Component Wine Company. Some winemakers are born into wine making families, some discover the passion for wine much later in life and still others visit “wine country” and are hooked by the lifestyle and natural beauty. Michael Kennedy, the founder of Component Wine Company experienced none of this. Rather, his introduction to wine began at age 12. At the time he attended a French all boys school where one of his teachers was from Bordeaux, France.
He remembers one story she told in particular – about putting a drop of red wine on a baby’s tongue during Baptism in Bordeaux. Even at such a young age he was attracted to her descriptions of how wine, food and culture intermingle in France – where wine isn’t looked at as just alcohol, rather it is often an integral part of meals helping to bring family and friends together. From then on, Michael began researching wine – spending his free time learning about various wine regions and reading numerous wine books.
He graduated from Purdue University with a degree in French Language and Literature (while there he started taking wine classes). After graduating, rather then pursuing a career in language he took his first job in the tasting room of a small winery in Missouri. Eventually he moved to Napa to help make wine in Calistoga. Michael is driven to explore and learn as much as he can about wine. While learning how to make wine he earned his Sommelier certification with the Court of Master Sommeliers.
With valuable credentials in place he worked in the Cayman Island for the Ritz-Carlton Grand Cayman – managing the wine programs for their restaurants on site including the acclaimed Blue by Eric Ripert. The “Cayman Cookout” is an annual food and wine event held at the property – bringing together some of the world’s top chefs. For several years Michael has helped plan this event and continues to oversee it’s production.
His initial years working in the Napa Valley allowed him to explore a variety of experiences, vineyards, properties and wines. He met numerous winemakers and nurtured valuable relationships which would ultimately greatly benefit him once he founded Component Wine Company. Michael does not own any vineyards rather he works with some of the top wineries and winemakers in the Napa Valley based on personal relationships.
As a négociant one does not always have access to consistent wine sources. One might also mistakenly assume a négociant is buying wine that for whatever reason is not good enough so a winery decides to put it on the bulk market. And in Napa at least, perhaps négociants are looked at less seriously compared to other parts of the world – namely Burgundy and Bordeaux.
However, these wines will stand up to some of Napa’s best producers. Michael has access to some of Napa’s most premium properties (the pinnacle of Napa as he refers to them), winemakers and their wines – including several of Napa’s quickly recognizable ‘cult’ wineries. He purchases barrels of wine from select wine makers based on a variety of reasons – including a larger vintage then normal or wine that doesn’t fit into the winery’s program for whatever reason.
The wines he purchases are typically used as blending ‘components’ in various wines. When Michael initially approached wineries – the winemakers wanted to know why they should sell to him directly. His reply was really good – something to the extent of “the components of your wines are always blended each year – with my wines I will make a single 100% varietal each year” creating the opportunity for the winemakers to assess how the individual components of their primary blends age over time.
And that is the focus of Component Wines – as a négociant, creating some of Napa’s top wines while showcasing individual varietals. As Michael says, “you cannot understand something unless you know the pieces” – or the components as it were. As far as consistently sourcing from the same producers and vineyards – Michael has locked down the sources for both his Sémillon and Cabernet Sauvignon. The first vintage of Component was from 2013.
It is extremely rare to find a 100% Napa grown and produced Sémillon – we can only count a handful we have tasted that were grown and produced in the Napa Valley. Straw colored in the glass, the 2016 Component Sémillon shows bright aromatics including citrus blossom, lime zest and a lesser minerality component. Balanced gracefully on the palate it brings both excellent acidity and weight (creamy without being heavy). Flavors of citrus and stone fruit along with a hint of melon (cantaloupe) round out the pleasing finish (along with a subtle spice component). Slightly under 11% alcohol.
The 2014 Sémillon Cabernet Franc immediately shows an elegance on the bouquet. In categorizing wines as feminine or masculine, this wine is decidedly feminine in its approach. Elegant floral aromas including violet touched by a tinge of mocha and a sweetness of fruit. Aromatically it becomes even more beautiful as it opens. Seamless across the palate – the mouth feel is supple, velvety but with varietal character usually lost with wines produced in the Napa Valley where Cabernet Franc is often a minor blending component. The tannins are harmonious with the fruit – slightly dusty but very well integrated.
The 2013 Sémillon Cabernet Sauvignon shows a mix of spices and fruit – including crushed black pepper, cedar box and plum. On the palate there are flavors of plum and black currant. Shows very good acidity – dusty, earthy tannins have a certain grip but do not overpower the finish despite being long lasting. This is a wine that is enjoyable now but certainly is built to last.
The label is simple – merely a small round image of the head of one of his barrels.
The majority of his production (currently under 1,000 cases) is sold direct to consumer. Word of mouth and mention in select publications has helped drive sales. And Michael is often traveling the globe pouring his wine at select events including in places like the Hamptons, Bordeaux and the Caribbean.
The wines are selectively distributed in Florida, New York, Illinois and California – and of course at the Ritz-Carlton Grand Cayman. The wines are made at Caldwell Winery (10 minutes from downtown Napa) and visits are by appointment – with requests needed to be made a minimum of one month in advance of the requested date. For more information and to join their mailing list, visit: www.componentwine.com