Get to Know the Winemaker – Kim Hartleroad of Blue Cape Cellars

By Published On: April 29, 2020

An award-winning boutique winery honors his late mother, a former nurse

Kim Hartleroad’s dream of creating his own label is a story that is not a series of linear events but rather a “one thing led to another” which eventually opened up a wonderful opportunity to create the brand Kim Hartleroad’s Blue Cape Cellars.

The Blue Cape Cellars label honors Kim’s late mother who worked as a nurse doing private in-home nursing. She wore the formal white dress nurse uniform, a white hat, and the signature blue cape that was popular in the mid 1900’s. At the end of her shift his father and him would meet her on the grounds of a beautiful plantation-like home that was surrounded by fruit trees vineyards.  She would walk out to the car and the cape would blow in the wind. She was so lovely and I wanted to capture those moments for the label.

Kim’s start in the winemaking industry

Kim first got his idea for winemaking in 1982 while working as a technical writer in Silicon Valley. He made a trip with coworkers to the California wine country and became inspired. The wine industry got into his blood and from that moment his main goal in life was to become an expert on wine. He started working in a tasting room on weekends, bought wine books, and tasted as much wine as he could!

Kim moved to Arizona for a better job with a Fortune 500 firm.  Even though he was far away from the California wine country his wine exposure grew.

He met a member of a well-known Burgundy producer who was a partner of a distributor in Arizona. He also learned much more about Pinot Noir, the flagship wine of Blue Cape Cellars and was introduced to his current winemaker clients, including David Coleman of Adler Fels winery near Santa Rosa.  Kim helped David make his signature Gewürztraminer and Sauvignon Blanc in the 1987 crush.

Two events led Kim on the path to produce his own wine. First, Kim found an ad for a wine course offered by the famous UC Davis wine program and then completed the online Winemaking for Distance Learners program. Second, In the middle of the studies with the UC Davis program Kim interviewed for a marketing venture of Woodbridge winery in Lodi. Kim became one of 8 people in the country to “spread the word” about Woodbridge.

While the Woodbridge program didn’t transpire to Kim’s liking – one peer chosen to work the Los Angeles region started a marketing job with Summerland wines, and helped Kim secure an internship with the winery, working with winemaker Etienne Terlinden.

Kim worked a short crush period with Etienne.  “I would sleep on the company’s boat in the Santa Barbara harbor in the evenings but would be ready at 5:30 the next morning to head out 70 miles north to the Santa Maria winery for a full day of winemaking. (Brent’s comment….)

The wine making process

The winemaking for the 2012 came just before the major picking of the grapes. He bought new French Oak barrels but had one major problem:

Getting grapes. No one wanted to sell 2 to 3 tons, only 10 plus tons. The turning point happened when a coop went out of business and very nice grapes from the Santa Rita Hills AVA in Santa Barbara County became available!

The grapes we were able to get were clones 667 from Rio Vista and 777 from Hayes Ranch.  From those grapes we had initial success – a Double Gold Medal in the 2014 San Francisco.  International Wine Competition – 96 out of 100 points!  Only 200 some double golds were awarded from over 4000 wine entries.

The Blue Cape Cellars Brand

Pinot Noir is the signature varietal of Blue Cape Cellars. California Pinot Noir from the better vineyards can be very expensive but worth the price in quality. The wine regions of the Central Coast produce some of the best Pinot Noir clones in the world and each subsection has a very unique regional flavor profile (terroir).

Being a small company with only a few hundred cases per vintage Kim has to be very clever with placements and is now on the lists of the best wine-friendly restaurants in Phoenix.

Kim’s current focus is to gain sales via Internet sales and selling primarily direct to consumers.

Our Wines

2012 Pinot Noir

This wine won a Double Gold medal in the San Francisco International Wine Competition of 2014 and was scored 96 out of 100 points.  Approximately 240 cases of the 2012 Blue Cape Cellars Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir were produced.  This wine, maintains a richness and deep color true to the terroir of Santa Barbara County.  Sourced from 667 and 777 Dijon clones from the Rio Vista and Hayes Ranch ultra-premium vineyards in the Sta. Rita Hills this wine displays a nose of ripe cherries and dried strawberries and an elegance one expects from world class Pinot Noir.  This wine was aged in 100% French oak, about 20% new and the remaining seasoned (neutral) oak.

2013 Pinot Noir Reserve

Kim Hartleroad’s 2013 Blue Cape Cellars Pinot Noir Sta. Rita Hills Reserve has garnered 4 distinct awards: a gold medal Pinot Noir, receiving 92 out of 100 points in the 2019 World Wine Championships held in Chicago, Illinois in May of 2019 and Silver medals in the 2015 San Francisco International Wine Competition, the 75th annual Wines & Spirits Wholesalers of America annual Convention and Exposition in Las Vegas and most recently a silver medal in The New Orleans International Wine Competition.

2014 Pinot Noir Reserve

The 2014 Blue Cape Cellars Pinot Noir Sta. Rita Hills Reserve was our fourth award winning Pinot Noir, garnering a silver medal in the 2015 San Francisco International Wine Competition. This vintage was the first of our Pinot Noir vintages made from a single clone (clone 2A) and is the first of our wines to be lightly filtered.  The wine was aged entirely in used French oak barrels mostly 2 to 4 years old at the time.

The 2014 Pinot Noir is very youthful, with good acid and a taste of tart cherries and some mulling spices and mineral elements in the nose.  It shows a beautiful light garnet color and provides a full to medium bodied mouthfeel and a warm long finish.  This is a perfect wine for chicken, grilled salmon or even rare prime rib.

About the Author: Jordan Van Druff