Growing up around her family vineyards Kramer Vineyards Head Winemaker, Kim Kramer, wasn't initially get drawn into wine industry work. Attending nearby Linfield College, Kim was connected to Art History and Philosophy rather than wine tasting. She chose one of the great Oregon wineries to work at, St. Innocent, and started learning about the industry.
Over time, Kim gravitated to learning about how wine is made and connecting with her family vineyards. I recently had the chance to sit down with Kim and chat wine. We talked about her fantastic new release wines as well as her winemaking story. Here is my interview with the talented winemaker of Kramer Vineyards, Kim Kramer.
WWB: Can you talk about your experience working with Pinot Noir in the past and how you have learned to work with the varietal:
KK: I went to Burgundy in 2010 and worked with them for a harvest. I learned that we had this great piece of property here in Oregon and could discover what parts are good for the upper tier wines but every vintage I wasn't sure what the approach was going to be. 2010 after going to Burgundy and living with the family and having my time in fruit for three weeks instead of doing the thing in the cellar that I am supposed to do, I came to really understand all the steps that you take. So I came home and I felt like I had a storing point of view and knew how I wanted the wines to be made. Picking the fruit at the right time is essential. Also fostering a heathy fermentation is really important, rather than looking at the fruit when it comes in, understanding what happens during the entire course of the fermentation really helps. Being an estate vineyard I can go out and sample whenever we want. Picking is quick which helps because we are estate. For me, once a harvest date is set, paying attention until fermentation is done.
I was really impressed with your 2014 Kramer Vineyards ‘Brut’ Sparkling Wine (WWB, 90). Can you talk about your great new Sparkling Release the 2014 Brut?
KK: We have three blocks that are set aside for our Brut and the blend is determined by the vineyard. When we target the right time to pick and it is important that the acid be nice and high. The job of the Sparkling Wine is to have that mineral driven side and I am not afraid of high acid. The 2014 vintage was warm and we have a hilly property so it has uneven ripening. That works to the benefit for this wine. There is a ripeness of the top of the vineyard and then green that might come through for other wines, we want that in. 2014 and 2015 and 2016 were exceedingly hot vintages and we need to have more green fruit in our Brut for the acid levels. There was minimal dosage in our 2014 Brut and it was about 3 grams a liter. I want to be open to that level based on the vintage. Ever since i have been making this wine in 2009 we have settled in that. We even do some zero dosage but as the wine ages it give more weight and freshness.
WWB: I thoroughly enjoyed your 2104 ‘Pommard Clone’ Pinot Noir (WWB, 91) which was a fantastic earthy effort Can you talk about the wine?
�KK: In our 2014 Pommard Clone Pinot Noir experimented with whole cluster fermentation. My parents had experimented with that in the past but in 2014 we had a lot of fruit to work with. That helped with doing these experiments that I wanted to do for four or five vintages. We did about 20-25% whole cluster fermentation The Pommard is from our estate vineyard and from a Yamhill vineyard that is lower elevation. Blending them together I thought would be really interesting because I am familiar with the Pommard from our site but the other site I wasn't as sure how it would turn out. The thing that is somewhat frustrating is that I don’t have the most amazing blending palate. When we do a blend I am often surprised how much the wine changes over time. So for all of differences in that wine compared to our estate, the Pommard Clone wine is really interesting. That helps to get a grasp of what the new site contributes to the wine. I really like the weight the texture and mouthfeel of our 2014 Pommard.
WWB: Your delicious 2014 Kramer Vineyards ‘Estate’ Pinot Noir (WWB, 90) is a great value, priced at $28.00 retail. Can you talk about the wine and how you look to add value to your winery portfolio?
KK: We like to have wines that are good value. I think it is easier to have a price point where people can incorporate into their regular routine instead of making them special occasion wines. This Estate Pinot Noir wine comes from the block of the vineyards that my parents planted in 1985. At that time we had access to 3 types of clones off Pinot Noir. This wine was made 25% whole cluster fermentation. All the fruit comes in about the same time, around late September. One of the things that is really important is to have the acidity there at harvest and I am not adding it later. That is really important for the primary extraction that you have the first few days. The red berry fruit, you want that to be there and you get more into the red fruits when you don't have the acidity there to begin with. When I saw the acid numbers I thought maybe it was too early with picking but now closer to bottling we realized that it is a nice combination of showing well now but i will only get better with time. Our barrel program is pretty simple. My dad does a lot of the vineyard work and I am not interested in showcasing barrel. This one had about 25% of new french oak. A lot of older french oak.