Monthly Archives: May 2014

Mueller’s Russian River Valley Library Wines Showing Great!

BobIt was a fun day at Mueller’s Tasting Room in Healdsburg today.  Bob and Lori Mueller rolled out an amazing array of Bob’s Russian River Valley library wines including their 2007 Chardonnay; 17 Pinot Noirs (ranging from 2003-2010); 2006 & 2007 Block Eleven Syrah; and 2006-2007 Old Vine Zinfandel. This is a friendly place, that reminds me of Cheers (everyone remembers your name).

I went in with a plan to taste an incredible offering of Pinot Noirs.  But Maureen (their super-friendly, very knowledgeable tasting room manager) greeted me with the 2007 Chardonnay already poured, so, I thanked her and sat down with new friend, Shirley Mendoza to look over the library wines awaiting me.

Top 100I causally tasted the Chardonnay and the fruit was bright pears on the nose and continued into the middle palette with a full bodied mouth feel.  I had to double check the year (thinking it was surely a more current vintage).

A quote on their website seemed to describe this wine very well “Every good movie, great novel, grand romance has something in common… balance. An engaging beginning, fine layered nuances in the middle, a satisfying finish.”  Bob has been making this Chardonnay from the same Wente clones since 1991.  Buy some of the 2007 and drink this all summer.

Now being a rookie, I have to choose my battles (wines) carefully, so as not to overwhelm my palate.  This meant I passed on Mueller’s Syrah (the 2006 was Wine & Spirits 2011 Year’s Best Syrah) and their Old Vine Zinfandel (2007 Wine & Spirits 2011 Year’s Best Zinfandel) which was not an easy choice.

Kevin1I instead went right for Emily’s Cuvée Pinot Noir (named for their daughter).  I originally purchased the 2007 on release and 2003 (untried) as a library wine.  The 2003 was in Wine Spectator’s Top 100 originally receiving a 93 point rating, but when James Laube tasted a few years later he upgraded to 96.  Bob says to drink this wine now, but he didn’t need to encourage me.  This wine has held up beautifully and still reminds me why I consumed every bottle I purchased so rapidly.  Emily’s Cuvée is a very approachable pinot noir and if you don’t get any of their 2003, go for their 2011 which Restaurant Wine reviewed as “excellent plus/highly recommended.”

I then moved to Bob’s 2008 August Recher Pinot Noir (named for his grandfather) which was a Wine Spectator “Hot Wine” and rated 94 points.  This was a new pinot in his library for me and I loved the blackberry nose that turned to a rich full-bodied mouth feel with a spicy oak finish.  If you like a big, bold wine this one is for you.  Mueller’s 2011 August Recher was rated by Restaurant Wine as “exceptional/very highly recommended.”

MaureenRegardless of what you like, I don’t think you will be disappointed with Mueller Wines.  Bob makes many palette-pleasing options.  Stop by and visit their Healdsburg tasting room and then visit Baci Cafe & Wine Bar which provided the fabulous food for this event and is a local favorite as well.

#MuellerWinery #RussianRiverValley #Wine #BaciCafe

Paulée with Joy Sterling – Iron Horse Vineyards & Winery

39I must say I was more than a little awed when seated for the Russian River Valley Winegrowers’ Paulée Dinner with Joy Sterling (Iron Horse Vineyards), Charlie Palmer (chef and restaurateur), and Lisa Palmer (Limestone) some of our local celebrities even among the prestigious winemakers from Arista Winery, Bacigalupi Vineyards, Benovia Winery, Bucher Vineyard, C. Donatiello Winery, Davis Family Wines, DeLoach Vineyards, Hartford Family Winery, Iron Horse Vineyards, La Crema, La Follette, J. Vineyards & Winery, Joseph Swan Vineyards, Kosta Browne, Merry Edwards Winery, Russian Hill Estate Winery, Siduri Wines, Thomas George Estates, Trione Vineyards and Winery, and Williams Selyem.


In the tradition of the Paulée, everyone came to our table to share stories and wine, but the lasting impression I had of the evening was of my dinner-mate  Joy Sterling, the woman with an infectious smile and a natural graciousness. 


Jean-Charles told me laughingly that she speaks better French than he does (Jean-Charles was born and raised Burgundy, France), but I am impressed but her humbleness.  Because her accomplishments are so vast, I don’t want to understate them. Please read more in her biography, but I quote a small piece of her still mounting achievements here.

