Kitchak: a name to remember

Posted on October 29th, 2008 – 8:15 AM
By Bill Ward

It’s probably not a reach to call Peter Kitchak a Renaissance man. The Minneapolitan is a real-estate magnate and auto-racing champion. Now he’s in the process of putting together a world-class winery.

I wouldn’t bet against him becoming just as successful in that venture as he has been in the first two. The president of Keewaydin Real Estate Advisors is bringing the same senses of purpose and perfection to Kitchak Cellars.

“I decided that if I was going to make wine, the only way to do it was to be the very best, to make a cabenet as good as Colgin or Screaming Eagle,” he said over lunch last week at Zelo.

That means sparing no expense or energy, starting with the sourcing of the grapes. Kitchak’s “Concerto” cabernet sauvignon hails from the justifiably storied Beckstoffer To Kalon Vineyard, the grapes for his white blend from Saralee’s Vineyard in the Russian River Valley. Kitchak is also excited about the Bordeaux grapes from his own Lake Cynthia Vineyard in southern Napa.

It also means being innovative. On a visit to the Languedoc region of France, Litchak encountered a white wine that bewitched and bewildered him. When he asked the proprietor how she did it, she pointed to a hill with a thin strip of chardonnay plantings — which, not to put too fine a point on it, are not allowed in that area. That’s why Kitchak’s “Vivace” is not technically a Rhone blend, even though it’s mostly rousanne and marsanne. The current vintage is 6-percent chardonnay. “We found that if we got up near 10 percent, the wine tasted like a chardonnay,” said Kitchak, who also is making an unusual rose’, out of cabernet sauvignon.

It also means being seriously involved. Kitchak, who took a two-year graduate-level correspondence course at Cal-Davis, closely monitors his product from the vineyards to the Crushpad facility in San Francisco (which is a great story unto itself, btw) As a fan of French-style winemaking, Kitchak has his grapes picked earlier than most Napa wineries, ensuring more acidity and less fruit-bombery. He also is shifting his Bordeaux blend, he said, “toward the Right Bank,” meaning more merlot and less cab. The 2005 “Adagio” is 80-percent cabernet, but by the 2007 vintage he had gotten the admixture to be primarily merlot.

The wines, alas, are not widely available here, although Cue at the Guthrie carries a bit of it. They also can be ordered at the winery’s website — if there’s any left after I get done scarfing some up.

Soon, though, Kitchak Cellars wines will be available at one of my favorite wine shops, Solo Vino in St. Paul. Speaking of which, Chuck Kanski’s already great Solo Vino staff just got a lot stouter with the addition of Mike Dombrow, late of Zipp’s and Tournament Liquors — and a Kitchak relation by marriage.

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