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(First in a series of profiles on Twin Citians who have fulfilled a dream of all wine lovers: starting their own wineries. Next up on May 28: Dan Gustafson).
Peter Kitchak laughs heartily when he hears the old line about the best way to make a small fortune in the wine world: Start with a large fortune. "I can make more money in the Twin Cities in one month than I'll make in a year in Napa," he said.
That hasn't stopped Kitchak, president of Keeywadin Real Estate Advisors, from bringing the same passion to Kitchak Cellars that he did to his previous avocation, auto-racing.
He and partner-in-vines Ralph Bashioum, took a two-year graduate-level correspondence course at wine mecca University of California, Davis, before starting this venture. "I decided that if I was going to make wine, the only way to do it was to be the very best," Kitchak said, "to make a cabernet as good as Colgin or Screaming Eagle."
He's well on his way. The Kitchak Cellars 2005 Concerto, sourced at the justly esteemed Beckstoffer-To Kalon Vineyard, rivals any '05 cab I've tasted, rich and bold and laden with dynamite fruit and tannins.
Kitchak's white semi-Rhone blend, Vivacé, is another serious beauty, lush and floral and bracingly long. It combines grapes from Saralee's Vineyard in Sonoma's Russian River Valley and an attention to detail that helps explain why Kitchak has been successful in all of his ventures.
A while back, Kitchak was wowed by a white wine in France's Languedoc region. It was reminiscent of a Châteauneuf-du-Pape but utterly distinctive. Turns out that the woman making the wine was throwing a bit of chardonnay into the rousanne-marsanne blend, which, not to put too fine a point on it, doesn't fit within the wine bylaws of her region.
Following her lead, Kitchak and Bashioum added some chardonnay to their blend, ultimately deciding to keep it at about 6 percent of the mix. "When it gets up near 10 percent, the wine tastes like a chardonnay," he said. Not what they were looking for.
At present, Kitchak Cellars wines have only limited availablilty in the Twin Cities, with some bottles at Cue, the Guthrie's restaurant, and Solo Vino. Some wines also can be ordered from the winery, at www.kitchakcellars.com.
That's based in the southern part of the Napa Valley, where Kitchak is growing some grapes that could end up in one of his wines someday. After all, as he noted, "If you're making Napa Valley cabernet, you've got to be a dunce to screw it up."