Joy represents the second generation at Iron Horse. She is the CEO of the winery and the author of four books: A Cultivated Life, published by Random House, Vintage Feasting, Vineyard: A Year in the Life of California Wine Country with photographs by Andy Katz and A Vintner’s Guide to Red Wine published by Simon and Schuster.   At the age of 29, Joy was Deputy Bureau Chief for ABC Network News in Los Angeles. She was given numerous special assignments including coverage of the first Space Shuttle landings in California, coordinating producer for several Presidential trips, and the high point of her career, Assignment Editor for ABC’s 1984 Olympic coverage.  She is an adventurer, having climbed Kilimanjaro, run white water rapids on the Bio – Bio River in Chile and the upper reaches of the Yank Sing River in China, trekked in Tibet and Bhutan, and completed a road trip to Timbuktu.  

This is truly an amazing woman and a wonderful representation of the caliber of women in the wine industry today.  Having said that, she is an easy conversationalist that seems genuinely interested in everyone around her and the kind of person with whom you want to enjoy a glass of wine.

IH OceanReserveJoy joined the prestigious Board of Trustees of The Leakey Foundation in 2007.  One of her major initiatives is hosting an annual fundraising and awareness raising event in partnership with National Geographic celebrating Earth Day held at Iron Horse Winery.

Iron Horse’s Ocean Reserve supports National Geographic with Iron Horse donating $4 to establish marine protected areas and reduce overfishing around the world with every bottle you purchase.

I hope that you get the opportunity to meet this active woman admist all of her many obligations and activities.  Joy will surely smile and greet you warmly; she is just that way.

#JoySterling #IronHorse #DiscoverRRV


Russian River Valley Neighborhoods Seminar

panelAn esteemed panel lead the Pinot Classic’s Russian River Valley “Neighborhoods” seminar, an integral part in the RRV Winegrowers program to educate the public about the unique micro-climates within the Russian River Valley AVA in Sonoma County. The panel was moderated by Mike Sullivan, co-owner and winemaker at Benovia with Mark McWilliams, Arista Winery, representing the “Middle Reach” neighborhood, Rod Berglund, Joseph Swan Vineyards, representing the “Laguna Ridge” neighborhood, and Michael Browne, Kosta Browne, representing the “Green Valley” neighborhood.  Additionally joining the panel was noted author and Russian River Valley expert, Steve Heimoff, formerly of Wine Spectator and Wine Enthusiast, currently Director of Wine Communications and Education for Jackson Family Wines.

The Russian River Valley winegrowers began planting cool climate grapes in the 1960’s and they have emerged as the premier Pinot Noir and Chardonnay growers in the United States largely a factor of almost perfect weather and unique soils.  The Russian River Valley has natural air-conditioning created by a distinguishing fog that ebbs and flows through the Petaluma gap and the channel cut by the Russian River.  This fog allows the grapes to develop full flavor maturity over an extended growing season — often 15 to 20 percent longer than neighboring areas — while retaining their life-giving natural acidity.  Yet, within the Russian River Valley five distinct micro-climates exist – the Middle Reach, the Laguna Ridge, Green Valley, Santa Rosa Plain, and Sebastopol Hills.  Today’s neighborhood discussion explored the unique characteristics of the pinot noirs in the first three of these micro-climiates.  It should be noted that the Green Valley is a unique AVA entirely within the Russian River Valley AVA. 


Mark McWilliams speaking about the Middle Reach, located around Westside Road from Healdsburg to River Road, indicated the soil’s percentage of sand, silt, and clay determined it characteristics as did the elevation and resultant influence by fog.  To show the characteristics of the Middle Reach, a blind tasting of three vineyards, Allen, Harper’s Rest, and Little Hill was done. The wines all exhibited darker stone fruit flavors with an earthiness and firm tannin structure.  This region features notable wines from Williams Selyem (Allen), Arista (Harper’s Rest), and Rochioli (Little Hill); all of which have historically aged exceptionally well – Merry Edwards has described the wines as “built to last.”  The wines tasted were from the 2012 vintage.

