Making ‘Spirits’ bright

By Reggie Ellis

The Exeter Kiwanis Club’s &#8220Spirit of the Holidays” wine tasting event is always something to look forward to. But this year it may be even more so as Exeter native Dana Kirkpatrick’s award winning Big Valley Wine is among the list.

The most prominent of his three wines being served is Big Valley’s 2004 Sauvignon Blanc, which won the silver medal at this year’s State Fair. In his own words, vibrant wine is crisp and appealing. With hints of tropical fruit, apple and citrus, this wine will excite all sauvignon blanc enthusiasts.” The grapes were grown in a few distinctive sauvignon blanc growing regions throughout Big Valley, from the sloping hills near Mt. Konocti to the banks of Kelsey Creek.”

Kirkpatrick’s 2003 syrah and zinfandel will also be served. While just released, the 2002 vintage of each of those wines made headlines themselves.

Described as rich in elegant aromas of raspberry, cherry and vanilla.. a vibrant belnd of fruit, peeper, caramel and honey to reward the most discriminating taste,” Kirkpartick’s 2002 Big Valley Zinfandel won gold medal at the 2004 San Francisco Chronical Wine COmpetition.

His 2002 Syrah, ” a deep purple wine with intesnity and depth with rich aromas and earthy flavors of tobacco, black currant and cherry, won the silver medal at the 2004 State Fair. Both 2002 vntages have been sold out.

“I think this year we have the quality of wine we have been shooting for,” said the 42-year-old Exeter native. “In a red you should look for fruit intensity, color no flaws, like an odd flavor. I think this year is as lclose to the style we are looking for.”

Kirkpatrick and his wife, Pamela, began big Valley Wine out of their garage in Lake County, Calif. in 2001. The couple now lives on their start-up farm near Clear lake, Calif. with their two small children- Fiona, 4, and Leland, 3. Both have extensive wine making experience and do thwri own harvesting, crushing and hand labeling.

“It is alot of work and it keep sus busy with our day jobs,” Kirkpartick said. “But I am proud of the quality of wine that we produce.”

A 1982 graudate Exete Union High School, Kirkpatrickgrew up on his family cirus farm in Lemoncove  where his parents, John and Shirley, still live today. He atteneded Fresno State but did not study enology (winemaking), instead his winery career as a “cellar rat” where he learned very aspect of the wine making aret in teh early 1990s. He had the opporturniy and privlege of working with some of Napa Valley’s most outstanding winemakers. Among his mentors were John Vineyards in Carneros in the south valley and Bob Foley at the highlands west of St. Helena. In 1998, he came into his own as a winemaker when he brought life back to the 100 year old Pope Valley Winery and crafter many award wining wines.

“The perfect wine is where high quality meets a good price,” Kirkpatrick said. “There are many wines that are over priced either for the name, region, scarity or cult follwoings.”

Before their marriage, Pamela worked several crushes at Domain Chandon in Yountiville and Beringer in St. Hlena. In the off-season she travled to Australia where she worked for Hardy’s Wnes and Wirra Wirra Vineyards near Adelaide.

Pamela is charge with overseeing their farm’s emerging vineyard and olive plantings, handling Big Valley sales and bookkeeping, and caring for their children. She is also a first-grade teacher at a nearbyschool. Kirkpatrick said the goal is for the couple to own their own winery with a tasting room where they can sell directly to consumers.

“There is a lot of work and cost involved in trying to start a winery,” he said. “This isn’t something you can just jump into but is very satisfying.”

In addititon to kirkpartick’s Big Valley Wine, the Kiwanis Club has selected a fine array of other varieties and brands from thoruout the state from Pso Robles to Napa to the Shenadoah Valley for its 11th annual fund-raiser Spirit of the Holidays, from 4-7 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 3 at the Exeter Memorial Building.

Sixty-five perecnt of the wineat this year’s event will be reds, about 29% will be white wines and just over5% will be blush. There will be more than 40 different varieties of wine including cabernet, chardonnay, merlot, petite, syrah, port, riseling, sauvingnon zinfandel, zinfandel, etc.

The event also feartures excellent hors d’ oeuvres prepared by local restaurants, a silent autciton and Chirstmas Tree auction and a cigar bar one per person iv advance or $40 at the door.

Tickets are available from Exeter Kiwanis member; Visalia Community Bank, 300 E. Pine St.; the Exeter Chamber of Commerce,101 W. Pine St. and the Foothills Sun-Gazette 120 N. E St. in Exeter. You may also RSVP the number of guests by maiing a check to Exeter Kiwanis, P.O. Box 151 Exeter, CA 93221, and your tickets waiting for you at the door.

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