Anytime is a good time to honor California women in wine. One woman, Allie Ketcham, unexpectedly fell into the wine business and has now created an all-women team. The winery is Ketcham Estate in the Russian River Valley of Sonoma. After meeting Allie, her vibrant personality reflects in her wines.
Life took a big turn during the pandemic when her husband, Mark Ketcham, passed away in 2020. Allie decided to take a leap of faith during a time when the goings were down and fulfill her husband’s dream by keeping the winery alive and family-owned. Two years later, she still realizes that goal.
Mark began his career in the software business and cashed out in the late 1980s. His passion moved to vintage race cars. He loved racing and collecting vintage cars. What started as a hobby turned into a business known as Ketcham Imports. Fulfilling another one of his dreams, Mark purchased in the heart of the Russian River Valley a 17-acre vineyard in 2000. Originally planted with Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, Mark left the heritage Pinot Noir vines but removed the Chardonnay and replanted them with various clones of Pinot Noir. By 2004 Mark founded Ketcham Estate with the aim of creating the perfect balance of bright fruit mixed with acid and structure of outstanding Pinot Noirs.
Mark brought in Michael Browne of Kosta Browne to create his wines. Later Gary Farrell took over the helm.
California Women in Wine – The Team
Today three women make up the team Ketcham.
Allie Ketcham, Ketcham Estate’s proprietress, grew up in Michigan and studied art and literature at Denison & Oxford Universities. She met Mark on a blind date while working as a nanny in Marin County. Following their marriage, Mark and Allie moved to the vineyard property in 2007. Together Allie and Mark built the winery with the backbone of the Estate being Pinot Noir. Today Allie’s mission is to “make seductive wines with rich fruits, that have structure and balance and are very food-friendly.” To accomplish this, she now includes Chardonnay, Viognier, Rosé, and Cabernet Sauvignon wines in her portfolio.
Renee Graves, fondly called the director of happiness, manages Ketcham Estate’s operation and sales. Raised in Healdsburg, California, she is not a newcomer to the vineyards. She graduated from Sonoma State University and has spent 24 years in the wine industry.
Tami Collins, the winemaker, has been at the wine helm of Ketcham Estate since 2012. Tami grew up in Mendocino and graduated from UC Santa Barbara in Environmental Sciences. She started her career with Blackstone Winery as a lab technician and moved her way up to winemaker.
Ketcham Estate and California Women In Wine
Ketcham Estate is a woman-owned and managed small boutique winery and estate vineyard known for its exceptional woman-made wines. These wines are accentuated with bright, lively fruit and a feminine spirit.
The grapes are sustainably farmed with the goal of making wine that excels in accompanying food and bringing delight to family and friends.
Viognier: This Viognier comes from the Russian River Valley, and I loved the subtle nuances of this wine. On the nose, the wine is accented by tropical scents mixed with citrus and honeysuckle. The citrus and honeysuckle flavors linger on the palate to provide a wonderfully fruity wine.
Chardonnay: The grapes for this wine come from Hook & Ladder Vineyard. The wine ages in 50% new French oak and the rest neutral oak. Find aromas of stone fruit and flavors of citrus, pear, and apples with a bit of butter and cream, giving the wine Montrachet quality.
Savannah’s Rosé de Pinot Noir: Allie named the wine after her daughter Savannah because she wanted her own wine after sharing the limelight with her brother on the Cuvée. I found the wine exhibited bright florals with flavors of citrus and raspberry.
Russian River Valley 5 Clone Pinot Noir: This Pinot Noir consists of five clones, 115, 667, 777, 828, and Pommard 4. The result of mixing these clones is a lovely layered Pinot Noir with cherry and hints of currant. I found a classic Russian River Style Pinot Noir.
Russian River Valley Pinot Noir: This Pinot Noir pays homage to Pommard 4 and the oldest block in the vineyard. This wine reminds one of a Burgundy with its dark cherry and chocolate flavors.
Nick’s Cuvée Pinot Noir: Formally known as Nick and Savannah’s Cuvée, the wine now honors Allie’s son Nick. This Pinot Noir blends the four best barrels from a particular vintage. I found this Pinot Noir to be a bit sweeter with a dominance of cherry flavors.
Allie’s Reserve Pinot Noir: Named after Allie Ketcham, this wine, a favorite, ingratiates one with wonderful floral aromas. Allie’s Reserve utilizes premium barrels to create this eight-barrel blend. The wine ages one-third in new oak, one-third in one-year-old oak, and one-third in neutral oak. The result is a wine with some viscosity, and silkiness with a lingering finish.
Alexander Valley CabRenee Cabernet Sauvignon: Highlighting another California women in wine, this wine honors Renee Graves, the “Director of Happiness” and the person who oversees everything, Ketcham.
Sharing their first vintage of the CabRenee, the wine showcases Cabernet from the Alexander Valley. This Cabernet features dark fruits that are nicely balanced from start to finish.
California Women in Wine
Ketcham Estate portrays the vibrancy that makes these California women in wine thrive as a team pursuing their passion and dreams of perfecting and establishing themselves wine producers extraordinaire.
Note: Common to the wine industry, this writer received hosted wine. While it has not influenced this review, the writer believes in full disclosure.
Featured Photo courtesy of Ketcham Estate.