The goal of the RRV Winegrowers Neighborhood Group is to develop a common language and terms to describe the characteristics of its micro-climate wines from year to year – as a self education and for consumer information.  To accomplish this they are working on developing a database of information that will help everyone understand this diverse AVA.  The over-arching (marco) characteristics are similar, but when you drill down unique (micro) qualities emerge.

tastingRod Berglund described the Laguna Ridge, where the Russian River heads toward the ocean, as a very old grape growing region, although newer to pinot noir with a stronger influence of coastal fog than the Middle Reach. The vineyards tasted in this micro-climate included Trenton Estate (Joseph Swan), Goldridge (Dehlinger), and Soul Patch (Davis Family Vineyards) from the 2011 vintage again tasted blind.  These wines exhibited bright red fruit (strawberries with some plum notes) and a milder acidity than the Middle Reach.  Michael Browne concluded with the Green Valley AVA, saying that it exhibited some of the coolest weather in the Russian River Valley.  The 2012 vintages tasted were from the Emerald Ridge vineyard (Dutton-Goldfield), the Keefer Ranch vineyard (Kosta Browne), and Fog Dance vineyard (Hartford Court).  These wines exhibited crisp red fruit flavors (cranberry, raspberries) with a bright acidity.  The wines have been described as having “tension” – an edge or firmness and may be a little less drinkable when they are very young.  The structure of these wines seems to define the Green Valley.

Michael Browne said that for him Russian River Valley wines are about texture and that wonderful mouth feel.  Mark McWilliams described the RRV wines as accessible; wines that can be consumed young, but have tremendous upside potential for development over time. Mike Sullivan echoed Mark about the consistency year-to-year of the RRV pinot noir with their characteristic hallmarks of mixed berries and cola.  The wines display well in tough growing years (2010-2011) and good ones (2012-2013).  Rod Berglund indicated that in the RRV it is incredibly easy to make well-balanced wines and again reiterated Michael Browne that it is the incredible mouth feel that distinguishes RRV pinot noir.

Steve Heimoff shared some additional information from his book, A Wine Journey along the Russian River and discussed that the expanse of Sonoma County pinot noir growing region which represents the largest such area in the world with 500 miles stretching from the coast to 30 miles inland and that makes this an incredible region within the wine world.

It should be noted that Gus (Steve’s dog) also joined panel but was quiet on the Russian River Valley Pinot Noirs as Steve says that he favors Dry Creek Valley’s zinfandel.  But that is another topic!

#Benovia #Arista #JosephSwan #KostaBrowne #SteveHeimoff #DiscoverRRV

VIP Reception kicks off Russian River Valley Pinot Classic

MTC-VIP ReceptionTonight Tony Lombardi (Kosta Browne), Michael Browne (Kosta Browne), and Chris Donatiello (C. Donatiello Winery) on the patio of Kosta Browne’s new Sebastopol location welcomed the VIP guests of the Russian River Valley Pinot Classic with amazing wines from Kosta Browne, Moshin Vineyards, VML Winery, Dutton-Goldfield, Sonoma-Cutrer Vineyards, and J Vineyards and Winery accompanied by fresh oysters from The Oyster Girls (Tomales Bay) and a delectable array of appetizers from Bay Laurel Catering. If this is any indication of the Memorial weekend activities they have planned – it is going to be a fabulous time in the Russian River Valley!

Tod-MichelleTod and Michelle Hagins joined the group from Ohio after being married yesterday at the Madrona Manor in Healdsburg.   Tod said he loved the grilled pork and swiss sliders with carmelized spring onions and truffled mayonaise the best, but my personal favorite from Bay Laurel Catering was the grilled day boat scallop served in a silver spoon with creamy polenta and arugula pesto.  My husband has always been a fan of charcuterie and cheese plates and Bay Laurel did not disappoint with their assortment local favorite cheeses from Cowgirl Creamery, Bellwether Farms, Laura Chenel, Point Reyes, and Weirauch Farms, as well as charcuterie from BLC, Creminelli and Fra’mani.

DSCN0720I enjoyed meeting David and Tricia Niederauer of Los Gatos who have been long-time supporters of Kosta Browne wines and have an extensive collection of some of Kosta Browne’s most highly prized wine to prove it. David said that he had a bottle of Kosta Browne Pinot Noir – 4-Barrel planned for their dinner that evening at Zazu Restaurant just around the corner in the Barlow Center.  Michael Browne praised David for his support, saying that before any of the now many Kosta Browne accolades, David had promoted their wines and encouraged others to join their wine club. David and Tricia have an extensive 5,000 bottle climate-controlled cellar. The cellar houses Niederauer’s collection of famous Sauternes wine from France’s Chateau D’Yquem, purportedly dating back to the 1921 vintage. Tricia says the cellar is a fun place to gather with friends and that she and David don’t wait for the perfect moment to open their favorite bottles. Drinking the wine is it’s own special occasion.  Obviously, the Kosta Browne wines are in good company!


