One of the best things about visiting a boutique winery is being able to meet and greet with the proprietor, the vineyard manager, or the winemaker. The best thing about visiting Kukkula is you can meet all three because all those roles are each filled by founder Kevin Jussila.
Kevin, whose professional background is in business money management, has always been an agricultural enthusiast — an enthusiasm that transformed him into a hobbyist winemaker. In 2003 he decided to turn that hobby into a parallel career path (Kevin is still in the corporate business game), purchasing his 80-acre property off of Chimney Rock Road in the Adelaida hills of Paso Robles. ” In December of 2004 we moved to the Central Coast and started to build the dream,” Kevin says. And he means this literally. An avid architect enthusiast, Kevin’s are the hands that built both his family home and his current tasting room — both of which sit atop his beautiful estate vineyards.
Today, Kevin farms just shy of 50 acres of vines dedicated to classic Rhone varietals. And, as of his 2013 vintage, all wines boast all-estate grown grapes.
The petite tasting room is walk-in friendly Fridays through Sundays, though Kevin encourages potential visitors to book appointments for an elevated and more personal experience. In fact, starting this year, the Kukkula tasting room will have expanded hours specifically dedicated to by-appointment bookings. It’s a welcome change, as Kevin will be able to host more guests himself and share his life’s passions-in-a-bottle. His enthusiasm is contagious, his knowledge extraordinary — if you’re looking to learn while you taste, Kukkula is the place to be, and Kevin the one to talk to.
If spending time with the owner/winemaker, even an “elevated experience” will be a fun and casual one. You may tour the barrel room and cellar and even take a stroll through the vineyard, learning every inch of Kevin’s self-taught vineyard-growing and winemaking craft. And don’t be shy about asking questions! This friendly farmer will gladly answer everything from basics like “What does cooperage mean?” to wine-snobby “What coopers were used in this blend?” (Actually, really do take the time to ask Kevin about his barrels — something he’s quite particular about.)
When it comes to the wine, Kukkula truly celebrates the site’s specific vineyard type. The heavy clay, the porous sedimentary rock, the sloping hill that perfectly catches the warmth of the noon-day sun — you’ll find that each wine has a fun, funky little heat-kick, and yet the overall quality is calm and refreshing. And, since Kevin’s wife is a former chef and Kevin is a self-proclaimed foodie and home-chef, you can be sure that each wine is crafted with a meal in mind.
- WHAT TO TRY: You’re in for a treat with all of Kukkula’s full bodied red blends, but be sure to ask to try the 2014 Noir (sales are reserved for club members). On the nose, this predominantly Syrah red wine (with just a hint of Counoise) has a farmy funk to it at first that, with a swirl of the glass, reveals a more gritty-earthy aroma reminiscent of toasted baking spices (think cacao or coffee bean). The palate will surprise you with a burst of jammy black fruits that slowly reveal the berries’ brambly bush branches, and conclude in a plush tannin of fertile earth. The last thing you’ll feel is the warmth of the alcohol radiating from your chest, like a hug from the inside out.
- INSIDE INFO: Kukkula’s flagship wine, Lothario (a Grenache, Mourvèdre, Zinfandel blend), is a Finnish word for “womanizer.” However, the wine is actually named after Kevin’s close friend, Lothar, who played a pivotal role in Kevin purchasing his Paso Robles property. Make sure to ask about the sweet — and funny — story behind the label.
Thank you to Kevin Jussila for hosting me on a tour of the Kukkula facility and through the Kukkula current releases. For more information about Kevin, Kukkula, and the wines, please visit the Kukkula website.
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