Kevin Holt has been making wine professionally in northern California for more than twenty years. A native of the southern end of the Golden State, he’s been indulging his passion for fine wine most of his adult life, as a consumer, retailer, wholesaler, student, and now, producer. Kevin loves to hear, “You know, I hate [fill in varietal name here], but yours is really good!” Or, better still, “I love [fill in varietal name here], and this is the best one I’ve ever had!” Hearing both sentiments, about the same wines, on a regular basis lets him know that he’s doing something right!
I sat down with him for part 2 of our shows on Bartholomew Estate Vineyards & Winery in Sonoma, California (find part 1 here), which is part of the Frank H. Bartholomew Foundation. Surrounded by the exquisite paintings by members of the Sonoma Plein Air Foundation in the historic tasting room’s art gallery, Kevin poured two of his wines from Bartholomew Estate, the 2019 Sauvignon Blanc, and the 2018 Garden Block Zinfandel. (He told a particularly interesting story of working with two different Zinfandel clones on the property during the show.)
Prior to becoming a winemaker, Kevin sold wine, both retail and wholesale, so he knows the wine business both inside and out. He brings all his production, tasting, and sales experience to the wines he makes and is never satisfied with “good enough.” As Anna Pope, Trustee of the foundation, mentioned in part 1 of our Bartholomew Estate show: she liked Kevin’s winemaking style from her enjoyment of his wines at Beltane Ranch, where is also winemaker.
At the top of the show, Kevin mentioned to me that the first thing he wanted to find out when Anna asked him his interest in making wine at Bartholomew was whether or not the organically-farmed and certified vineyards on the 375-acre private park (open to the public) could produce terrific wines. He made it very clear that without great source vines, there’s only so much magic he can perform in the winemaking process.
He was pleasantly surprised to find the 22-acres of vines planted within the park were producing great grapes. The rest would be in his hands to ramp up production. The next challenge he faced was the absence of wine-making equipment on the property. Previous wineries hadn’t made the wine on the property, so he began the laborious process of acquiring equipment and crafting a production facility in the 100-year-old building.
Tune in as we taste through Kevin’s Sauvignon Blanc and Zinfandel. We had planned to taste on the tasting room patio within sight of the vineyards or out on the Oak Knoll, which provides visitors with plenty of shade while enjoying the wine. But there were so many visitors enjoying their glasses and bottles of wine, we retreated to the art gallery.
Bartholomew Estate is open daily to the public for tasting experiences and sales. But to fully enjoy the park (which is privately owned but open to the public), visitors have a number of outdoor experiences to choose from, including horseback riding, picnicking and trail hiking in the back country. Within the winery, visitors can enjoy tasting at the wine bar or sipping in the art gallery while viewing the works on display.
Here the first commercial vineyard in California was planted in 1832, before Mariano Vallejo’s arrival in Sonoma, and decades before Count Agoston Haraszthy first sampled the wines made from the grapes grown on this land which he would later purchase. It’s quite a legacy—and one most worthy of sampling from one of the many seating and picnic areas overlooking the vineyards.
You can even bring your dogs (on leash) to hike the trails or relax next to you while you sip your wine overlooking the vineyards on the Oak Knoll. Fido can choose from treats and toys available for sale for visiting pooches in the tasting room.
Best of all, visitors to the park can enjoy Kevin’s wine while viewing the land on which the first commercial vineyard was planted (and is still growing the grapes that go in the wine at Bartholomew Estate Vineyards & Winery) more than 175 years ago. Cheers!