Kevin Kelley of Salinia & The NPA, Part II
Sauvignon Blanc Vines for “25 Reasons”
Kevin Kelley argues that winemaking is a craft and not a form of art, he said of his winemaking experience: “You have raw material, and you apply your craft to that material, but you can’t make it be what you want it to be…You can spend your life learning a craft but you need to be moving, thinking, creating. That’s the beauty.” And beautiful indeed are the wines from the Natural Process Alliance (NPA).
“Every once and a while I come across barrels that are full of character and personality, and they stand out above the rest,” said Kevin. “In my mind, I had this problem, because Salinia has its own entity–three wines–and I don’t want to dilute that.” And though the barrels for Salinia and the NPA sit side-by-side in the cellar, the wines for Salinia are made with consistency to meet expectations, while the barrels that become NPA wines could never be replicated. “It was chance or luck that those wines are here.”
Made from Heintz Ranch Chardonnay, In the Box finished its fermentation in January/February, before Kelley came close to dumping the barrels. Waxing and waning from his most favorite wine in the cellar to the wine that he disliked the most, the barrel was given a “time out” in the cellar’s corner. “I came back to it a year later,” said Kelley, “and it was how I needed it, how I loved it. It’d found itself.” After 30 months in the barrel. And though this wine was originally intended to be blended into the Salinia Chardonnay, Kelley said that it would have lost its character. “There’s no dogma, no recipe, no set guidelines,” he added, “I set back and let the wine do what it wanted.”
Sun Hawk Farms, Mendocino
Originally intended to be consumed young, the Red Field Blend from Sun Hawk Farms had aging potential. A Southern Rhone varietal blend from a biodynamically farmed vineyard in Mendocino that was grown, harvested and fermented whole cluster together –complete with twice daily foot-treading, the wine was then aged for 18 months in 500 liter acacia barrels. Releasing his first vintage from Sun Hawk Farms in 2008, Kelley came across the property by luck and chance. A vineyard manager who was familiar with Kevin’s farming needs and winemaking style called to suggest that he come by for a visit. “He knew to keep his mouth closed,” said Kelley and laughed, “to not tell me the varietals to get me out there. I wasn’t looking for Syrah, but after three minutes on the property, I knew the soil, the way it was farmed. It was still three years before producing its first grape, but I took everything and asked him not to tell anyone.”
Playing small venues in lieu of big arenas, Kelley creates the labels for his wines, which he then uploads into an cyber journal, which you can view here. “The idea came from just using journals…I needed a place to send people who wanted more information on the wine and I’d send them the link. It’s more for that than for people stumbling across it online.” Because just like Kelley’s wines, this little gem can be tough to locate.