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Avalon’s Kinsella Toasts Debut Vintage of Another Venture

Xconomy San Diego — 

Avalon Ventures founder Kevin Kinsella has demonstrated his prowess in biotech deals, and even in backing an occasional Broadway musical. Now, just in time for the holidays, he’s uncorking the debut vintage of cabernet sauvignon from Kinsella Estates, a winery he and his wife Tamara acquired in Northern California’s Sonoma County four years ago.

“The saying is that your good friends will always buy a case of your first vintage, but the real test is whether they buy any more after that,” Kinsella says.

That shouldn’t be too much of a problem this year, since there aren’t many cases available. Kinsella Estates has produced just 155 cases of its 2008 Dry Creek Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. For the sake of comparison, the Francis Ford Coppola Winery near Healdsburg, CA, produces about 1 million cases of wine a year.

Kinsella doubts his operation would ever get that big. When 10 replanted acres of vines enter production in the next year or so, the vineyards at Kinsella Estates will total just 12 acres. “My intent is to make estate-grown wine—just from the grapes on our own property,” he explains. This makes it unlikely you’ll ever find one of Kinsella’s cabs at BevMo.

James Laube, a senior editor at Wine Spectator, gives Kinsella’s cabernet a 95-point score (out of 100) in a brief review of low-production wines from around the world. He calls Kinsella’s debut vintage “A gorgeous wine that delivers a pure, rich dark berry mix of flavors, with blackberry and mocha at the core. Full-bodied yet graceful and balanced, gaining depth without gaining weight. Long, tapered finish.”

Since the review appeared Wednesday, Kinsella has been drinking it in. “The phone has been ringing off the hook,” he says.

Kinsella gets a little indignant, though, when I ask if this venture is more avocation than serious enterprise.

“I don’t enter into any business with the intent of losing money, whether it’s investing in Broadway or in new wines,” he answers tartly. With proper vineyard management techniques, which include careful pruning throughout the summer, Kinsella estimates his production will peak at about 1,000 cases a year—“and at 1,000 cases we can turn a tidy profit.”

And the price? I must ask.

“$1,200 a case,” Kinsella says. “That’s $100 a bottle.”

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