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Harp On

Orpheus Wines makes sweet music in Kenwood

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Marc Krafft - JAMES KNIGHT
  • James Knight
  • Marc Krafft

Indiscriminate and cunning at once, artful wine makes the witless more so, even as it loosens the most rigorously trained mind. Seduced by its siren song away from the service of Asclepius, see how they fall, grinning widely, into the bawdy lair of Dionysus.

That's a fanciful synopsis of winemaker Marc Krafft's circuitous path to founding Orpheus Wines in 2011, anyway. Krafft (pictured) joined the Navy at age 17, and later signed on with the Army National Guard Reserve while completing university work in microbiology—with a minor in dance. While taking some time off to travel and think about the future, he got to talking to an apprentice winemaker on the train from Amsterdam to Paris. He'd had no idea that winemaking was a career one could just choose.

"I thought you had to be born into it!" he says.

Later, while working in the dimly lit underworld of the hospital lab, he began his winemaking career by moonlighting in, of all places, Illinois wine country. "It has its own challenges," Krafft says.

Today, you'll find him in his Kenwood tasting room, when he's not working in the two vineyards he leases, experimenting in limiting water use and environmental impact with cover crops and by spraying vines with ozone instead of the usual fungicides. Krafft and his wife, the winery's chief "visioneer," Rachel Friedman, take their triple principles of community, artistry and sustainability seriously: they live in community co-housing, and switched vendors for printing organic inks on their wine bottles when they found one that could do the job with a smaller carbon footprint.

The spacious, cleanly styled tasting room functions dually as an art gallery, with wire sculptures (the originals of each wine label design) by artist Steve Lohman on permanent display.

I like the nutty intrigue of the 2013 Viognier ($20), which plays up the varietal's sweet orange notes more than stone fruit. Also an individual, the rich 2013 Sonoma County Sauvignon Blanc ($18) charms with tarragon and lemongrass notes. Filled with boysenberry goodness, the 2013 Bacigalupi Vineyard Zinfandel ($42) is a solid Russian River Valley Zin, showing depth without heat. From a grape that's unrelated to "moscato," the 2013 Orange Muscat ($26) wasn't ready to be put to bed when it was bottled, waking up with bubbles in the bottle: the flavorful, frizzante wine makes an irresistible music of its own.

Orpheus Wines, 8910 Sonoma Highway, Kenwood. Open Thursday–Monday, 12am–6pm (winter hours: Friday–Sunday 12pm–5pm; Monday–Thursday, by appointment). Tasting fee, $10-$15. 707.282.9231.

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