Wines this evening started with an always excellent J Winery Sparkling Brut Rose.  Dutton-Goldfield presented their 2012 Dutton Ranch Pinot Noir.  Mike Schroeter, winemaking director at Sonoma-Cutrer whose Pinot Noirs are usually only available to wine club members poured both the 2012 Founders Reserve and a 2007 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir.  Rick Moshin, owner and winemaker for 25 years at Moshin Vineyards presented an array of wines from his extensive list of small-lot pinot noirs including a Pinot Gris (Morris Ranch?), Russian River Valley Pinot Noir and single-vineyard, Ridgeway Pinot Noir. Kosta Browne poured their one-sixteen Chardonnay and Pinot Noirs from Russian River Valley, Sonoma Coast and Santa Lucia Highlands.  Having personnally tried many of these fabulous pinot noirs, I was pleasantly surprised by a new wine for me, Virginia Marie Lambrix’s VML Earth Pinot Noir from a series she describes as her Earth, Stars, and Moon wines.  If this wine was any indication, I definitely want to try the Stars and Moon.

Toni Lombardi, the Director of Brand Management and Public Relations for Kosta Browne, has a new venture of his own – Lombardi Wines!  A long-time resident of the Petaluma-Gap with its unique terroir – we are looking forward to his upcoming releases of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.

Many other guests joined in this wonderful feast of food and wine including visitors from as far away as Australia, looking to increase their California wine cellar.  I am always looking to increase mine!  More, as the weekend progresses!

DSCN0756 Oyster Girls Bobby












#KostaBrowne #CDonatiello #MoshinVineyards # VMLWinery #Dutton-Goldfield, #Sonoma-Cutrer #JVineyards #BayLaurelCulinary #TheOysterGirls #RRVWinegrowers #PinotClassic

DRNK Wines – Old Family! New Traditions!

FrontWinding through scenic Russian River Valley vineyards, you pull up to DRNK Wines; a site that reminds you of the Wine Aging Caves at Kunde Family Estate Winery in Kenwood and the history of this 5th generation Kunde winemaker, Ryan Kunde.  Ryan not only brings a rich family history of excellent wines to his new family enterprises with Dale and Nancy Dougherty and his wife Katie, but also fresh eyes and an adventurous spirit.

I stopped by today admist the craziness of a small working winery preparing for their first public event – the Russian River Valley Pinot Classic.  Surely pinotphiles will find this off-the-beaten-track winery since it received an astonishing 97 points (gold medal) for their inaugural 2012 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir “Cavers Cuvee” last week at the Press Democrat’s North Coast Wine Challenge.

TastingAdditionally, DRNK Wines will be pouring 2012 Russian River Valley Chardonnay “Catie’s Corner Vineyard,” 2012 Sonoma Mountain Pinot Gris “Morning Sun Vineyard” ‘Orange Wine,’ 2012 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir “Hallberg Vineyard” (my favorite), and their newest releases 2013 Russian River Valley Rose of Pinot Noir and 2013 Russian River Valley Viognier “Catie’s Corner Vineyard.”  I have also heard they will be offering futures on their 2013 Pinot Noir.

Ryan brings a history of winemaking and hard work and blends it with fruit grown in some of the best Sonoma County vineyards epitomizing the diverse strengths of this region. Ryan is intimately involved in the vineyards from the inception through harvest with a blend of hands-on knowledge and modern technology.  See the drones he flies over vineyards to assess the fruit development from a unique prospective.  

This involvement continues through crush as each lot is carefully hand harvested and sorted in the vineyard and again at the winery before crushing. All fermentations are carried out in small batches and punched down by hand. The wines are then transferred to barrels in the underground cellar, an ideal winemaking environment.

MadScientistI like watching Ryan, in his “mad-scientist” trailer (just outside the cave).  He gives personal care and consideration to each barrel individually before final blends are made.

It is a fabulous place to visit, to get up-close and personal with a winemaker who moves comfortably from the vineyard to the lab to the cellar.

Ryan’s combination of modern technology, hands-on work, and old-school knowledge is engaging as he talks about the wine he has lovingly crafted. Both Ryan and Katie are warm, friendly and down-right nice.

CaveDinningAlthough, the caves aren’t being used for the Pinot Classic (they will be hosting this event outdoors) they are worth a separate outing.  I love barrel tasting with this fascinating winemaker as he interweaves stories of the wines development with a history of Sonoma County and its vineyards. Have him tell you about riding on the machine that cut this cave when it built the Wine Aging Cave at the Kunde Family Estate 20 some years ago.

