Category Archives: Reviews

RRV Single Vineyard Night – Viva Variety!

View of Alcatraz from General's Residence at Fort Mason

View of Alcatraz from General’s Residence at Fort Mason

Internationally-renowned sommelier, Christopher Sawyer, with the Russian River Valley Winegrowers hosted an evening of Single Vineyard splendor at the General’s Residence (Fort Mason, San Francisco). As a native of Sonoma County, Christopher was the consumate host for this appellation in the heart of Wine Country. Christopher described Sonoma County as a little Europe, the land of promise, and everything you could ever want as far as a great place to live. The European analogy seemed to be a perfect introduction to the extraordinary variety that was to exemplify the Russian River Valley Single Vineyard wines.


Northeastern section of Russian River Valley – Limerick Lane, Healdsburg, CA

The Russian River Valley (RRV) American Viticulture Area (AVA) encompasses more than 15,000 acres of winegrapes and approximately 100 wineries. Although world-class Pinot Noir is grown in abundance in the RRV, it not alone in the vineyards. The RRV is incredibly diverse consisting of five distinct growing neighborhoods or regions – Middle Reach, Laguna Ridge, Green Valley, Santa Rosa Plain, and Sebastopol Hills. The westernmost vineyards lie among hills on California’s coastal range sometimes within 8 miles of the Pacific Ocean.  These areas are cool-climate vineyards with the climate strongly influenced by the ocean and fog and focus on Pinot, Chardonnay and cool-climate winegrapes.

Statistics via Russian River Valley Winegrowers

Statistics via Russian River Valley Winegrowers

Further north in the RRV, the vineyards enjoy a milder influence from coastal breezes and oceanic fog; the relatively warmer climate finds Zinfandel winegrapes.  In the RRV’s northeastern corner it is at its warmest; the vineyards include winegrapes like Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. Many varietals florish within the RRV from Chardonnay to Gewurztraminer and present themselves as a reflection of the place in which they were grown by Winegrape Growers and Winemakers that are working to be 100% sustainable and protect this incredible valley for many generations to come.

What does ‘Single Vineyard’ really mean?  The RRV Winegrowers defined a single vineyard wine as the “grand cur” of grapes – the highest quality and most sought after.  Most winegrowers nuture a vineyard for years and then only in the best vintages do they single out those grapes for a vineyard designate wine – a year where the concentration, depth of flavor, balance, and complexity of the harvest results in an impeccable reflection of the terroir on that vineyard. This gives you an idea of the quality of the wines presented at this signature RRV event.


Sommelier Christopher Sawyer

To exemplify the terroir diversity in this region, Christopher Sawyer along with an expert sommelier panel of Ian Burrows, Mauro Cirilli, and Michael Ireland selected four wines to discuss – a Bacigalupi Vineyards Estate Chardonnay (middle reach – Westside Road); a Dutton-Goldfield Freestone Hill Vineyard Pinot Noir (Freestone – southwestern RRV); Martinelli Bondi Home Ranch Vineyard Pinot Noir (Green Valley of the RRV); and Novy Papera Ranch Vineyard Zinfandel (Santa Rosa plains). As host, Christopher began with the Bacigalupi Chardonnay describing the old vine patch to the right of the family home that was planted in the mid 1960’s with an intimate knowledge of the winegrapes and wine produced there.  This white wine had a natural minerality with aromas of peach and mango followed by hints of cinnamon and nutmeg.  The medium acidity and citrus on the mid-palate created a well balanced wine.

Ian Burrows, Michael Ireland, and Mauro Cirilli

Ian Burrows, Michael Ireland, and Mauro Cirilli

Ian Burrows (formerly with FarmHouse Inn) continued with the Dutton-Goldfield Pinot Noir which displayed a good natural stucture that Ian felt would fully develop within 1-2 years in the bottle but would cellar well for 8+ years. The Pinot Noir displayed blackberries with a coriander/white pepper spice (called “Freestone spice”), some tobacco in the mid-palate and medium acidity.  Ian recommended pairing this Pinot Noir with tuna tatare or duck. Michael Ireland presented the Martinelli Pinot Noir which displayed dark cherries, plums, cardamon, cloves, cinnamon in a much riper wine than the Dutton Goldfield.  This wine also requires a little age to come together, but was an excellent historical representation of the Green Valley of RRV and showed a very different style of Pinot Noir.  Mauro Cirilli finished with the Novy Zinfandel.  Papera Ranch is an old-vine Zinfandel vineyard, located on the eastern side of the Laguna de Santa Rosa. Planted in 1934, after the repeal of prohibition, the wine from this vineyard showed aromas of red raspberries, mint, wild flowers and sage with the silky tannins of an old vine winegrape. This seminar’s prelude of diversity introduced the audience to the variety of amazing wines that followed in the grand tasting.


