Kathleen Inman photo by Mike Sai

At 3 p.m. on Monday, the phone rang. Did I want to meet a Russian River Valley winemaker for a glass of wine in Milwaukee? Three hours later I was chatting with Kathleen Inman, winemaker and owner of Inman Family Wines, at Thief Wine Shop & Bar, where I sipped through a flight of her lovely wines.

Kathleen is a champion for biodynamic agriculture and all that is earthy-crunchy and eco-friendly. Every detail at the winery shows that: from the tasting room crafted from old cars and salvaged barn wood to bottle labels made from sugarcane cellulose and bamboo. (Oh, and two cats serve as pest-control managers.)

Kathleen is a Napa Valley native, but she didn’t show an interest in a wine career until taking a tasting class at UC-Santa Barbara and further honing her palate while pursuing a law career in London. But Napa beckoned her home. In 2009, she bought 10.5 acres and planted grapes on that sweet plot of land a year later.

Right now Kathleen makes just 4,000 cases a year, which allows her to keep a close eye and hand on the sustainable farming process. Most of her wines are drawn from these estate grapes with the first vintage in 2002. In Milwaukee, Inman Family Wines’ wines are poured at Hinterland and Balzac, and sold at Thief Wine’s two locations plus Sendik’s in Brookfield.

Here were my favorites of the ones I sampled. The Chardonnay and Pinot Noir express Russian River Valley terroir as they ought to, with earthy notes that mentally transport you to this gem of a region within Sonoma County that’s home to redwoods and a quick drive to the tumbling coastline.

2009 Inman Family Wines Brut Rose Nature Sparkling “Endless Crush” ($68) is a sparkling wine made from Pinot Noir grapes, with a delicate, dry palate. Kathleen made this wine – her first foray into sparkling wines – in honor of her 25th wedding anniversary and for all other celebratory occasions one might have.

2009 Inman Family Wines Chardonnay ($35) is for the type of wine drinker who despises Chardonnay because the palate on this one is wildly different than California’s cliché buttery, oaky Chardonnays. Instead, rose-petal notes mingle with pears, lemons and apples on a bright, mineral-laced palate that’s more elegant than it is robust.

2008 Inman Family Wines Pinot Noir ($34) is a blend of different Pinot Noir clones.  All of that careful blending resulting in an earthy, light-bodied Pinot Noir.

2007 Inman Family Wines Thorn Ridge Vineyard Pinot Noir ($63) features black-raspberry, dried-herb and chocolate notes along with a bright, expressive mouth feel that winds into velvety tannins; Pommard, Swan and 777 Pinot Noir clones are used.


If you’re looking for a good dinner spot downtown that’s open on a Monday night, consider Tutto, especially since bottles of wine are reduced to half off on Monday evenings. Whether you go light (caprese salad?) or go hearty (Sicilian steak?), it’s a fabulous spot to indulge in wine and food pairings.


Had enough of this rain, have you? Waterford Wine Company is offering a nice intro to the weekend, even if flooding is on the agenda. On Friday from 4 to 7 p.m., drop by for a free Loire Valley tasting. Wines include 2010 Lucien Crochet Sancerre Blanc, 2010 Francois Chidaine Vouvray Clos Baudoin, 2011 Marc Deschamps Pouilly-sur-Loire, 2010 Domaine de la Petite Mairie Bourgueil “Les Galluches” and 2011 Eperonnier Rose de Loire.


You’ve no doubt heard of Benziger Family Winery, in Glen Ellen, Calif., since 1980. But did you know it’s a leader in certified biodynamic grape-growing and organic winemaking? With Earth Day this weekend, I thought I’d turn to an eco-friendly wine. 2010 Benziger Family Winery Carneros Chardonnay ($16) has a nice effervescence that powers into a crisp palate marked by peach notes and some floral, jasmine accents.