Karamoor Estate Vineyards and Winery
Did you know that September is Wine Month? Well it is, that special time of year when lovely grape varietals carefully pruned, thinned, and tediously labored in their tending over the past months of the growing seasons are now harvested. Grapes picked precisely in the perfect timing yielding way to the balances of sugars, acidity, and aroma, processing, fermenting, aging in various vats and specialty barrels, all will be the task of the winemaker sometimes combining flavors, others singularly specialized as each part of the process unfolds the design of ultimately providing you the most delightful of pleasures in your wine tasting experience.
Distinctive Flavors of high quality and enjoyable flavors are two key attributed goals toward making wine according to Kevin Robinson, Winemaker at Karamoor Estate Wines whose actual address location is in Blue Bell, Pennsylvania, but whose property lines along Fort Washington. Perhaps you might pose the question about making wines in Pennsylvania, can they be good? Well, in fact, that was one of the same questions Robinson, formerly of Rutherford Hill and Brassfield Estate Wineries in California addressed well before taking on the Winemakers position at Karamoor Vineyards and the answer, a resounding yes, they can be excellent, and the Karamoor Award winning Wines, including the vineyards prestigious Meritage have proved just that.
In some ways, it is a rather romantic story on how it all came about beginning through the travels of Owners Nick and Athena Karabots both of whom appreciated the beauty of the Bordeaux region in France and its gloriously lined vineyards while taking to the sophisticated style and flavors of the Bordeaux style wines.
Looking within the history of the private acreage that hosts the home of the Mr. and Mrs. Karabots they made the decision to utilize the land suiting similarities of its past and since the early days of Pennsylvania’s namesake, William Penn, the estate was always involved in some type of farming.
Still, for this couple, both of Greek Heritage, that have achieved highly acclaimed business success, it would take far more than romance to determine the feasibility of this project, one that would additionally require exceptional outcome in future years including full intention on becoming one of the best wine producers with the provision of similarity along the depths of the finely produced Bordeaux.
Hiring on world renowned Viticulturist and Consultant, Lucie Morton, the Karabots assessed the projects viability and provided the fundamental basis towards Karamoor Vineyards in order to set its vine planting management and oversight. Lucie Morton matched the most desirable varietal combined to the rootstock, selecting sites on the land, working with any challenges, including prevention of diseases to the vines and its subsequent grapes for future wine production. Since the Karabots interest was keenly toward European wines the planting included all vinifera clones of Merlot, Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Savignon, and Petite Verdot.
With viable potential of business secured, the romance continued in the naming of what is now Karamoor Vineyard Estates. The Karabots blended their Greek name with that of the original estate Oxmoor, and combined, as we learned in the movie ‘My Big Fat Greek Wedding’ that anything can be originated from Greek and combined together, including fruit, but in this case the combined Karabot and Oxmoor forms into a loose translation of the Greek words, “My Happiness.”
After a year of project planning, in 2004 the Karamoor Estate Vineyard planted their first vines composing twelve acres. In 2008, another five acres of vines were added before a state of the art winery was constructed to completion in 2011 and according to Winemaker Kevin Robinson “Karamoor is one of the most high tech vineyards in Pennsylvania.” Planting ten additional acres of new vines this past spring besides expanding those acres of Chardonnay, Petite Verdot, and Cabernet Savignon, Karamoor included some new diversification with Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier, and Pinot Grigio.
Planting and maintaining a Vineyard is a costly enterprise particularly given the time and intricacies required from planting and managing high quality fruit through to growth until producing even the first batch of wines where at Karamoor the first 2004 plantings finally yield the first bottles available in 2008, this includes the 2008 garnet red Merlot and the deep ruby Cabernet Franc.
There are challenges involved in growing top quality grapes in Pennsylvania and top quality grapes, is the essence of producing the fineness and flavorful depth of elegant wines even with the experience of a renowned winemaker.
Included among the challenges revolves climate and temperature, specified seasonal days of sunlight. Good drainage and sunlight spurs the photosynthesis filling the vineyards grapes with sugar. Still, in the high humidity of summer in the Philadelphia region as the grapes shut down at moonlight it continues to be warm enough for them to grow, Robinson explained. The climate provides producing a lower sugar content evolving then into a more balanced elegant style wine, more typical of Bordeaux’s highly desired by the Karabots.
