Simple Respect for Inman Family Girls in California Wine Country

Our contributor gets to know the people behind the wine in California
Kathleen Inman is a winemaker in Sonoma, Calif.

When you shake the fair hand of Kathleen Inman, with her red-haired daughter, Meredith, quietly beaming at her side, you immediately get the sense that she’s a natural.  She’s a beautiful woman, simply and classically dressed. There’s no fuss, just an innate elegance that emanates as you speak to her. You look around the small office at Inman Family Wines and notice that everything is just so… natural. Her retail area is filled with everything from candles made from the bottom half of empty wine bottles to dish towels made by a close friend. Even her counter top is reused, a beautiful mosaic made of chards of broken wine bottles.

On this particularly cloudy day in Sonoma, Calif., Inman pours my group several of her wines to sample. We stood at the counter, the light from the broken glass dancing as we swirled our chardonnay, and I listened to her describe each of them, just as a mother would describe a child. And there, to her right, again was her own child. Meredith, now 21 years old, delicately chimes in at the appropriate times, eager to help her mother and Inman quietly appreciates each remark. They finish each other’s sentences as if they’re performing a long rehearsed play. It’s obvious they have a mutual respect for one another.

As we get to the end of the wine tasting, I ask Inman about how her daughter got into the business. It was then that her face lit up with pride. She talks about how when Meredith was 8, she planted her first pinot plant. How when she used to get in trouble, her punishment was to stir the pinot and as if on cue they both, in unison began to sing the song that went along with the punishment, a lyrical lesson in winemaking. Meredith, as poised as any woman twice her age, is cloaked in warmth and sweet innocence, something that she no doubt learned from her mother. Inman begins to talk about all of the things her daughter has accomplished in her 21 years on this Earth — traveling alone abroad, being an accomplished French horn player — and I slowly forgot that I was there to learn about her wines. The story for me is less about how delicate and pure and beautifully restrained Inman’s wines are, but rather about the respectful relationship she and her daughter have.  

After we sipped our wines, we walked upstairs to a simply decorated wooden table with small vases of sunflowers, organic cotton napkins, open bottles of wine, and mismatched platters filled with the food that Inman herself had grown and that she, herself had prepared for us all. The meal was just as she and her wines are meant to be — clean and natural and pure, with every vegetable, every herb delicately flavored, but never masked or manipulated. I sat there, ate my food, sipped my wine, listened to Meredith and Kathleen share stories of their lives, and a wave of emotions passed through me. I thought of my own mother, how close we were, how closer we could be, I thought of my daughter and what lies ahead of us as she grows older, and I thought of my grandmother; how I missed her, how I will never get to hear her speak of me again with the same pride that Inman uses when she speaks of her daughter.

When we finished lunch and headed outside for a vineyard tour, I stopped to talk with Meredith. I tell her that it isn’t considered normal these days to want to work along side of her mother and be so close to one another. She smiles, gently pushes her long hair behind her ear and says, "I just have always had a lot of respect for my mom and what she does."    

That is, undoubtedly, the recurring theme of Inman Family Wines. Respect. Respect for the grapes, respect for the land, and respect for the people. What I learned from Inman and from Meredith is that if you always begin with respect, then respect is what you shall receive.

It’s as simple as that.

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