Truman Avenue in South Salt Lake is not exactly Napa’s Silverado Trail. And yet, sandwiched among the industrial buildings that line this short block near 2300 South is a winery and tasting room—Utah’s first “urban winery.” It’s home to Kiler Grove Winegrowers; that’s Kiler with one ‘l’, not killer. Because of the font used on the winery’s printed materials and bottle labels, it’s easy—especially if you need reading glasses, like me—to think the name is Killer Grove. Many people do, says proprietor and winemaker Michael Knight.
Knight was raised in California’s wine country but more recently was the winemaker for La Caille. You might recall that, up until a few years ago, La Caille had its own small winery and vineyards. Knight was in charge of the operation. Then, about 10 years ago, Knight and business associate David Olson established the Kiler Grove vineyards—10 acres on the west side of the Paso Robles appellation, in California.
So how did Kiler Grove Winegrowers wind up in Utah? Facing a snail-paced California bureaucracy and armed with a winery permit that didn’t permit tastings, Knight and Olsen decided to set up shop in Utah, where they found the climate more business-friendly. It’s hard to believe that it was actually easier to get a tasting permit here than in California, but that was the case, although setting up a winery and tasting room in Salt Lake City had its own sets of Byzantine hoops to jump through. Long story short: The Kiler Grove Winery and Tasting Room opened this winter. Yes, you can actually taste wine there. Best of all, it’s free, since the state doesn’t allow a winery to charge for tastings.
Previously, all Kiler Grove wines were produced and bottled in Paso Robles. However, just a couple of weeks ago, the 2009 vintage of Kiler Grove “Interpretation” was produced and bottled right here, at the winery on Truman Avenue (although the grapes still come from California).
Kiler Grove wines are primarily Rhone-style, showcasing varietals such as Grenache, Mourvedre and Petite Syrah. They only produce one white wine—Trebbiano—although Knight has been experimenting recently with some other white varietals at the Paso Robles vineyard. While sampling the wines (1-ounce pours) at the Kiler Grove tasting room is a unique experience, I had a tough time really getting a feel for the wines in that environment. So, I purchased some bottles and brought them home, where I could really take them for a spin, with food. By the way, these wines can only be purchased at the Salt Lake City tasting room.
2008 Trebbiano ($14.50) tasted awful in the tasting room because, for some reason, it was poured at room temperature. Then, I got it home and drank it too cold. Blech, again. However, at the right temperature—the sweet spot—this wine shows citrusy melon and grapefruit flavors, with a long finish.
2009 Interpretation ($20) is said to be “an homage to the southern Rhone”—a blend of Grenache, Mourvedre and Petite Sirah, the latter of which imparts a slight smokiness to this earthy, meaty wine. One of the best wine names ever has to be Zinergy, Kiler Grove’s Zinfandel, Petite Sirah and Grenache blend. The 2007 Zinergy ($18) is a bit too tannic right now for my palate, but the 2005 Zinergy ($23) is sensational. It’s well-structured, with soft tannins and loads of fruit that reminded me of Grandma’s huckleberry jam. For the not-too-faint-of-heart, I suggest trying the big Petite Sirah 2007 ($22), brimming with peppery, smoky flavors. This one packs a wallop.
KILER GROVE WINEGROWERS
53 W. Truman Ave. (2330 South)
South Salt Lake
Tasting room open Thursday-Saturday, noon-7 p.m.