There is quite a delicate science to the winemaking process especially the seasonal process in the grapevine growing through to the science in choosing the precise time for picking, grape harvesting all before the wines processing and aging even begins. “Nothing so good ever comes easily.” said Robinson “You need to put in the extra care and time in developing the best possible fruit that can be produced, the best ingredients.”
The slight mounding of soil shown in the more mature vine photos above assists in the drainage as grapevines thrive best when water is just at roots reach as too much water can cause disease. Drier soil also keeps down too much vigorous growth of the vine and then produces smaller denser flavored grapes favored for producing an excellent batch of wine. The time of my visit out to the Karamoor Vineyards was shoot thinning season, which is removing some of the dense vine leaves to insure adequate airflow while at the same time exposing the clusters to further sunlight.
In the photograph above and below, winemaker Robinson demonstrates the thinning of the shoots carefully choosing between vertical shoots. The grapes need the light to soften the tannins making them more fruitful, the thinning provides assisting an end of season crop of fully ripe grapes. The growth as suppressed causes the vines to struggle aiding in the deeper flavor intensity.
Winemaker, Kevin Robinson whose wine producing stands up to the testimony of quality didn’t start out early in life planning to be a winemaker. Initially a Pre-Med Student at University of California, Davis, Robinson early on in college chose a core curriculum class, Introduction to Grape Growing and Wine Making. “I ended up loving the course and did really well in it, I think it was just in my blood, the farming specialization, the science.” Said Robinson, the Montana native whose Grandfather was also an agriculture professor and leader of the FFA (Future Farmers of America).
Generally, crop yields for fine wines produce about five tons an acre and this is the similar production at Karamoor Estate Vineyards utilizing approximately twelve good pickers to complete the season’s growth yield. If you have ever read a book or seen a movie with a scene involving the grape harvest you will remember the hard work and technique involved in this process. Vineyards retain heat and I developed a deep appreciation to the toil involved at every stage merely by walking along the rows feeling the intensity of humidity, very intense.
The Karamoor Estate Vineyard is not open to the public though there is a hope of a Public Tasting and Retail Shop in the future that would add immensely to the local flavor within the area.
Currently, Karamoor Estate Vineyards offers a selection of five wines for sale. These include 2008 Merlot and Cabernet Franc, and 2010 bottles of Chardonnay, Merlot, and award winning Meritage. You can purchase these selections at twelve Wine and Spirit Stores in Pennsylvania, including Blue Bell, Norristown, and Conshohocken. You may also order Karamoor wines directly by email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Karamoor Wines are also featured in over sixty high end restaurants and growing in the Philadelphia, Montgomery County Pennsylvania areas including the Four Seasons Fountain Restaurant, Vetri and Garces establishments.
Ellie, savvy Karamoor Estate Sales and Marketing Director extraordinaire, along with Winemaker Kevin offered a Wine Tasting among the current Karamoor wine selection at the Blue Bell Wine and Spirits store and I tried and enjoyed each of them, very much so.
Large Stainless Steel Vats house the fermentation and aging of some wines as well as store and chill finished wines.
Finely crafted oak barrels host wines taking on the oak flavors as created by the winemaker. The oak lifts the fruit flavors to the wines providing depths of distinctive flavor.
The name and origin labels on the barrel sign more than a brand but more broadly how they are made and designed along a flavor that they impart into the wines through aging and developing the flavors of the blends together, including adding character and texture to Chardonnay.
In the distribution area cases are lined up ready to fill all of the delivery orders which are regularly growing in demand.
Visiting the vineyards and the Winery at Karamoor Estates was highly informative. While it may be that the key attributes in wine production are producing distinctive flavors of high quality for our pleasure and enjoyment, as you can see the numerous intricacies involved with so many complexities toward creating exquisite wines in this region in Pennsylvania.
Before leaving the Karamoor Vineyard Estate and Winery we enjoyed sampling a glass of the lovely and perfectly chilled 2010 Karamoor Chardonnay with hints of fruit flavor with a medium finish, which was excellent. For those local readers, while waiting in big hopes for a Public Wine Tasting and Retail Store featured in Blue Bell, I hope you will take the opportunity to check out and enjoy some of the local quality wines grown and processed right here in Blue Bell/Fort Washington. On behalf of Spiced Peach Blog, I extend a warm thanks to Kevin and Ellie for their time, hospitality, and in sharing the Karamoor Vineyard and Winery with all of our readers.