Katie tells me they will have their 3-D printer on hand during the Russian River Pinot Classic and can make wine charms for your glass – technology at its best!


Also don’t forgot to order your 2013 futures that day.

Speaking of futures, you might also get a peak at the 2014 Dougherty-Kunde release, Henry David Kunde, the newest 6th generation Kunde.

It is still too early to tell if he will follow in his family’s footsteps.

#SonomaCounty #RussianRiverValley #PinotClassic #DRNKWines #Kunde

On the Wine Road – Russian River Valley

RRVSaturday the Wine Road was celebrating Wine Tourism Day and since Green is their new Red, I loaded my Honda hybrid with a recyclable water bottle and set out to visit a couple of the Wine Road Russian River Valley wineries.

If you are more ambitious, many of these wineries are also bicycle friendly and will gladly ship your purchases home for you.  Many of Sonoma County’s fabulous wineries have beautiful picnic spots, so be sure to take along a sandwich or picnic lunch to enjoy during your visit.  Think about what kind of wine you plan to taste and bring food that you think will be fun to pair with it for the best experience ever!

Wine Road is an association of wineries and lodgings in the Alexander, Dry Creek, and Russian River Valleys of Northern Sonoma County (currently more than 150 wineries and 50 lodgings). The Wine road describes itself saying “It’s not actually a “road” in the sense of a single, continuous stretch of paved highway, but more of a treasure map to the many jewels nestled among the hills and valleys of a region where fresh air, fine wine and exquisite cuisine await those who traverse it.”

To traverse this expanse of wineries, will require multiple trips, so this is only my first in a series where I will continue to explore these wonderful gems.

Siduri20aI started my journey at Siduri, who was celebrating their 20th Anniversary having gone from warehouse winery to the White House holiday tables. For this special milestone, Siduri was offering tastings of select past vintages plus special appearances by famed Pinot Noir growers presenting their current releases.  Siduri was also offering futures (and barrel tastings) for the 2013 Siduri Bucher Vineyard Pinot Noir.

Adam and Dianna Lee, owners and winemakers, create every Siduri wine with an emphasis on expressing the unique characteristics of the vintage and the terroir.  Their restraint in winemaking manipulation has led to many accolades over the past 20 years and will surely continue long into the future, because of the relationships they have developed with each of their growers.  You will definitely find a wine perfect for you in their expansive offering of single vineyard designate Pinot Noirs.

SiduriVintageYou can join Siduri’s mailing list or visit their “urban” winery by contacting SiduriI am sure you will enjoy these knowledgeable, friendly people who love to talk pinot noir and share their fabulous wines.

Siduri Winery
981 Airway Court, Suites E & F 
Santa Rosa, CA 95403
TEL: (707) 578-3882

The second winery on my journey was appropriately the eco-friendly Inman Family Winery. Kathleen Inman, owner and winemaker, describes her passions as elegant pinot noir and the beautiful Russian River Valley.  Inman Family Winery sits on their organically farmed estate vineyard, Olivet Grange. As I drove in amid wandering chickens, an electric vehicle had just pulled into the first privately owned public charging station for electric vehicles in Sonoma County.


In addition to Kathleen’s OGV (Olivet Grange Vineyard) and Thorn Ranch Pinot Noirs, the Inman Family Winery also produces a Sparkling Brut Rosé and their Endless Crush Rosé of Pinot Noir, the later of which just won Sweepstakes Rosé Class at the Riverside International Wine Competition.  “An addictively bright and refreshing rosé with notes of strawberry and watermelon.”
– Daryl Groom, Wine Judge. This wine sold out in six weeks last year.

PicnicMichelle works with Kathleen in the tasting room creating an inviting venue to learn about their commitment to elegant pinot noir and significant environmental practices. They have a picturesque living room and picnic table set outside the winery for you to enjoy your lunch with a bottle of their lovely wines.  Additionally, they rent the farmhouse on Olivet Grange which makes a great base for your explorations of the Russian River Valley.  Tasting Room Hours: 11am – 4pm Thursday through Monday.

Inman Family Winery
3900 Piner Road
Santa Rosa, CA 95401

RRV Home RanchMy third stop was Hanna Winery’s Russian River Valley tasting room.  Hanna maybe better noted for their majestic location in the Alexander Valley, but this tasting room sits amidst Hanna’s original “home ranch” chardonnay and pinot noir vineyards.

