Can wine be a catalyst for social change?
Sharon Kazan Harris thinks so. Making a cultural impact, affecting social change, and of course making good wine, are the driving forces behind Rarecat Wines, a boutique winemaking operation based in the Napa Valley.
Inspired by a year spent abroad in Bordeaux during her education, and after a career in publishing and technology consulting, Sharon decided to pursue her ultimate dream of creating wine with personality. Sharon applied and was accepted to the famous DUAD program at the University of Bordeaux Oenology department, graduated with honors, and moved home to California to create Rarecat Wines.
Throughout her career, and now with Rarecat, Sharon found her passion in empowering women through wine and supporting women in the wine industry. Noting that women make up a very small percentage of the winemaking industry, and the wine-buying public, she believes that introducing more women to wine and the wine industry can be a catalyst for opening doors and breaking down barriers in all industries.
Wine Entre Femmes
To that end, Sharon formed an exclusive trade group called Wine Entre Femmes, comprised of women in wine industries both in Napa and in Bordeaux, and has recently launched A Woman’s Palate, a company that celebrates wines by women, for women.
Rarecat Wines is a small operation, producing only about 300 cases of wine per year. That amount, Sharon laughs, is small enough to be considered a rounding error for many of the larger producers in Napa Valley, but is perfect for an operator driven to grow properly.
The Napa Valley wine industry is increasingly becoming more of a billionaire’s playground, and making wines affordable to the masses continues to become more and more difficult. Accordingly, and in another attempt to affect change, Rarecat desires to sell wine directly to consumers, cutting the distributor middleman, and therefore cutting the price significantly. It’s wine populism.
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At a recent visit to her home and tasting room in Rutherford, I was fortunate to taste some wine, and talk for a long time about life and social change. It was refreshing, because sometimes it’s important for a full-time wine drinker and part-time philosopher like me to remember that wine is not life. Life is what happens when you are drinking wine with friends. Below are the tasting highlights.
CHARLES HEINTZ CHARDONNAY, 2011
From the famous Heintz Vineyard located in the Russian River Valley, this Chardonnay is complex and has notes of lemon chiffon, pineapple, and kiwi with subtle minerality. There is very light acidity, with malolactic fermentation stopped just before the stage where creaminess becomes predominant.
RARECAT OLD TOLL ROAD CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2010
A big and round red wine from the Old Toll hillside vineyard in Calistoga, the 2010 Cab is a mix of 89% cabernet sauvignon blended with 11% cabernet franc and petit verdot. It’s a powerful wine, with lots of dark red and black berry flavors, a hint of tobacco and leather, and offers moderate and balanced dusty tannins, supporting the potential to age really well.
RARECAT ROSE (Brigitte)
Comprised of Grenache with a touch of Viognier, this wine has a story. Ask about it. You want to hear it. Pink-salmon in color, the rosé is elegant and offers a good balance of citrus, grapefruit, and lavender, balanced with medium acidity. This is the wine designed to be shared with friends.
For more information on Rarecat Wines or to inquire about purchasing, visit http://www.rarecatwines.com/