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Taste Dry Creek Valley Wine at Kokomo Winery

What’s the word for when the Zinfandel is bold, the Sauvignon Blanc sings, and two college buddies toiling under a tin roof in Dry Creek Valley open an unpretentious, fun little Sonoma County winery? Kokomo. 

Same Brick, Improved Digs

Last time I stopped in at the Kokomo tasting room, it was a hole-in-the-wall shop in Santa Rosa’s Railroad Square, where it was hard to miss “the brick.” Stamped with the word “Kokomo,” it’s a memento of winery founder Erik Miller’s hometown, a small Midwestern manufacturing center that’s actually been on the vanguard of so many industries besides masonry in its history—the wine industry excluded—the city’s motto is “City of Firsts.” But the Santa Rosa tasting room had a short run. 

Miller and his old college roommate Josh Bartels, now assistant winemaker, set up shop in Timber Crest Farms in 2008. At first, the winery looked a bit improvised: a collection of tanks and barrels underneath a roof in the center of the complex, which includes an olive press, a gourmet mustard maker, as well as other boutique wineries. They’ve built up an attractive shed around it all, and the tasting room is now carved out of a space in the barrel room. Decoratively lit and filled with the appealing, cool and vinous aroma of a wine cellar inside, the place offers plenty of space to linger. Peek in between a few barrel stacks, an you’ll find a “club room” where wine club members hang out. Barrels are festooned with t-shirts, and there’s stuff to buy along the back wall, where you’ll also find the brick in its place of honor. 

Kokomo may not be one of the “cult” wineries, in terms of high prices and wine collector frenzy, but they’re proud of some recent Wine Enthusiast scores, and I’m told at the tasting room that—although they’ll still try to sell you on it—they may have to limit their more than 2,000-strong wine club in the future, and refer latecomers to a waiting list. Kokomo wines can also be found at the many events they contribute to, including the Sonoma County Fair, the Petaluma Music Festival and the High Sierra Music Festival. 

Take a Sip

Kokomo is known for their big, brambly Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel, but their Chardonnay passes the brother-in-law test, too. On a recent, annual trip to scout out big red wines for his father, my brother-in-law, who prefers Chardonnay, declared the 2012 Russian River Valley Chardonnay ($28) OK by him. 

Sweetly accented with lychee and pear, the 2013 Timber Crest Sauvignon Blanc ($20) shows off the varietal’s fresh fruit but not grassiness; oak spices up the 2012 Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel ($32), which is more smooth and sweet-finishing than the last vintage of this wine I tasted. And if you like the big red wines, don’t say you’re not drinking any, er, gosh-darn Merlot here: A sip of Dry Creek Valley Merlot ($32) contains a wall of sweet-berried fruit. 

Hit the Road

Stroll next door to sample olive oil at Dry Creek Olive Oil Company and Trattore Wines; head across the parking lot to Amphora, Papapietro Perry and Peterson Winery; pick up wine country barbecue sauce and other giftables at Family Wineries of Dry Creek Valley. For a picnic, head up the road to Warm Springs Recreation Area below Lake Sonoma. 

Kokomo, 4791 Dry Creek Road at Timber Crest Farms, Healdsburg, CA 95448. Open daily, 11am-4:30pm. Tasting fee, $10. 707.433.0200.

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