Dr. Elias Hanna founded this winery in 1985, but it has been run for the past 20 years by his daughter, Christine.  She embodies the Russian River Valley love of wine paired with food and has written “The Winemaker Cooks.”  To help you understand this passion, Hanna offers an array of wine and food experiences in both of their tasting rooms.

TastingRoomChristine Hanna with winemaker, Jeff Hinchliffe, are known for their Russian River Valley Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay, as well as their Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. They make a number of other varietals as well, but are announcing this week the release of their 2012 Hanna Malbec from Alexander Valley which will be a first for them.

Patrick Shockey generously shared with me his 13 years of experience in Hanna’s wines, including his current favorite a 2007 Merlot which is only available to visitors at the winery – another good reason for a road trip!  Patrick says to pair this wine with another local favorite Cowgirl Creamery’s Red Hawk  cheese. Tasting room hours are daily 10am-4pm

HANNA Winery, Russian River Valley
5353 Occidental Road
Santa Rosa, CA  95401
(707) 575-3371

winepressMy fourth and final stop, was a new winery for me, although it has a long history of family farming in the Russian River Valley. Dutton Estate is owned by Joe and Tracy Dutton.  Joe’s parents purchased their Green Valley ranch before he was born and Tracy parents have been farming Kozlowski Farms since 1949. Tracy says “Joe is a true farmer and enjoys the fruits of his labor.”

Today, Dutton Ranch (co-owned by Joe and Steve Dutton) farms 1300 acres of grapes and 250 acres of apples, all within the Green Valley-Russian River Valley and Sonoma Coast appellations. Steve Dutton with Dan Goldfield own nearby Dutton-Goldfield Winery.  The Duttons work with other grape growers to foster sustainable farming and Joe Dutton is a board member of the Gold Ridge Resource Conservation District.

chardonnay2The history of this family is evident throughout the winery beginning with the vintage wine press at the tasting room’s wooden door entrance.  The tasting room is housed in a converted farm house and inside you find a stagecoach wheel table holding souvenirs and antique furniture from the family everywhere.  But the best part is that you also find that old-fashioned kindest in the greetings of a knowledgeable staff who not only know the wines and winery, but the community as well. 

Outside the doors is one of Dutton Estate’s Chardonnay vineyards which is included in their VIP Tour of this working winery.  The VIP Tour progresses to the barrel room to taste wines during their fermentation and ends with the piece de résistance, an alluring wine and food pairing created by winery chef, Cynthia Newcomb.  The tasting is created specifically to enhance the distinct characteristics of each wine. Dutton Estate wines include Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnary, Pinot Noir, and Syrah that are hand-crafted from many small vineyards.


Multiple picnic areas are available on the grounds which overlook vineyards or beautiful garden settings. Wine tasting is offered daily 10am-4:30pm

Dutton Estate Winery
8757 Green Valley Road
Sebastopol, CA 95472
(707) 829-9463


I would highly recommend a visit to any of these excellent Russian River Valley wineries.  The Wine Road offers custom tour maps and trip planning assistance as well as one (1) and three (3) day tasting passes.  Check out their website for additional information.

#RussianRiverValley #SonomaCounty #WineRoad #Siduri #InmanFamilyWinery #HannaWinery #DuttonEstate #winetasting

A Classic Blend of Rustic and Romance – Bucher Vineyard

BucherViewI know one day soon, I will be fighting for a space to park and a spot at the table with these generous, friendly, down-to-earth Sonoma County farmers, Diane and John Bucher.  Not only are their grapes/wines fabulous, but the rolling hills estate of Bucher Vineyards is truly breathtaking; a classic blend of rustic earthiness and romance that matches their 2012 pinot noirs, the second release for this winery that won’t be a secret to anyone for long.

Bucher Winery

John and Diane Bucher oversee their family’s vineyard on Westside Road near Arista Winery in Healdsburg.  John, a Healdsburg native, graduated from UC Davis and returned home to manage his family’s dairy farm.  The dairy operation began with John’s parents in 1958 and grew to encompass 360 acres of prime land.  In 1997, John diversified the family operation to include wine grapes; a true combination of modern-day Sonoma County agriculture and a throwback to our region’s traditional roots.  The family’s dairy operation still thrives (supplying organic milk to local favorite Clover Stornetta) but the vineyard business has grown to now include over 40 acres of highly sought after Pinot Noir spread across 14 distinct vineyard blocks. Pommard and Dijon Pinot Noir clones were established initially with the assistance of winemaker Bob Cabral, but have since been expanded to heritage clones including Swan, Mt. Eden and Jackson and one of the original 15 pinot noir blocks (Corner Block) has been grafted over to Chardonnay.

