Uncorked: Expansion of the Inman pinot noir toolbox

Passion oozed from every word Kathleen Inman had to say about rosé.

The veteran winemaker built a reputation on rosé long before it was popular. She’s dedicated her Russian River Valley property, and fruit she purchased from other vineyards in the neighborhood, to turning out the best rosé of pinot noir and pinot noir possible every vintage.

That meant in 2018 she had a little less pinot than usual, because she made three single-vineyard rosés. These rosés continue to set the standard for quality in a marketplace suddenly crowded with bottles as consumers have discovered the joys of the refreshing, food-friendly wine.

Inman recently welcomed a panel of journalists to a Zoom call.

Winemaker spotlight

We went for a walk to start the call.

Well, Inman went for a walk and the journalists watched her emerge from inside the tasting room to the vineyards in the infantile stages of the 2020 growing season. She said things were “moving right along,” as a warm and gentle breeze blanketed the vineyard.

“I’ve always loved this vineyard,” said Inman, who planted Olivet Grange Vineyard in 2000. “No matter what I make, it has great minerality and complexity to it. It has only gotten better as it has matured.”

The preferences of the American wine drinker have matured right alongside the vineyard. Inman joked that when she began her “rosé crusade,” there “was no ‘bro-sé’ or ‘hashtag rosé all day,’ movements” on social media. At tastings she’d received a kind dismissal when she offered to pour a rosé.

“I”m an evangelist for rosé,” Inman said. “I’ve been trying to get people to appreciate it at all times of the year not just as soon as the vintage is released. In 2013, it’s like a switch went on and everyone realized rosé is a great wine, a fine wine and not just an aperitif.”

With “just a bit of skin contact,” Inman is able to add a little more grip and depth to the Inman Family Wines Endless Crush OGV Rosé of Pinot Noir 2019 ($38). She doesn’t add acid or dilute the wine with water in the cellar and the resultant red grapefruit, watermelon and strawberry flavors linger harmoniously.

Evolution in a winemaker's preference was on display with the Inman Family Wines Russian River Valley Pinot Noir Special Blend 2017 ($68). The wildly diverse, full-bodied pinot was a thrill ride of a wine.

”I’m always focused on a single vineyard because it shows the taste of place,” Inman said. “I am fascinated by the impact the elevation, soil and aspect ratio to the sun have on the wine that is made. This was a blend from three distinct neighborhoods and I like how different they are. I think a blend can be more complete and tastier at times."

Sourced from three vineyards, Inman said the Pratt Sexton Ranch site with vineyards planted to hillsides at an elevation of 900 feet brought jammy fruit with fennel flavor to the blend.

Pratt Vine Hill was a vineyard that provided blueberry, raspberry and purple flowers. And her home vineyard, the OGV Estate, which brought whole cluster fermentation to the blend, offered up red fruit, rhubarb, cranberry and black spice flavors.

It was a virtuoso drinking experience and showed a skilled winemaker working with a full tool box of flavors from neighboring vineyard sites to build a special wine.

• James Nokes has been tasting, touring and collecting in the wine world for several years. Email him at jamesnokes25@yahoo.com.