Middle Reach of Russian River Valley

I started off my journey through the Russian River Valley Single Vineyard wines looking outside my standard favorites (Pinot Noir and Chardonnay) for those wines that would show the diversity in this truly rich agricultural region. Here are just some of the wines I tried.  I hope they give you a small taste of the wonderful choices that you can experience exploring the high quality wines produced from vineyards in the Russian River Valley AVA.

Cartograph‘s 2013 Floodgate Vineyard Gewurztraminer a pale yellow Alsace-style bone dry white wine with aromas of lemon and mandarin orange.  DRNK Wines 2013 Catie’s Corner Viognier a crisp white wine with aromas white peach, melon and guava, a mineral driven structure, light tannins and a fresh finish. Gordian Knot Winery 2012 Elieo Vineyard Albarino a tangy mix of white peach, grapefruit with firm acidity. Valdez Family Winery 2012 U.V. El Diablo Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc a zesty white wine with aromas of lemon grass, green apple, and subtle notes of honey. J Vineyards 2013 Cooper Vineyard Pinot Gris a tropical white wine with aromas of oranges, apricots, and honeysuckle; a crisp acidity and distinct minerality. I would drink all of these wines now.

Nicole Bacigalupi

Nicole Bacigalupi

Mueller Winery 2012 Block Eleven Syrah a fruity red wine with aromas of blackberry, black cherry, oak and vanilla; complex with a smooth finish. Viszlay Vineyards 2009 Five Vines Bordeaux Blend a fruit-forward ripe red wine with aromas of blackberry, currant, vanilla, and caramel; a medium acidity and fine tannins.  Y. Rousseau 2012 Tannat, Matthew’s Station a rich dark red wine with aromas of black cherry, cassis and licorice that turns into a juicy cherry pie on the palate. Acorn Winery 2012 Sangiovese, Alergria Vineyards a red wine with aromas of cherries, plum and oak that add mocha on the palate; slightly chewy with youthful tannins. Bacigalupi Vineyards 2012 Petite Sirah a big, bold red wine with earthy aromas and flavors of pepper, nutmeg and cinnamon which dominate a boysenberry jam and typically firm tannins, cellar to enjoy later.  Most of these red wines would benefit from a little patience in the bottle/cellar.

Ted Elliott with Christopher Sawyer

Ted Elliott with Christopher Sawyer

Okay, I can’t help myself – one Pinot Noir.  First, I must say, there are too many great Pinot Noirs in the Russian River Valley to try them all in one sitting, but maybe one Pinot Noir to start your journey would be TR Elliott 2009 O’Connell Vineyard Burgonet a selection of three barrels from the two-acre vineyard atop a knoll on Vine Hill Ridge in western Sonoma County that is planted exclusively to the Pommard clone. The O’Connell Vineyard has a long, cool growing season and Gold Ridge sandy loam soils.  The aroma of this wine is cherries, raspberries, and cinnamon that waifs into tobacco and forest floor on the palate. A beautifully complex wine that will make you want to take a life-long journey through Russian River Valley wines.  So whether you choose to explore new varietals or some of the classic grapes plan to fall in love with the Russian River Valley Winegrowers and Winemakers.

If you missed the Russian River Valley Single Vineyard Night, they also host Russian River Valley Passport to Pinot coming in June 2015.  Join their mailing list and you will always know when these two classic events go on sale.

