.  She poured 2 different vintages of Hapa Blanc.  The 2013 which was recently release is a blend of 60% Roussanne, 28% Grenache Blanc and 12% Riesling.  The 2012 ( prior vintage) had 60% Roussanne, 30% Grenache Blanc and 10% Viognier.  The Roussanne and Grenache Blanc  (88% in the 2013 and 90% in the 2012) in both of these wines are the backbone for Chateau neuf de pape blanc wines.  Both vintages were excellent with good body yet each had subtle difference on the palate.  Our favorite was the 2012 but as I always remind people it depends on "YOUR" palate.  Both were excellent just slightly different.   

Chloe also poured their newly released 2013 Grenache Blanc.  Wow!  What a beautiful wine with that  gorgeous mouthfeel that is characteristic of this varietal.   Grenache Blanc is one of my favorite white varietals.   One interesting characteristic with Kaena's white wines that I really loved is the fact that they finish slightly dry on the palate.  Very uncommon with most California whites.

Kaena didn't drop a beat in their red wines either.  Many years ago a good friend of mine, Victor Herstein was the manager of the All Corked Up warehouse introduced me to Kaena Grenache.  I have not forgotten that wine.  Tasting their latest vintages only brought back memories of the beauty of Kaena's fantastic Grenache.  Kaena now has three Grenaches where the grapes are sourced from different areas.  They have the 2012 Santa Ynez Valley (blend from three different vineyards), 2012 Tierra Alta Vineyard (Ballard Canyon) and 2012 Larner Grenache which is a brand new release.  All three were exactly what I remember.  Each had differences based on terroir but were fantastic Grenache's but in different ways.  My favorite personal favorite was the 2012 Larner Grenache.  Tierra Alta had a stunning profile on the nose but the brighter flavor and fantastic finish of the Tierra Alta tipped the scale for me.

Bottom line is that you must visit Kaena.  The staff and wines are fantastic.  I could write for ever on their wines and I didn't come close to covering them all.  You will just need to make a road trip and try them for yourself.

Website:  http://www.kaenawine.com/


Rusty Sly