DJBucherThe blocks in Bucher Vineyard range from a little over one acre to just under six acres with most of them on the smaller side.  John has worked to keep the grape size small creating a higher skin-to-juice ratio which is coveted for high quality pinot noir.  “Good quality will always sell, was my parents’ philosophy,” John said.

Fruit from Bucher Vineyard has historically gone to several wineries including Williams Selyem, Arista, Siduri, Holdredge, Papapietro Perry, C. Donatiello Winery and Frank Family Vineyards where it has received many acclaims and is often a single vineyard designate.  In 2011 John and Diane Bucher utilized their high quality grapes to launch the Bucher Vineyard label with the aid of Siduri winemaker Adam Lee.  An estate 2011 Pinot Noir and 2012 Russian River Valley Chardonnay (utilizing grapes from the neighboring Lazy W Ranch on Westside Road) were the inaugural releases. 

BucherGuestsMy tasting notes on the current releases follow:

2012 Bucher Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir – Russian River pinot noirs have a signature cola-spice aroma with an underlying earthiness and this lightly oaked wine was no exception.  It had a red-berry palate tasting of cherries and raspberries with firm tannins for a rich finish. (Recommend drink now, but cellar some for later)

2012 Bucher Vineyard Russian River Valley Three Sixty Pinot Noir – The heritage clone and hillside soils have added an enormous amount of depth and complexity to this textbook vintage.  The plum and sassafras notes translate into rich cherry-plum-raspberry pie on the palate highlighted by exotic spices.  The wine finishes beautifully with a hint of sweet vanilla. (Recommend drink, then drink more… oh yes, cellar some too!)

BucherGuests2Additionally, Bucher Vineyard has released a 2013 Bucher Vineyard Chardonnay and a 2013 Rosé of Pinot Noir.  The Bucher Vineyard wines are understated, silky smooth with a conservative approach to oak.

Be sure to visit this friendly family and taste their wonderful bounty.  Tours and tastings require a reservation.  For additional information see their website or contact Diane at 707-484-5162 or   #BucherVineyard #wine #winetasting #SonomaCounty

Change of Reins Evident at Williams Selyem

Williams SelyemAlthough Williams Selyem announced earlier this year that its long-time Winemaker and General Manager Bob Cabral will be stepping down and the 2014 harvest will be his last at the iconic Russian River winery, it was evident in other ways.  Standing next to what has become a traditional spot for the winemaker – the barrel tasting – was Jeff Mangahas instead of Bob Cabral.

Mark Malpiede, Vice President of Sales and Marketing, said that this transition has been planned for some time.  Jeff Mangahas came to Williams Selyem from Hartford Family Winery three years ago after having worked at Artesa Vineyards and Dutton-Goldfield.  Jeff has a technical background, starting his career at the University of Washington with a B.S. in Cellular and Molecular Biology before enrolling in the Winemaking program at UC Davis where he completed his M.S. in Enology.  Jeff says he loves to coax the best wine possible out of each vintage.  At home he is a gardener and chef.

In 2011, Jeff credited the 1996 Williams Selyem Allen Vineyard Pinot Noir as an eye-opening wine that helped spark his passion for Pinot Noir.  Jeff has some seriously impressive results from both Hartford Family Winery and Williams Selyem for a fairly shy and very humble man and we are all looking forward to many fabulous vintages with him.  

The wine tastings available during the Spring 2014 Release included the 2012 Unoaked Chardonnay, 2012 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir, 2012 Central Coast Pinot Noir, 2012 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir, 2012 Terra de Promissio Pinot Noir and the 2012 Westside Road Neighbors Pinot Noir.  Although the Westside Road Neighbors PN has long been a favorite of mine because I think Bucher, Rocchioli, Allen, and Bacigalupi (among others) are some of the finest Pinot Noir growers in Sonoma County, I was pleasantly surprized to meet a new friend the 2012 Terra de Promissio Vineyard (“Land of Promise”) Pinot Noir.  Growers Diana and Charles Karren were on hand Saturday to talk about their vineyard and grapes, saying   “Terra de Promissio employs hands-on sustainable farming practices that not only produce the finest Pinot Noir grapes, but also ensures the livelihood of the environment for us, our son and daughter, and the generations that will follow them.  Terra de Promissio does not belong to us, we belong to it…”

The Petaluma Gap is the gateway to the Sonoma Coast region. Although not a designated appellation, the Petaluma Gap is producing premium grapes that make the Sonoma Coast Appellation one of California’s best areas to grow primarily Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Syrah grapes according to the Petaluma Gap Winegrowers Alliance.  It is their campaign to put Petaluma on the American Viticultural Area map.

