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Written by Nikitas Magel   

KK:  Well, I'm not sure that it's a misunderstanding, per se.  I think that Alexander Valley has actually been well received for what it has traditionally produced: really nice $10-$20 bottles of wine that are a good value.  But those wines have certain characteristics that are different from those you can get from some of the more artisanal producers I mentioned, who are not in the deep soils of the valley floor, who farm their vineyards and make their wines to very high standards, who are extremely selective about which particular lots go into the bottle — characteristics that are just not well known because there are so few of us and our production has been so small thus far.  How could they know?  You almost have to get a James Laube or Robert Parker to come here and do a tasting of these six or seven wineries and then write about it in order for people to start understanding what can be done with real commitment at these better sites.

NM:  Are you working towards that?  {smiling}

KK:  I'm working towards that.  {smiling}  In fact, Karin [Miller of Garden Creek Vineyards] and I are working on it.  But it's challenging — very challenging — because we producers have business agendas that are very different from one another.  For example, the business plan for some of the wineries in the valley may be to drive consumers to their winery, whereas for others, like mine, who don't have a tasting room, priorities are different.  So, as far as formalizing it all and getting it funded, it's very challenging; although people are really interested in it, it's hard to get commitments in the midst of these divergent business interests.

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NM:  Bringing it full circle and focusing on your own commitment, what have you learned that has profoundly influenced your appreciation of wine and your understanding of its industry?  And what have you learned that has influenced you as a human being?

KK:  Hmmm, that's such an interesting question; I've never been asked that before.  Well, I have to say that I love what I do!  I dream about what I do when I'm not here.  When I can't sleep at night, I find myself walking up and down the vine rows, and before long I'm asleep; it's like counting sheep!  I guess what I've learned is that I've become much more spiritual.  I've had to overcome a lot of obstacles!  For example, last year, in a two-hour period we lost 75% of our crop due to frost.  We walked out in the vineyard and there was nothing there, the shoots were all burned off like somebody took a blowtorch to them.  I just felt like crying!  But it is agriculture; there's a lot of adversity to overcome in the vineyards.  They always look great from a distance, from the road.  Whereas when I look at it, I know what I'm looking at, I know about diseases like phylloxera, eutypa, and all the other things that can come to get you.  So, it is about overcoming adversity.  But when you walk into the vineyard on a day like today, and everything is healthy and prospering, you can't help but have a spiritual experience!  And I'm incredibly grateful!  It makes me so very grateful for all the things that I have.  I just don't forget it when I walk out into the vineyard.  Plus, we try to give back as a winery, in terms of being charitable, because we recognize how fortunate we are.  Without getting grossly philosophical, I think that's what I've learned more than anything else: to overcome adversity, stick with it, and then be really thankful for what you've got!

NM:  Wow, that's pretty powerful!  And it's also very elegant, because there's a simplicity to that, which can be applied to anything that we do in our lives.  That's very inspiring!

KK:  Well, I didn't mean for it to be inspiring; it is what it is.  It's been wonderful for me, it's been really wonderful.  But it has also been such a tremendous challenge; there have been times I really thought I was going to go broke.  And we're not at all out of the woods yet.  This is actually one of the most challenging times we've ever had.

NM:  You're quite a risk taker, then.  Plain and simple.  There is very little in your approach that's safe.

KK:  I'm an entrepreneur!  I'm passionate about what I do.  I hate to use the word 'passion,' because it no longer means anything these days, but I really do this because I love doing it!

Love, indeed.  And that, along with inspiration, determination, and innovation, have provided Kenneth Kahn with the much-needed fuel for his entrepreneurial spirit, allowing him not only to realize his dream but quite possibly to be instrumental in the recognition of Alexander Valley as a source of premium handcrafted wines.  Little did he know, upon starting his venture over twenty years ago, that breaking ground to plant a new vineyard would eventually lead him to breaking ground in furthering a winegrowing region.  To learn more about his Blue Rock portfolio of wines and how to get them, visit Blue Rock Vineyard online.  Photo Credits: Blue Rock Vineyard and website.  v

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Aspinal of London (US)

wine in the news

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