When Kenny and Cheryl met for the first time on a blind date, their love was instantaneous. A similar occurrence happened when the two saw Blue Rock Estate and Vineyard for the first time: they just knew this was what they had been looking for.
It had a beauty that struck me like that moment when I saw Cheryl. I fell in love, and I had to have it,”
We bought it without knowing anything except that it had potential and that we’d spend a lifetime making it great.”
Now, the vineyard and historic property has become a 30-year love affair.
A Love for Wines
After Cheryl and Kenny married, they honeymooned in California where they took a road trip south along Highway 1 and experienced the culinary wonders of the burgeoning farm-to-table movement. After getting a taste of Chez Panisse cuisine, he and Cheryl began taking cooking classes back home in Memphis, Tennesse, all the while feeling that perhaps California would be a better place for them to settle.
At the same time, their neighbor Milton Picard began sharing his collection of first-growth Bordeaux and Burgundy wines with them. He’d invite them over then bring out some of his best selections like a 1962 Lafite or a 1955 DRC Romanee Conti to introduce his new proteges to great wines.
When Milton gave me a half bottle of 1978 BV Georges de Latour Cabernet there was no turning back,”
By this time, frequent trips to the wine regions of France gave way to a move to California where Kenny and Cheryl began looking for a vineyard of their own. They were determined not just to build any winery, but to create an estate based on the European model that would produce wines of distinction. At first, they looked primarily in Napa because they had never even heard of the Alexander Valley. Back then, Sonoma was known more commonly for fruit production than it was for winemaking. They continued searching for two years before they finally came across Blue Rock and bought it.
Kenny admits he knew very little about acquiring vineyard property, except for the simple notion that this was definitely something he wanted to do. He also had an appreciation for farming and agrarian lifestyle, which he owes his to his uncle Morris who owned a farm called the Maryland Plantation in Mississippi. When Kenny was a boy, he’d travel from Memphis to visit his uncle where he’d spend time riding horses and hanging out with his uncle. During this time of his life, he developed a love for cultivation and watching things grow.
Like humans, a vineyard also needs time to develop to its fullest potential, which for the aspiring vitner takes patience, capital, and commitment to long-term vision. Blue Rock’s original vineyard had been abandoned long ago, so the winery and house remained in such disrepair they had become uninhabitable. Kenny, however, recognized the diamond in the rough and looked forward to the joys of refurbishing the property.
The winery building and house had no roof, but it had a beauty that’s hard to describe, like the first time you go to Provence and see the charming houses built from local tile and stone by local masons,”
It also takes time to prepare land to produce wine; a vineyard can take five years before it starts to come into production. Then, the initial wines must age in barrels for two years and remain in the bottle for an additional two years before they are ready to drink.
No matter the time and investment it has taken for Blue Rock to reach its potential, Kenny has enjoyed the reward of the experience as things continue to evolve.
Whenever I go to Blue Rock, and I pull up the mile-long gravel road, I’m filled with both anxiety and joy. Anxiety because farming is so full of risks. Joy because divining with the grape vines is too hard to put into words. When I’m not at Blue Rock, I’m dreaming about it,”
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