For nearly fifty years, four generations, a Mendocino family legacy continues.
The resulting fruit was of sufficient quality to interest the likes of Kendall-Jackson Vineyards, who became the ranch's principal buyer. This relationship endured even after Ed's passing in 1991. In 1997, additional Merlot vineyards were added that brought the ranch's total acreage under vine to nearly 38 acres.
In 2005, rising production costs forced the family to make a decision to enter the winery aspect of the business. At that time, a tiny amount (300 cases) of Chardonnay was produced under the Kimmel Vineyards label.
The spirited Kimmel family celebrates a successful harvest season and toasts to a promising new year.
The winery has grown steadily and will produce around 10,500 cases this year.
"We have a basic plan that calls for us to increase our production as the opportunity exists," co-owner Jim Kimmel explains. "We approach the business as a fun opportunity for us all and could conceivably become a 20-40,000 case winery in the future. It is all in the hands of the consuming public. If they decide to like our wines even more that they do now, we will provide the market with what it demands."
Built in 1916, an original ranch house sits in the middle of Kimmel Vineyards and offers a distinctive symbol for the family operation.
Kimmel also feels that price/value is an important consideration for his winery. "Our winemaker, Bruce Regalia, wants us to have the best possible wines. He produces a number of excellent wines and then it's up to us to sell them. All I demand is that our wines are presented correctly to potential customers and that isn't always the case. Even if you have the best wines, that's doesn't always make the difference. It's a combination of factors that makes a winery successful and we understand that. It is also nice to be in a position of having really good wines to start with and a realistic pricing schedule that people can afford."
Jim Kimmel's younger brother Gary, 63, is also involved with the everyday chores of Kimmel Vineyards. Their mother, Lillian, now 88 years young, still has a hand in the operation. She is the company's bookkeeper and even provides cooking specialties for events at the Kimmel Ranch.
Kimmel Vineyards is somewhat unique that it has been in the same family's hands for more than six decades. It has made excellent use of the land and has found a niche for its stable of quality-oriented wines. It is a wonderful story of family desire and dedication through times and cycles that weren't always monetarily productive.
Kimmel Vineyards offers an ideal combination of white and red wines that have garnered some remarkable scores and awards throughout their lifetime. It is Gold Medal Wine Club's pleasure to introduce these fine Mendocino County wines to our members.
About the Vineyard
In many ways, Mendocino County’s northerly location makes it ideal for growing grapes of great substance. Blessed with the same potential maritime influence of both Sonoma County and Napa Valley, Mendocino experiences even more of the fog and coldness that certain grape varietals thrive on. For many years, it has been the home to a number of the sparkling (champagne) wineries that flourished on its unique mixture of soils and weather factors. The area known as Potter Valley (where Kimmel Ranch is located) is an upcoming sub region of Mendocino County. It is located northeast of Ukiah and one of the most northerly growing areas in California.
Most of the vineyards in Potter Valley are grown at altitudes around and above 1,000 feet in somewhat hilly terrain, an aide to proper natural irrigation for the vines. While not producing the volume numbers of their valley floor counterparts, the quality of the fruit produced has remained exceptionally high since the first vineyards were planted in Potter Valley some years ago.
The larger Mendocino County Appellation is widely known for both white and red grape production and is home to numerous boutique wineries that score highly in tasting competitions. It is a throwback to the Napa Valley of the 1960’s where smallish wineries dotted the bucolic countryside. A trip to Northern California’s wine country that does not contain a side trip to Mendocino County would be considered a real omission to any true wine enthusiast.
Bruce Regalia - Winemaker
Bruce Regalia has been part of Kimmel Vineyards since its inception. Classic Italian family traditions (Sundays were for eating great food and drinking homemade wines) were his introduction into the world of wine. A graduate of Chico State (Chico, CA) in plant and soil science, and botany, Regalia brings a wealth of information to his winemaking job.
He was formerly associated with the successful Goldeneye Pinot Noir project in Anderson Valley that was made famous by Dan Duckhorn, the Napa Valley wine icon. Regalia was also winemaker for the esteemed Madrigal Vineyard in Calistoga. Bruce Regalia brings a no-nonsense approach to his wines and works closely with Kimmel Vineyards' long time Vineyard Manager Mark Welch in hand selecting the grapes that constitute the Kimmel Vineyards portfolio.
Gary, Dennis, Lillian and Jim Kimmel
As the Kimmel Family's oldest son, Jim Kimmel, 66, has lead a most adventurous life. A 1969 graduate of the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis, Kimmel spent a total of ten years in the Navy before deciding on a career outside the armed forces.
He decided on a real estate career in Southern California and wound up in the investment side of the business. He and his wife Debbie (they met right after he finished Annapolis) settled into a rewarding career in real estate.
A strong believer in the Kimmel Family, he supported the efforts of his father Ed and his California farming enterprise in Northern California. With the death of his father in 1991, Jim Kimmel became an integral part of what has developed into Kimmel Vineyards.
"Fortunately I had done rather well in my business down south," he informed. "Our grape growing operation was going along nicely and we had more buyers for our wines than we knew what to do with. Then prices started heading downward and costs began rising. My family made a decision to get into the winery business and I supported it fully."
Kimmel plays an important part in today's wine operation. He is the glue that holds everything together as well as the financial resource that saw the winery through its initial stages of operation. He is also a savvy wine executive that knows what a truly good bottle of wine tastes like.
"I was fortunate enough in my former business to be able to enjoy some of the finest wines in the world," he continued. "So I know we make some really exceptional wines. Our winemaker is very talented and produces a superior product for our customers. The winery's record of honors and awards speaks for itself. But, that being said, the job of selling our wines isn't all that easy. Wineries need niches to fit into and we are determined to hold our pricing so that our wines are affordable to a large number of people. With the costs involved, that isn't an easy job to accomplish."
Jim Kimmel also pointed out that Kimmel Vineyards isn't an operation where a large number of family members are on the payroll. "We want to get to the point that we can expand a bit and hire some additional people. In order to do that, it is necessary to sell all the wine we make and this is a most competitive business. Sometimes I look at my job and see how hard it is. Then I think about how it would be if I wasn't selling really good wines - that would be awful."
The Kimmel Vineyards style of wines tends toward the classic, dry variety. "Some people want fruit bombs for wines but we are sticking to what has worked well for us in the past," Kimmel added. "I know we make great wines here and that's what really counts."
Kimmel is also quite enthusiastic about his son Jason, 33, who has recently completed the first stage of courses to earn a Master Sommelier designation. He is currently studying and hopes to complete the program in the near future. "Jason hopes to one day become the face of Kimmel Vineyards," his dad explained further. "It will be absolutely perfect if our company was led by someone with that much wine knowledge and education."
The Kimmel family wine adventure is a natural for someone like Jim Kimmel whose talents are deep and whose work ethic is unmatched. Kimmel Vineyards is still small by industry standards but will grow with continued exposure and consumer acceptance.