Community Focus: Dan Kessler - SAMsARA Wine Co.

SAMsARA Winemaker, Matt Brady, met with Dan Kessler of Kessler-Haak Vineyard to talk about what makes fruit grown on his property so special. Read on!

Community Focus: Dan Kessler

Community Focus from Samsara wine co with Dan Kessler of Kessler-Haak Vineyard
This month we’re telling the story of SAMsARA’s Pinot Noir and Chardonnay wines made from grapes grown at Kessler-Haak Vineyard in Sta Rita Hills. To give you a better idea of where our wines come from, SAMsARA Winemaker Matt Brady walked the vineyard with Dan Kessler, owner and winegrower, for a little Q&A:

Thanks for taking the time to meet me on this gorgeous Sta. Rita Hills morning to talk about what makes Pinot Noir and Chardonnay fruit grown at Kessler-Haak Vineyard so special. What do you think distinguishes the site from other vineyards in Sta. Rita Hills?

Matt Brady of SAMsARA Wine Co and Dan Kessler of Kessler-Haak VineyardsIt’s great to be with you Matt and I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to tell your readers about what makes our vineyard and grapes special.  This vineyard is in kind of a low spot in Sta. Rita Hills. We get a lot more, colder air than everybody else. We typically harvest last when compared to everybody else in Sta. Rita Hills because of that super cold air influence. That gives our fruit great acidity, longer hang times, so more flavors, aromas and things like that develop in the fruit.

Can you tell me about Kessler-Haak Vineyard, the project and the vineyards here?

We are a husband and wife team. Kessler is my family name and Haak is my wife’s family name . . . so Kessler-Haak!  We bought this property in 2004 and first planted it in 2005. It was bare ground, nothing had been grown on it in a number of years. Just a few years later, 2009, was our first production harvest.

We have 30 acres of vineyard and it’s composition has changed a bit over time. Initially it was a lot of Pinot Noir and a little bit of Chardonnay. Since that time we’ve increased the amount of Chardonnay because it shows really well in this particular site and we therefore get a high demand for it.

The other things we’ve changed is we’ve grafted some vines over to Syrah, primarily because I like cool climate Syrah and it’s kind of hard to find around Sta. Rita Hills. There’s not that much Syrah out here, so I just make my own supply.  Necessity is the mother of invention, ya know!

We’ve also grafted about a half-acre over to Riesling that we took cuttings from Lafonds’ old Riesling vineyard before they pulled them out.

We love the fact that you’re driven to produce not only great fruit, but varietals you love! Tell us a little bit about the Pommard Clone Pinot Noir grapes that you grow for SAMsARA here in this block?

 Oh I love Pommard. I do a straight single clone Pommard every year with Kessler-Haak Wines. This particular site you’re right it’s on a hillside, it gets nice drainage. It’s facing West so it’s pretty optimal for getting the best growing conditions. It is a primo spot.

Can you tell us a little bit about the soil composition in the different sections of your vineyard?

The vineyard has a few types of soils. Being low in the valley there’s a portion of the vineyard that’s fairly sandy with super fast drainage. We move up from there to sandy loam and a little clay loam at the high spots in the vineyard.

Now let’s get down to the best part of winegrowing . . . enjoying the spoils of your work.  Do you have any favorite foods that you pair with Pinot Noir grown at Kessler-Haak? 

Favorite food pairing? Oh gosh there are really so many options. I really like the Pommard Clone Pinot Noir that SAMsARA makes with pork ribs. The wine made from these grapes is dark and structured with some guts and some concentration.  Not a wimpy Pinot by any means, so it can stand up to the richness of ribs.  Now I’m hungry . . .