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Introducing Red Car Wines

We are psyched to introduce Red Car Wines, the latest addition to our Domestic Portfolio.  Founded in 2000 by Carroll Kemp and Mark Estrin with 50 cases of Syrah from a single ton of grapes, Red Car Wines came fresh off the press with a highly scored Syrah, before releasing a value brand called “Box Car” that gained traction and fans all across the country. However, they soon came to realize that neither one of these projects spoke to their true calling: investing in the idea of balance and terroir in California.  So in 2004 they recalibrated, and purchased land atop a coastal mountain range on the “True” Sonoma Coast (now Fort Ross/Seaview AVA) with neighbors that include Hirsch, Marcassin, Peay, and others.

And this is where their third, and most important, chapter in life begins.

In the past year, it’s become fashionable to chase cool climate sites in California, such as The Petaluma Wind Gap, North Sonoma Coast, or other small pockets near the Pacific Ocean.  What drew us to Red Car is their instinct; the fact that they had made these decisions and had had this focus long before it was in vogue. Their mission became to find appropriate sites for farming, to vinify their wines with minimal intervention, and to create a wine that speaks to a sense of place.

The release of their 2010 Pinot Noirs, Chardonnay and ’08 Syrah represent this newly defined mission and the wines are measuring up to something really special. The 2009 vintage was the first full harvest from the new Estate vineyard; and in the coming years, their estate will provide more and more grapes that promise to yield elegant wines with exceptional balance.

Besides an enthusiasm for wine, Kemp and Estrin also shared a Hollywood background – Carroll as producer, Mark as screenwriter. Their intent was simple: to source great grapes and make great wine that could be marketed in an inventive, original way.

The winery name is a tribute to the electric trolley cars that ran throughout Los Angeles from the late 19th century through the early 1960’s. These “red cars” provided transportation in a romanticized time and place. Carroll and Mark strive to make wines that are similarly memorable and transportive.

Red Car uses meticulous viticulture and transparent winemaking to craft wines with authentic character and originality. Combining old and new world techniques, they minimize manipulation so that the fruit can faithfully express the cool climate personality of the Sonoma Coast.

From a viticultural perspective, the Sonoma Coast is ideal primarily because of its climate, which is the single most influential factor in determining the potential quality of fruit. Typically, spring begins around mid-March and continues with generally pleasant weather into May. This allows for a healthy and timely bud break. Rain between mid-May and mid-October is rare; temperatures very rarely hit triple digits in a year. This long, dry, cool season is ideal because it allows the grapes to ripen slowly. Slow ripening extends hang times, which in turn intensifies flavors without spiking sugars or dropping acids, both of which can occur with excessive heat.

Red Car’s long and exciting migration north has started.

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