Alma Fria: West Sonoma Coast Wines by Former Red Car Co-Founder Carroll Kemp
Carroll Kemp is best known as one of the co-founders of Red Car Wines and long-time winemaker for that
label. In early 2018, he left Red Car to expand his role as founding winemaker at Alma Fria (“Cold Soul”) to
become a partner with the founding Holtermann family and continue as winemaker.
The 2.56-acre Holtermann Vineyard, located just north of Annapolis (population 200), was acquired in 2012. It
had been planted in 2002 to Pinot Noir clones 115, 777, “828,” and Pommard. The site is positioned on a
remote ridge top 5 miles inland from the Sea Ranch coastal community at an elevation of 700 to 800 feet.
Pinot Noir has been offered from the Holtermann Vineyard and the Doña Margarita Vineyard, with Doc’s Ranch
Vineyard replacing Doña Margarita Vineyard as a source in the 2017 vintage. Chardonnay is sourced from
Campbell Ranch Vineyard. The Campbell Ranch Vineyard was originally planted in 2001 solely to Pinot Noir. In
2008, Carroll brought Old Wente cuttings from the Hyde Vineyard and grafted 1.28 acres to Chardonnay, while
interplanting some additional vines.
I have reviewed the Alma Fria Sonoma Coast wines very favorably since the inaugural vintage in 2012:
Alma Fria is a member of the West Sonoma Coast Vintners Association. That organization has submitted a
proposal to the TTB to become an American Viticultural Area (AVA) and distinguish itself from other regions of
the vast Sonoma Coast AVA. Confirmation of an official AVA is expected soon.
Alma Fria Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are offered to a mailing list at www.almafria.com.
2017 Alma Fria Plural Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
13.5% alc., 250 cases, $40.
Moderately dark garnet color
in the glass. The nose offers an array of aromas including dark berries, underbrush, moss and rose petal. Midweight
plus in style with a charge of purple and black berry fruits that flood the mouth with goodness. There is a
noticeable spice, floral and botanical character as well. A modest amount of tannin shows up on the finish over
2017 Alma Fria Doc’s Ranch Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
$70. One of the coolest vineyard sites in
all of Sonoma County. Vineyard is named after “Doc” Van Alstyne, a long-time resident and former landowner
of acreage encompassing this ridge in Occidental (including the parcels where this vineyard is located). the
vineyard was planted in 1999 and 2010 and totals 9 acres (8 acres of Pinot Noir and 1 acre of Chardonnay).
Elevation rises to nearly 1,000 feet above sea level giving a view of the Pacific Ocean and Pt. Reyes seashore.
Moderate garnet color in the glass. Exuberant aromas of wild strawberry and forest floor initially. The fruit
expression veers toward boysenberry, blackberry and pomegranate in a mid-weight style. Impressive harmony,
with a satiny mouthfeel and a persistent finish. More aromatic and appealing when tasted the following day
from a previously opened and re-corked bottle.
2017 Alma Fria Holtermann Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
13.6% alc., 140 cases, $70.
Clones 115, 777, “828,” and Pommard 5. 20% whole
cluster, native yeast fermentation. Aged in French
oak barrels, 25% new.
Moderate garnet color in the
glass. The most alluring nose in the 2017 lineup,
offering scents of blackberry syrup, leather and
redwood, gathering ebullience over time in the glass. Somewhat
rich in concentration in a nearly full-bodied style with a core of
black cherry and cassis flavors underlain by notes of wild herbs,
and framed by harmonious tannins and acidity. A wine of
sophisticated composure with a fruit-laden finish that goes on
and on. Still superb when tasted the following day from a
previously opened and re-corked bottle.
2017 Alma Fria Plural Sonoma Coast Chardonnay
13.3% alc., 175 cases, $40. Sourced from
Campbell Ranch and Joyce vineyards. Clones are Hyde Old Wente and 15. Wild yeast fermented,
aged in 100% neutral French oak barrels.
Moderate golden yellow color in the glass with a slight
haze. Inviting aromas of pineapple, lemon curd and warm pastry. Fairly rich and heady flavors of
lemon, pineapple, butterscotch and caramel with a slightly sweet lemon meringue fueled finish. A
showy, ripe-fruited style.
2017 Alma Fria Campbell Ranch Vineyard Sonoma Coast Chardonnay
13.3% alc., 115 cases, $50.
yeast barrel fermented in 25% new French oak. Moderate golden yellow color in the glass with a slight haze.
Refined aromas of citrus, baked pear and nut oils. A very polished wine in the mouth with focused flavors of
lemon, pear, yellow peach and warm croissant that leave you wanting another sip. Impeccable harmony and
class with a noticeably long finish. A much more refined wine than the 2017 Plural Chardonnay.
2016 Alma Fria Plural Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
13.2% alc., 280 cases, $40.
Moderately dark garnet color
in the glass. The nose features primarily earthy flora aromas with a note of cherry Danish pastry. More earthy
than fruity on the palate with middleweight flavors of black cherry, dried herb seasoning and mushroom.
Modest tannins for upfront enjoyment, with a slightly tart cranberry finish.
2016 Alma Fria Doña Margarita Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
13.0% alc., 145 cases, $70. This
vineyard is located in the tiny hamlet of Freestone, 7 miles inland from the Pacific Ocean and exposed to the
ingress of fog from Bodega Bay. It offers a very cool microclimate. Planting began in 2002 to clones 115 and
Pommard. Goldridge fine sandy loam soil. 15% whole cluster, wild yeast fermented, aged in 30% new French
Moderately dark garnet color in the glass. Aromas of blackest cherry, tobacco, spice and oak. Midweight
flavors centered on black cherry with a citrus note in the background. Pleasant, but not exciting, with
suede tannins, and nervy acidity that makes its presence felt. The finish has a sweet and sour tone.
2016 Alma Fria Holtermann Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
13.3% alc., 140 cases, $70. Clones 115,
777, “828,” and Pommard 5. 15% whole cluster, wild yeast fermentation. Aged in French oak barrels, 25% new.
Moderately dark garnet color in the glass.
Nicely perfumed with aromas of red and black cherry and spice
cake. The essence of cherry and dark raspberry fruits exude an aura of pleasure. A arrow of acidity is woven
into the fabric of the wine and a compliment of oak plies the background. The wine picks up interest and body
with time in the glass, and offers a long and exuberant finish.
2016 Alma Fria Plural Sonoma Coast Chardonnay
13.2% alc.,185 cases, $40.
Moderate golden yellow
color in the glass. Initial aromas of ripe pineapple, pear and lemongrass fade over time. Rather mundane, with
flavors of pineapple, yellow peach, roasted nuts and caramel, shot through with steely acidity.