kathryn kennedy

A True Trailblazer: Kathryn Kennedy

I never knew Kathryn Kennedy—I wish I did.

When I began my wine education and learned about Kathryn Kennedy, I was instantly intrigued, although I can’t explain why. Maybe it’s because she was among the first female winemakers in California, maybe it’s because she was a trailblazer with an innate talent for viticulture, or perhaps it had to do with her spirit. I think there’s something about her spirit that lives on and you still sense it in her wine.

Her wine is now in the hands of her son, Marty Mathis. He has that same spirit and carries on the winemaking tradition that his mother so skillfully cultivated.

This is not the first article written about Ms. Kennedy, and I’m sure it won’t be the last, but she is the very first winemaker that I have chosen to write about.

A little history

Born Helen Kathryn Kennedy in July of 1927, she was only 19 years old when she graduated from Stanford University where she studied art and education. She later married Ray Mathis and, in 1949 they built their home on 2.5 acres in the hills of Saratoga, California. Years later, they would acquire two four-acre parcels behind that property.

In 1965, Kathryn and Ray divorced, leaving Kathryn with 10 acres of land, the taxes that went with it, and four children. She desperately needed a way to continue to support her family. She examined the condition of the remnants of the old orchard behind her home and began to think of ways to mend and cultivate it to earn money.

The decision

After speaking with winemakers and neighbors, as well as curiously watching workers harvest grapes in a neighboring vineyard, Kathryn began to realize the idea of planting a vineyard of her own. The decision was finalized in 1971 when she returned home from a trip to Europe.

A little side note—There was a time when she toyed with the idea of planting a Christmas tree farm, but then she’d miss out on all the family fun during the holidays. A vineyard was the better idea.

Learning

Kathryn was now focused on a vineyard and grape growing. To gain knowledge, she consulted with neighbors and winemakers; read General Viticulture, and attended two semesters at UC Davis. It was her neighbor, Mario Gemello and her professors at Davis, who told her that Cabernet Sauvignon was the best variety to plant on her estate.

While attending Davis, she had the good fortune to obtain 3,333 Cabernet Sauvignon cuttings from David Bruce. She drove the cuttings home in a borrowed station wagon, and with the help of family and friends, the vineyard was planted in 1973. The first leaf appeared in the spring of 1974. Kathryn was 46 years old.

kathryn kennedy 2
photo credit: Joan Morocco

Making Wine

At first, there was no intention to make wine, only to grow and sell grapes and earn a living. So, in 1976 the first crop was sold to Martin Ray winery and in 1977 and 1978 larger crops were sold to Mt. Eden winery.

Mt. Eden’s winemaker, Bill Anderson, liked the fruit from Kennedy’s vineyard and when she decided to start her own label, he agreed to be the winemaker. While Anderson’s enthusiasm for winemaking was great, his tenure as her winemaker was brief, and after only two vintages, he left to pursue other interests and her son, Marty took over.

Not much attention was paid to the ‘marketing’ of wine back then, and when the 1979 vintage was ready to sell, it was met with skepticism and sexism. Retailers didn’t want a wine bearing a woman’s name. When Kathryn was asked why she put her name on the label, she plainly said, “It was my effort, my gamble, my land, my money. If David Bruce and Martin Ray could do it, so could I.”

The Wine Today

Since that first vintage, Kathryn Kennedy’s Estate Cabernet Sauvignon remains a beautiful expression of Santa Cruz Mountains’ wines, and the courage of her convictions continues to inspire women and others today.

For the last five years, I’ve had the privilege of pouring these wines at a local charity event. And, as I said, I’m not sure why, but I’ve felt a connection with these wines and with Ms. Kennedymaybe it’s because she had four children too—I don’t know.

In a time where many wineries are growing larger and sold off to big corporations, it’s nice to still savor a sip of the Cabernet grown right here, from a little vineyard, in our own backyard.

Inspiration

There are times when we feel that we can’t start something new now, or I’m too old, too young, or … fill in the blank … to do that (I know, I do it too). Remember what Kathryn did, and, she did it all after the age of 45. Now that’s inspiration for ya! =)

Tell Me…

Now, I’d love to hear from you. If you’d like to share a memory of Kathryn Kennedy wines or have something that inspires you, leave a comment.

For more information about Kathryn Kennedy wines, please visit: www.kathrynkennedywinery.com

You can usually find this wine at Uncorked in Saratoga, CA, or contact the winery directly. (info is on their website)

Special thanks to Marty Mathis for his help and the feature photo of Kathryn.

Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the details in this article; however, I am human; if you think there is an error, please email me, and I’m happy to research and correct if necessary.  lynne[at]winegal[dot]com.

 

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Saturday’s sip & saying

magic

There’s the saying, now here’s the sip…

I chose this wine to go with that saying because there is magic inside this bottle longing to reveal itself … and, it’s nice to believe in a little magic and delicious hidden secrets.

2013 Kronos front

Some may say Cathy Corison’s wines are delicious hidden secrets, but I’m not so sure it’s such a secret anymore. Her popularity has increased as many wine drinkers are beginning to appreciate her old-world style and restrained approach to winemaking.

Cathy Corison’s 2013 Kronos Vineyard, Cabernet Sauvignon is ethereal.

It’s a beautiful taste now, but this wine needs time to develop to its full potential.

There is a depth of concentration here, with scents of red, black and blueberries; red currant, dusty rose, violets, and eucalyptus. Although this is a full-bodied wine, it doesn’t feel heavy; the acidity is uplifting, and one sip leaves you wanting more. It has lovely texture and solid structure. This is still a very young wine, and I’m waiting and watching for that magic to show itself in years to come. =)

I’ve been a member and fan of Corison wines for many years, and due to the small amount of wine produced from Kronos’ old, gnarled Cabernet vines, I believe you may only purchase this via her club membership. (sorry about that, I didn’t realize this until after I finished writing. It’s possible that you may find it on winesearcher.com)

This wine is a splurge, but like many fine wines of value, you can lay this down for 20+ years.

I hope you have a great weekend and watch for those special hidden secrets and find the magic in your days. ❤️

Do you know of any great hidden secret wines? If so, please let me know with a comment below.

kronos back

Bubbles, Bubbles, Toil and … the day after

My apologies to Shakespeare—I had to change the words in the title to reflect the festivities of All Hallows’ Eve and this story.

Last night, there was no bubbling caldron, but there were bubbles. And, there was no pairing wine with Halloween candy, just a group of friends and good fun doling out confections to the kids. Personally, I think very few wines pair well with candy—but I’ll save that for another post.

Every year we celebrate Halloween at the home of our beautiful friends. They toil for days to set up a fantastic Halloween scene for all to enjoy. It truly is one of, if not the best-decorated homes in the entire neighborhood.

We live in an old-fashioned town and parents come from miles away so their children can trick or treat here. There is a steady stream of folks from 5pm-9pm. I kid you not, there are thousands of children. This year we handed out over 3,700 pieces of candy!

The entire street, measuring one-half mile, is closed off from end to end, and I sometimes see the police keep vigilant patrol on horseback or motorcycles. Honestly, I think they have a great time watching all the fun.

With so many kids to tend to, we all take turns handing out candy to the procession of Wonder Womans, Disney princesses, Spider Mans and Harry Potters. When we feel the carpal tunnel begin to set in, we take breaks to visit with neighbors, have a splash of wine or take in the sites of the Halloween scenery.

We need to eat at some point and, lucky for us, our hostess makes the best lasagna—it’s all homemade—even the noodles. Everyone brings wine to share, so there is always a nice variety, and it’s fun to give each one a taste. There’s also the occasional Old Fashioned or Gin and Tonic cocktail too. Me? I usually bring champagne, because … well,  obviously, I’m not a barbarian. =)

Here is this year’s line up:

 

halloween wines
a fun group of wines (Mrs. Incredible in the background agrees)       photo: Lynne Bryant

I didn’t get to try all the wines shown here, but the Pol Roger champagne was beautiful, and the 2014 Passorosso from Sicily was very good. The bottle with the fancy artwork was La Catrina Cabernet Sauvignon from Sonoma. I honestly didn’t know it was a Cab until I read the bottle. You’ll find full tasting notes on these wines here.

So, it’s the day after Halloween, the festivities are over, we go back to work and realize— oh my—it’s November! Time to get ready for the holiday rush, maybe travel and, of course, time to get ready for relatives invading. Don’t panic!

Wishing you all good times and good wine. ❤️

 

our hosts
our gracious hosts, the homemade lasagna chef is on the right    photo: Michelle Leavitt

 

 

 

me and Ross
yours truly with good friend & owner of Oak & Rye, Ross Hanson. (excellent artisan pizza place! you’ve got to go if you’re ever in Los Gatos, CA)           photo: Michelle Leavitt

 

good friends
our photographer, Michelle, aka “deflated Brady” and “blind referee”   photo credit: unknown

 

 

halloween decor
our hosts’ decorated house        photo: Michelle Leavitt

 

william harrison chard
the nightcap

wines tasted tonight here