The moment you walk into Kastania, you feel like you are visiting an old friend. My significant other and I were instantly and warmly greeted by Hoot Smith, who introduced himself and his wife, Linda.
They are the owners and winemakers of this small lot establishment in the Petaluma Gap, a small winemaking area of southern Sonoma county currently part of the Sonoma Coast AVA. Still, They have petitioned to become its own AVA.
Hoot explained that he was nicknamed after Hoot Gibson, the rodeo champion and actor (we never did find out the reason for the nickname). It seems Hoot and Linda were destined to be together, as she loves owls – there is an owl on their wine labels – but this is unrelated to her husband’s nickname (it’s apparently a common misconception that her affinity for owls has to do with her husband’s nickname – that question was asked by almost everyone who entered the winery while we were there).
The tasting room was small, but the presence of Hoot and Linda made it special. In addition, although we didn’t get a good look on this cold and rainy day, the patio outside seemed as though it would be very inviting. As we tasted the wines, six pinot noirs (some named after their grandchildren – very endearing) plus one cabernet franc/cabernet sauvignon blend, Hoot regaled us with stories.
We learned that Hoot wanted this wine business to be a joint venture with Linda, so he signed them up for wine classes. He said that Linda was reluctant at first but then fell in love with it. Hoot noted that he had sold his grapes to wineries such as Landmark in Sonoma, who used those grapes in a wine served to a US president.
The Kastania wines were delightful. It was a good education in a pinot noir – how different clones and different vintages of the same grape can lead to very different wines. There is often one bottle of wine that we wish we had bought on our wine tasting trips.
Kastania was an early stop on our trip. We hadn’t yet decided if we were taking wine home with us (carrying liquids on planes being complicated, expensive, and all), so we didn’t purchase a bottle after a few moments of indecision. Kastania’s pinot noir became that one bottle we wish we had bought.
We’ll definitely stop by on our next trip to pick one up – preferably on a warm and sunny day when we can enjoy their beautiful surroundings. I would certainly be happy to see Hoot and Linda again.