Kasia Kim isn’t your usual winemaker. A Polish-American immigrant and an artist in her own right, she was inspired to leave her work in the legal field to open her own winery by the wines of Washington.
Each wine of Kasia’s, from Kasia Winery, is unique. Not only are their names unusual (the syrah alone is named after a Bon Jovi song), but each wine conveys a distinctively personal story about Kasia herself. Kasia Winery offers a selection of rosé, syrah, and mourvedré, each one carefully handcrafted with care.
We recently caught up with Kasia whilst in Seattle and below are just some of the things we talked about.
How did your love of wine begin?
I didn’t exactly start out in the wine industry. When I firstcame to America from Poland in July 1997, I started out as a realtor, then an interior design company consultant, and finally worked in the legal field for over 12 years. Experiencing the many great wines of Washington sparked my interest in winemaking. I spent several years working and learning at a number of top local wineries. The dream of making my own wine was always there. It took a lot of work, multiple jobs, sweat and tears, but it eventually led me to make my own statement of the vineyard.
My love of wine evolved over time as I discovered different wines from different regions of the world. My palate has also developed and is constantly being surprised and challenged by the amazing local wines and my own wines.
As a Polish immigrant turned American winemaker, what are the biggest differences between wine in Poland and wine in America?
When I was growing up in Poland and really until I came to America as an adult, there was no wine industry in Poland that was well known. I grew up on vodka and beer. These days, I am learning that their wine industry is taking shape. More and more vineyards are being planted and there are some nice wines being made there. Here in Washington, we are still in the early stages compared to other regions, and have more growth and opportunities ahead of us. Poland is many years behind Washington. I hope that one day, I will be able to visit wineries in my home country and share a few stories about winemaking.
What makes Red Mountain AVA and the grapes that come from this terroir unique and special in your opinion?
Red Mountain is one of the smallest but most acclaimed AVA in Washington. It has a sense of place, and you can recognize the soil and fruit in every glass you drink, no matter the maker. It has elegance, structure and lots of moxie. It’s like no other AVA in Washington.
What winemakers do you look up to?
There are so many wonderful winemakers in Washington that I became friends with and who helped me in the beginning. What amazes me and truly makes me proud to be part of this industry is the willingness to help one another. We don’t look at each other as competition but as friends that you want to succeed and make good wine. We all work to put Washington State on the map and we are all proud of the amazing wines we are able to produce with Washington grapes.
I look up to all those winemakers who put their hearts, lots of hard work, and commitment to their craft. I admire someone who is proud of their product and is doing their part in making Washington State a major player in the world wine industry.
Your flagship wine was inspired by the music of Bon Jovi and titled “Open Highway.” Your other names — Moxie and Off the Hook— are unique as well. How do these names relate to the nuances of each wine?
I love when wines have there own names, not just Syrah or Merlot et cetera and yes, I do think the names reflect some characteristics of each wine and varietal. The same goes for the label design. One day in the future, I hope to publish a book with stories behind the names and labels.
Naming a wine is a fun and tough job. I went back and forth with many different names that would work for my first wine only to realize that the best way to make it “fit” me was to pick something that spoke to me. The words “Open Highway” are part of the lyrics from one of my favorite songs by Bon Jovi, “It’s my Life.” I also see Open Highway as the freedom to do anything and go anywhere. The road is open, and you can go as fast or as slow as you want. No need to take any exits, just go… It was my theme and motivation when I was first starting this business! The dandelion on the label of “Open Highway” is a symbol of hope and wishes. Interestingly enough, my daughter has told me that there are plenty of dandelions along our highways as well.
“Off the Hook” is my dry rosé. I wanted the label to be white, to be more playful and casual, just like the rosé itself. It all started with the name. The wine is made in a French style, has a dry, pale salmon color, and is very popular with my customers; it’s totally “off the hook” delicious. The label is a drawing of a picture of my older daughter Lili and myself, playing around with fishing poles on our property pond and deck. The name became a play on both — how off the hook good the wine is — and fishing.
“Moxie” also started with the name. First, I loved the meaning of the word “moxie,” how it invokes courage, vigor, verve, skill, aggressiveness, fearlessness, and the power to stay. The image of mountains on the label fit the description of the word just perfectly, but it’s subtle at the same time. Second, I think that Mourvedre as a varietal, can be a little challenging to make, has a mind of its own, and can have a bit of moxie at times. My 2015 Mourvedre has an elegant and beautiful body but at the end, a little bit of white pepper kicks in that gives the wine a bit of a sassy character. Mourvedre as a single varietal is not widely popular but I just love it.
How do you decide your fermentation process and flavors to create?
There are a couple of things that are vital to my winemaking ideas.
The first and probably the most important thing are quality grapes and quality barrels. Because I’m running a new winery with a very limited budget, I often have to count every penny. However, when it comes to grapes and barrels, I spare no expense. It is one of the reasons why I decided to focus on the Red Mountain AVA. The fruit grown there is of exceptional quality. Also, I use only French Oak barrels that come from top cooperages in France.
Second, I want to showcase the amazing fruit from our Red Mountain terroir and all that it bring to the wine. I don’t mess with the wine too much. I appreciate all the modern techniques that are available to us to help create the flavor profiles we want, but I want the particular vintage and the flavors in grapes to guide me where the wine is going naturally and I will help it be the best it can be without too much alteration.
You believe that each of your wines tells an intimate story about yourself and the process of creating the wine. Do the wines convey these ideas solely through taste and texture?
I think I have a different approach to winemaking. I see it as fine art, a special craft that takes time, patience, and knowing what your end goal is. I take winemaking very personally. I never want to lose the handcrafted aspect of it and that’s why I limit my production.
I make wine the way I like to drink it. For example, I usually don’t drink wine with my dinner. With my busy life, raising two daughters and running my tasting room five days a week, it’s hard to find a quiet moment. But when everyone is in bed in the evening, I love to have a glass and just sip and enjoy the wine. I like wine that is complex and has lots going on, but it doesn’t punch you in the face when you need to eat something with it. I believe that wine should be able to stand on its own. If a wine can do that, it means it is very versatile, not just one dimensional. That’s what I aim to create.
The best compliment I can get is that it taste like “Kasia’s wine.” To me, my wine shows personality, character, and this special touch that is unique to me. If you can recognize it, then I did my job!
As one of the few women who run their own wine production businesses, how do you support and raise awareness for other women in the winemaking industry?
Yes, the winemaking industry is very male dominated but there are plenty of women these days who are making a splash! Here in Washington, we have a number of women winemakers. We stick together, we help and support each other. We created a group called the Sisters of Vinifera Revolution. The group’s mission statement says it all: “Our goal is to put Washington Women Winemakers on the map. We will do so through collaboration and camaraderie and will redefine who and what a winemaker is. We will remain a group committed to information sharing, troubleshooting, support, knowledge and trust.”
We just recently had our annual wine event. The goal was to let our local customers and community know about us, try our wines, and support local women and kids-oriented charities. It was a great evening of friendship, fine wine, good food and live music. We have many other events in the works.