Kindred Wines' Co-Founder Tim Halloran Discusses Launching a Wine Brand

Kindred Wines LabelIt reads like a pilot for a Hollywood sitcom: Six friends move to Northern California, share a mutual enthusiasm for wine, and start their own wine label. In the Hollywood version, comedy and romance would surely ensue. In real life, the world gets some great wine. IntoWine caught up with Tim Halloran, one of Kindred Wines' six co-founders, to discuss the joys and hurdles of their nascent wine venture.

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What inspired the name Kindred Wines?

As the name might suggest, our winery was founded on friendship. There are six partners in Kindred, and most of our relationships date back to high school in New England. In fact, Roberto and I have been friends since the 6th grade when he informed me that I would probably not end up on the Celtics. We grew up together, learned about wine together, and through good fortune, most of us ended up living in wine country. We feel that making a wine we are proud of sharing with friends, family and passionate consumers expands our kindred philosophy beyond our circle.

How did your foray into winemaking come about?

For more than 25 years, The California Wine Club founders Bruce and Pam Boring have explored all corners of California’s wine country to find award-winning, handcrafted wine to share with the world. Each month, the club features a different small family winery and hand selects two of their best wines for members.
The Kindred Wines Pinot Noir 2007 was recently reviewed on IntoWineTV, watch now

Several of the partners followed the "Go west, young man" philosophy in life and found ourselves living near each other in California. Sharing our favorite wines as a group only increased our already unbalanced passion for wine and prompted us to learn more about the process. After a few classes and investigating custom crush facilities for several months, we realized this was something we really wanted to do, but only if we could do it correctly; with top quality grape sources and wine making equipment. The opportunity to source Amber Ridge grapes, which we coveted from other releases we had tasted, really opened the door for us and made us realize that with a lot of support, we could make a world class wine. We spent months on our first wine plan, running our questions and decisions by some of the best names in the Pinot business, and the growth curve has increased steadily since that first vintage. We are now five years in and more excited to be doing this than ever.

Describe your winemaking philosophy:

Kindred Wines focuses on producing world class wines that are balanced, food friendly and a faithful expression of California fruit and terroir.

What are your long-term goals for the brand?

We would like to grow beyond "micro-producer" of less than 1000 cases to a small producer, but never at the cost of our fanaticism about quality. We also hope to break down some of the consumer stereotypes around wine consumption. Several of our partners are Asian American, and we feel there are some doors to be opened both in pairing of Asian foods with wine, as well as with inspiring and increasing awareness of wine consumption beyond a certain limited demographic.

Why the focus on Roussanne/Marsanne, Syrah, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon?

This is part of the beauty of being a renegade winery not bound by the grapes of a specific microclimate. We wanted to make the wines that we love to drink and that we feel pair particularly well with a wide range of foods. There are very few small wineries who do not either limit their focus to a single grape or to strictly either Bordeaux or Burgundy varietals. So doing Rhone and Burgundy and Bordeaux varietals may seem unusual, but these are our favorite wines to drink, and we put our heart and soul into them.

When it comes to winemaking, what's one thing you know now that you wish you had known before you started?

That's a very hard question to answer, because I would tend to say knowing about the difficulties of the wine economy over the past few years would have helped us in some ways. But if we had known, we might have made different decisions and wouldn't have some of the great wines we believe we have produced during that time. And from a winemaking point of view, like everyone else, we have learned through our mistakes, so even those I wouldn't take back. With the possible exception of not spitting during three hour blending sessions. Rookies.

A hot topic in wine circles is the "Parkerization" of wines. Some people claim his 100 point scoring system has been an enabling factor for consumers as they navigate the endless array of brands from which they can choose. Others claim his influence has negatively impacted wine quality as producers are increasingly crafting their wines to earn a high score from Parker at the expense of making the best wine they can with the fruit and resources they have available. Given this, what are your thoughts on Parker and the 100 point scoring system?

I think everyone, whether they embrace the scoring system or not, through tasting enough wines find themselves trusting his or her own palate more than that of a critic who will unquestionably have unique preferences. I'm more concerned that the scores drive a behavior in wineries to make wines that may be overblown and are no longer food friendly. I have no objection to people expressing their opinions about the wine, though. That's part of the fun of it all, the social discourse and arguments that follow. "16% alcohol in a Pinot? Are you kidding me?" "Yeah, but it's the wine of the year!"

Lastly, where can your wines be purchased?

www.kindredwines.com; www.vinvillage.com; www.localwino.com; several shops in California, and Browne Trading Co. in Portland, ME for those on the east coast.