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March 25, 2021

Cheers to That: Meet Mike Kobler, of Kobler Winery

By Emily Merrell

When you think of wine, you usually think of a stuffy and boring vineyard tour. Well, rid yourself of that idea and meet Mike Kobler. Through touring his family run estate, you’ll learn that Kobler is nothing short of fun and educational. Mike’s passion and enthusiasm for the product is incredible and the wine is just as fabulous. 

Mike Kobler, owner of Kobler Estate Winery. Courtesy of Shana Bull.

SDS: I’m a huge fan of Kobler and love the fact that it’s a family run estate. How did your family get into the wine business and what was Russian River like when you all got started? 

MICHAEL KOBLER: Back in the early 1980’s, my grandparents retired up to the Dry Creek Valley of Healdsburg from San Francisco. My grandfather saw that everyone around him was growing grapes. While he was on his final project in Venezuela, my grandmother researched how to start a vineyard and even took some courses on viticulture at Santa Rosa Junior College. 

When my family and I moved to California in 1988, we settled in the eastern Russian River Valley, north of Santa Rosa. When I was young, there weren’t many people around. Windsor was only 8,000 people. Now, it’s around 30,000! There were vineyards, but land north and west of Santa Rosa was mainly empty farmland. 

SDS: In addition to Pinots, you have amazing Syrahs, Chardonnays and a Viognier. Do you have a favorite out of all the wines you produce? 

MK: So our first release of Pinot Noir was our 2009 vintage in 2010. I’d fallen in love with Pinot Noir, as did most of America at the time. The question about which is my favorite is always the most difficult. They’re all like my babies, so favorites are hard haha, BUT my favorite has to be our Chardonnay. We source it from the AMAZING Bacigalupi Vineyards, a jewel in the Russian River Valley.   

SDS: When choosing what type of wine to produce, how did you settle on the varietals you created? Do you model a certain style of cultivating the grapes? 

MK: In the beginning of the winery, my mom, dad, brother (winemaker) and I would sit down and taste wine to see which ones we liked first. Since I do all the other tasks other than make the wine, I get to see what the consumers like and dislike. 

A great example is when my brother loved a certain style of chardonnay and it didn’t sell. I showed him a chardonnay I loved and he recoiled, BUT made it. It ended up being our best-selling wine and his highest scored wine at 95 pts from Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate. Our winemaking philosophy is one of very little intervention. We source amazing fruit and then sparingly use oak on our oaked wines, with very restrained use. We want the varietal to shine.

Tours are available at Kobler Estate Winery! Courtesy of Liza Gershman.

SDS: How can we find out more about your wines and visit your property? 

MK: We always love having people come and visit us at the property! We encourage visitors to take a look at our website. It gives a great history of our family and the property. It also allows visitors to book tours. As we are a very small winery, we don’t get too many appointments, so they often run over the allotted time with dad serving homemade cured meats and fresh veggies from the garden.

SDS: Anything exciting happening in the next year that we should watch out for? 

MK: The next 18 months at the property are going to be crazy. We are going to be building a tasting room where we can offer the same intimate family experience just not in the boiling heat or rain! I’m also excited to announce the introduction of a lovely 2020 Russian River Valley Gewürztraminer to our portfolio. It’s one of my family’s favorite varietals and our first vintage is incredible. It will be released in late May 2021, with a possible pre-order in March.

SDS: What is the best part about working in the wine industry? Any advice for someone breaking into the industry? 

MK: The best part about working in the wine industry is being able to share my passion tangibly with guests. I guess I get really nerdy about the winemaking, flavor profiles and how the wine pairs with food! I also love entertaining. Having good wine and amazing food is a great way to create awesome new friends and lasting memories.

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