Kenny Koda is a seasoned veteran in the wine industry, with experience including ten years as wine director and sommelier at Harmon’s Restaurant in Telluride, CO. He earned his Advanced Sommelier certificate from The Court of Master Sommeliers and continues to study, hoping to achieve the master level.
Today, Kenny is the Senior Hospitality Manager for multiple Foley Family Wines properties in Napa Valley, including the esteemed Kuleto Estate. He shares with us some of the most unique features of Kuleto, including the notorious drive, stunning views, and acclaimed wines.
AN UNFORGETTABLE HILLTOP ESTATE
One of the greatest perks of being a member of The Foley Food & Wine Society is the opportunity to visit all of the great properties in California, Washington, and Oregon. One of the most unique – if not the most unique – is Kuleto Estate.
Kuleto Estate was the vision of famous restaurateur Pat Kuleto, who is known for his highly-designed restaurants with a careful attention to detail. From the underwater themed Fallaron to the perfect Belle Epoch themed Brassiere Boulevard, these restaurants are works of art – and Kuleto Estate winery is no exception.
Located high above Napa Valley in the eastern Vaca Mountain range, Kuleto Estate is only minutes from Silverado trail but it seems worlds away. As you wind up Highway 128 past beautiful Lake Hennessey for just over six miles, you’ll arrive at an imposing gate. This gate is closed and you have to radio up to the winery to receive an “all clear” signal to proceed. First time visitors often wonder why this is necessary – but it only takes a few hundred feet to realize why.
Ahead is a narrow one-lane road, which for many is more intimidating than it is challenging; it’s wider than it appears with many areas to pull over if you meet another vehicle on your trek up the mountain. As you continue to drive the nearly two mile road, you’ll ascend over 1,000 feet until you reach the foot of Kuleto Estate. Do this drive once and you will understand why this is a by appointment only experience and can book up months in advance in the busy season!
It’s easy to be overwhelmed by the physical beauty of both the natural setting and the detailed winery and its buildings. Kuleto Estate the essence of rugged good looks and back-country sophistication, with a dramatic property that reflects an intricate patchwork of steeply wooded hillsides interspersed with vineyards that have been divided into 100+ micro-blocks based upon topography and geology.
Not to be out-done by the scenery, the real star of the show are the property’s amazing and unique wines. Kuleto produces thirteen different wines, and often half are being poured at each estate tasting.
The estate vineyards fill every compass point and have many different exposures, resulting in a variety of micro-climates that allow us to grow a variety of different grapes. From cool-climate Chardonnay and Sangiovese to warm-climate Syrah and five different single sourced Cabernet Sauvignons, we have something for every palate and some of the most age-worthy wines in the entire Foley Family Wines portfolio.
KULETO WINE RECOMMENDATIONS
We hope that you’ll have a chance to visit us at Kuleto Estate in person soon, but understand that this isn’t always the case. If you’d like to try the best Kuleto from the comfort of your own home, try one of these great hand-picked wines showcasing the best that Kuleto has to offer:
2014 KULETO ESTATE “HOMESTEAD” CHARDONNAY
This is not the oaky, butter Chardonnay-lovers wine! This is from a 1,800’ elevation and is much cooler than a lot of areas where Chardonnay is grown. As a result, only 20% of the Chardonnay sees malolactic fermentation and is aged in mainly neutral oak leading to an acid-driven wine that focuses on wonderful apple/pear/citrus fruit flavors. This makes this Chardonnay a perfect food wine, especially with vegetables and seafood.
2015 KULETO SANGIOVESE
My personal favorite! Like the Homestead Block Chardonnay, this wine does not see much new oak (actually no new oak; it is aged in large used Hungarian Oak barrels). This wine is focused on the great tart red fruit flavors and marched with surprisingly rich smooth tannins for such a delicate wine. My favorite food wine in all of Foley Food & Wine Society! Match this with anything with tomatoes or any game birds like quail or duck.
2015 KULETO ESTATE CABERNET FRANC
This is definitely a member favorites. With limited cases made, this grape is one of the parents of Cabernet Sauvignon and offers a “hot tamale” like spice and wonderful savory fruit characteristics finished with blueberry candy-like finish. I’d recommend serving it with a leaner steak like Filet Mignon.
2015 KULETO DANIELLI
Simply put, this is the best of the best from the property. The Danielli is a Cabernet Sauvignon-based red wine blend and the most in-demand wine from the estate, selling out in record time year after year.