At the Spring Release, Williams Selyem had their traditional array of guests, including Gaga Cafe (drip coffee), Costeaux French Bakery, Valley Ford Cheese Company, Zazu Restaurant/Farm, Healdsburg Toffee Company, and Dry Creek Olive Company.  In speaking with Michelle Robson, General Manager of Trattore Estate Wines and Dry Creek Olive Company, she indicated that construction is underway for their new facility in the Dry Creek Valley that will be opening later this year as well as their new tasting room in downtown Healdsburg.

#wine #winetasting #release #SonomaCounty #TerradePromissio #WilliamsSelyem #Trattore #DryCreekOlive

Benovia Spring Open House 2014

Joe Anderson and Mike Sullivan

Joe Anderson and Mike Sullivan

Benovia’s Open House Saturday was highly anticipated and well attended – but that would be  expected.  Benovia has consistently produced excellent wines and Spring was in the air.

Benovia is at the end of Hartman Road (West of Santa Rosa) in the Russian River Valley.  It is an elegant setting that helps you appreciate the wine and this event even more.

Joe Anderson (owner) and Mike Sullivan (winemaker) were pouring wines along with a crew of family and staff.  This is always a very friendly and well organized event.  When you entered you were handed a glass of 2013 Rosé  of Pinot Noir.  This Rosé has cranberry / watermelon aromas supported by bright acidity and a tart cherry finish.  This will be a great summer wine and drinkable right away.

The Chardonnays offered for tasting included the 2012 Ft. Ross-Seaview Chardonnay from the Martinelli vineyards, a wine that reflects its cool-climate origins with aromas of pears, and the 2012 Russian River Valley Chardonnay, a complex blend from Benovia’s Martaella Estate Vineyard and grapes from a couple of small Russian River growers.  I believe both of these will gain from little more time in the bottle.  Historically, the RRV Chardonnays have done very well in competitions and I wouldn’t expect less from this textbook vintage.

Gerard's Paella

Gerard’s Paella

The Pinot Noirs are the highlight for me.  I paired them with Gerard’s Paella, a local favorite! Gerard’s blend of rice, vegetables, seasonings, sausage and chicken matched the wine beautifully.

Benovia was pouring their 2012 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir from their Martaella Estate Vineyard.  2012 was considered an excellent year for Pinot.  This wine’s aroma is full red fruit, but tastes more dense and earthy.  Benovia also poured their 2011 La Pommeraie Pinot Noir which vintage after vintage has been one of my brother’s favorite wines.  The fruit is sourced from a Martinelli Family vineyard along Laguna Ridge at the edge of
the Green Valley AVA.  The name pays homage to its apple orchard origins (La Pommeraie is French for apple orchard). This wine hints of blackberries and crisp acidity.  Mike Sullivan indicated that Benovia chooses their clones thoughtfully to develop flavor and nuances that might not be in some other pinots.  Benovia has a number of heritage clones as well.  Their pinots reflect Mike’s thoughtfulness from the field to the bottle.

I believe that all of Benovia’s Pinot Noirs reflect their best potential with some aging.  I highly recommend cellaring these wines for a year or so and then start tasting them again.  Joe was also pouring a 2010 Savoy Pinot Noir (for friends) which reflected the merits of a little patience. This Anderson Valley wine is more earthy than its Sonoma County relatives and still could easily be cellared for a few more years.

Last but not least Benovia was pouring their 2011 Sonoma County Zinfandel.  They dry-farm these Russian River Valley vines to produce small and compact clusters with incredible fruit intensity and bright acidity.  Dry-farming is only one of the many sustainable practices employed at Benovia Winery.  Read more about everything from Solar Panels to root-stock selection on their website and support farmers/vineyards that treat this wonderful place we live gently.

Everyone was enjoying the beautiful wines and the incredible setting.  Here are a couple of pictures of guests relaxing and a little romance in the vineyards.  It was a great day all around.  If you would like to stop by an enjoy this incredible venue and their wonderful wines.  Appointments are required.  See their website for additional information.  Tell Roger that Discover Sonoma County Wine sent you.

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