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The Spill: Orange wine hits Sonoma

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Jordan Kivelstadt is the founder and head winemaker at Kivel- stadt Cellars in Glen Ellen, as well as the founder and CEO of Free Flow Wines, which provides wine on tap at restaurants. He likes to make wines that stand out and are different by design. Case in point is his 2017 Wayward Son – Orange Wine which sells out to his club members the minute he releases it.

We asked Kivelstadt: What is orange wine, and why is everyone drinking it?

Why orange wine?

Orange wine is an interesting vintage that has been around for over 5,000 years, originating out of Europe. It’s made from white wine grapes where the grape skins remain and stay in contact with the juice — what we call a skin-fermented wine.

What was the inspiration behind your orange wine?

I felt there was a lot of the orange wine out there domestically, that wasn’t very good. I wanted to do it right. So, we made a gateway orange skin fermented wine where consumers could appreciate it. Come in to the tasting room with time to enjoy it. We wanted to encourage its unique qualities instead of scaring them away with the color. After tasting it, consumers are like what? It’s delicious. They love it. We use two varietals: 50 percent Marsanne grapes and 50 percent Roussanne.

Why the name Wayward Son?

I had this great job as a management consultant, but then I quit and told my parents I was going into the wine business. They said, “You’re crazy.” That was 2006. In 2009, I launched my own brand. Three years later. I decided I was going to make orange wine. That was the pinnacle for me, doing what I wanted to do. In the first year, I made 75 cases in which my parents bought six (that is, after telling me it was a terrible idea). Seriously though — my parents are hugely supportive of my entrepreneurial ideas.

Is orange wine catching on?

For years, people got soured on the idea of orange wine because the product didn’t allow for the consumer to understand it. But its popularity is increasing. I sell out every year. We’re increasing our production to 350 cases because of the increase in demand.

How do you describe it to new customers?

First, we show it to them. Let them see the color. The customer conversation is always, “Do you make wine from oranges?” It is then, when we talk about the skin-fermented white wine process and explain the difference between the two: orange wine and white wine. When someone tastes our orange wine, there’s a real disconnect, if he or she expects white wine. So, we tell our guests to close their eyes. Then when they taste the tannins, served like our 46 to 48 degrees chardonnay, they can accept it for its own uniqueness. It’s a really, complex, cool, white wine.

If there is one thing wine lovers should know about orange wine, what is it?

I call it “The Tweener.” Something between a red and a white wine. Orange fills the hole in the middle.

The 2017 Wayward Son – Orange Wine ($32 a bottle) is available at Kivelstadt Cellars’ tasting room in Glen Ellen or to wine club members.