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Carroll Kemp is the man behind the wines that made Red Car famous and in turn helped shine the brightest spotlights on the West Sonoma coast. The wines he made there have become legendary, not... Read More
Carroll Kemp is the man behind the wines that made Red Car famous and in turn helped shine the brightest spotlights on the West Sonoma coast. The wines he made there have become legendary, not least of which is the rosé he developed from Pinot Noir that helped ignite the dry rosé revolution that has swept over our state. Red Car flourished and with that success came new pressures from investors that simply did not jive with what Carroll was interested in doing.
In the midst of Red Car’s' success, Carroll started working on a side project. An entrepreneur by the name of Jan Holterman approached him about starting a boutique cool-climate Pinot Noir label. He jumped on as winemaker and they decided on the name Alma Fria (soul of the cold) and in 2012 produced their first vintage. Within a few years they were up to a few hundred cases.
Around the time that Carroll was contemplating an exit from Red Car, Jan Holterman, who had over time relied on Carroll to run more and more of the business, decided to move back to his home in Costa Rica and handed over the reins of Alma Fria to Carroll. After accepting a buyout from Red Car, Carroll began his new journey as sole proprietor of Alma Fria. He went from 40 employees to only one, himself.
He leaned into the change and decided that Alma Fria would begin to produce the most transparent wines that anyone was making from the fog strewn ridges of Sonoma. With over 17 years of working in these vineyards he knew them better than almost anyone. With such powerful terroir wines made in the manner he envisioned would be able to clearly elaborate from where in this geologically and climatically diverse land they came from.
This means picking early, and not being overly extractive in the winemaking. The Pinots ferment to dryness with a little bit of stem inclusion and are pressed when dry. The Chardonnays are whole-cluster pressed, settled, and then go into barrels.Carroll uses only a little bit of new oak, lets the wine naturally go through malo, and never adds any yeast, water, or acid along the way.
While he would never call these natural wines they certainly check many of those boxes. But Carroll isn't doing this because it's fashionable or trendy. He does it so that his wine can really deliver a wine that speaks to its heritage. Whether coming from Annapolis in the northern part of the appellation or west of Petaluma in the southern end, the wines carry the distinct markers of their terroir.