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Kachina Cult Cab

Boutique operation has got the spirit

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I'm not breaking any news reporting that yet another couple packed in the high-tech life to rusticate in the vineyards.

Kachina Vineyards owners Greg (shown) and Nancy Chambers gave up fast-paced careers 15 years ago to buy an undeveloped parcel in the benchlands above Dry Creek Valley. And, yes, they built a little Tuscan-style winery with artfully exposed brick and planted estate Cabernet Sauvignon—check and check. But their pastoral aspirations didn't stop at the precious designation "vintner." They went all the way to "goat breeder."

Spanish meat goats are a rare, hardy breed that will eat nearly anything—including poison oak, a handy trait in the dense oak woodland surrounding the winery. One fuzzy, brown kid was rejected by its mother earlier this spring and had to be hand-raised. He's a keeper. The fate of the rest will vary, but I'm not going to speculate on the wine pairing.

Kachina is named after spirit beings from the Hopi tradition, which may represent earthly figures or deities. "The god we picked was the god of good harvest and prosperity," Greg says. "It seemed tied in to what we were doing." Self-taught winemakers, the couple run the 1,000-case winery themselves, and pour wine for visitors on a quiet patio under the oaks.

Cicadas chirp from the trees and turkeys gobble in the scrub while tiny caterpillars bob from silken strands above my glass of 2012 Russian River Valley Chardonnay ($32). Like a sample spritzed in the air by a perfume counter clerk, this wine suggests, "Here, try Chardonnay." In between tart, Eureka lemon and refreshing, lime margarita flavors, sweet butterscotch sneaks a ride to the finish. There's a meaty savor to the dry, cherry-fleshed 2013 Sangiovese Rosé ($29), and the Zinfandel Port ($32), washing down a locally made chocolate truffle, becomes a light, grapey quaff.

Rarer than a Spanish goat is the Savoie grape; the 2012 Charbono ($29) is sourced from a portion of the 80 or so acres of this heritage grape remaining in California. A chameleon once mistakenly labeled Pinot Noir, among other things, Charbono is also known as raffish-sounding Douce Noir in France, where it's also rare (but don't cry for Bonarda, which turns out to be the same grape, widely planted in Argentina).

For fans, the grape wins on character—it makes a supple and buoyantly fruity wine at relatively low alcohol levels. This one's got the aroma of dried blueberries and leather, but tannins as soft and plush as a Persian cat. I would pair with goat cheese, and leave it at that.

Kachina Vineyards, 4551 Dry Creek Road, Healdsburg. Tastings by appointment only, Thursday–Monday; $10. 707.332.0854.

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