#RussianRiverValley #Winegrowers #Wine #Winetasting #ChristopherSawyer #SingleVineyardNight #AcornWinery #BacigalupiVineyards #Cartograph #DRNKWines #DuttonGoldfield #GordianKnotWinery #JVineyards #JWine #MartinelliWinery #MuellerWinery #NovyFamilyWines #TRElliott #ValdezFamilyWinery #YRousseau #IanBurrows #MichaelIreland #MauroCirilli #PassporttoPinot #PinotClassic

Charles Heintz Vineyard Chardonnays

CharlieWest Sonoma Coast Vintners West of the West Festival Seminar #2 “Charles Heintz Vineyard Chardonnays” was an appropriate topic as this is and has been for 20+ years a premier sources of grapes for many of the winemakers utilizing West Sonoma Coast grapes.

The Heintz Vineyard, owned by the Heintz family for almost 100 years consists of approximately 100 acres of which about half are planted with a combination of Chardonnay (25 Acres Clone 4 AXR1 rootstock), Pinot Noir (20 Acres, Clones: Pommard,115, 113, Swan and Berringer plus 2 Acres Swan clone), and Syrah (3 Acres, Clones 174, 470 and a “Field Select” from Hugh Chappelle all on 330).  Although Charlie encouraged us all to try his beloved Syrah (during the Grand Tasting), this seminar focused on the Chardonnay.

Panel2The Panelists were lead by Alder Yarrow of Vinography with color commentary by Ehren Jordan of Failla (who does not use Heintz Vineyard Chardonnay grapes, but tried to obtain some for cement eggs during the seminar).  Ehren stated his job was to keep everyone honest.  Joining this group was Charles Heintz, Hugh Chapelle consulting winemaker at Heintz Vineyards, Andy Smith of DuMol, and Ted Lemon of Littorai.  Ryan Zepaltas of Zepaltas was originally scheduled but his wife gave birth at 8 am the morning of the seminar.

Charles Heintz said the Chardonnay plantings in 1982 were originally intended to be hawked to Korbel Cellars for sparklinWine 2ag wine, but due to the depression of the 1980 was never accomplished.  Within a few years they realized they could ripen Chardonnay for still wine and sold some via Warren Dutton, but their early client was Sebastiani.  These grapes on grown at about 900 ft. elevation on the second ridge in from the Pacific Ocean in what Charles Heintz describes as a rain cloud.  Even in this drought year, he indicates that his resersoirs are full.

Heintz Vineyards sells to a whose-who of great winemakers (Amici Cellars, Banshee WinesBrack Mountain Wine, Ceritas WinesDeLoach Vineyards, DuMol WinesFetzer, Flowers WineryFreeman Family Vineyards, Heintz VineyardsKesner Wines, Landmark, Littorai, MigrationMoone Tsai, Pearl MorissettePeay Vineyards, Peirson Meyer WinesRadio Coteau, Realm Cellars, Ultramarine Wines, VonHolt WinesWilliams Selyem, and Zepaltas Wines) and has maintained long-term relationships with many of these growers, he named 20 years with panelist Ted Lemon of Littorai and 14 years with Andy DuMol of DuMol.
Wine2The Chadonnay from this vineyard has a pronounced acidity and textural difference in its mouthfeel that Charles Heintz felt was unique.  About 20 years ago, Ted Lemon asked him to begin organically farming the grapes that Littorai was purchasing in the West Block.  Although this has been challenging over the years, Heintz has continued to organically farm about 5 acreas of his Chardonnay.e

The first was a comparative of picking range available in the Heintz Vineyard with two 2012 Chardonnays from Ceritas and Zepaltas (harvested 2 weeks after Ceritas’ grapes) which was  followed by three tank samples showing a comparison of neutral wood (Heintz) versus stainless steel (Littorai) versus hogsheads (DuMol).  None of these were final wines, but indicated some winemaking nuances and the room liked all three samples, but seemed to slightly favor the stainless and hodsheads.

Three distinct but similar wines from 2011 Ceritas, 2012 Heintz, and 2012 DuMol were blind tasted to showcase similarities in qualities of the vineyard produce.  The crowd was almost equally divided on which one they liked the best which was another strong indicator of the diversity and quality at this site.

Grand Tasting followed.

#Amici Cellars #BansheeWines #BrackMountainWine #CeritasWines #DeLoachVineyards #DuMolWines #Fetzer #FlowersWinery #FreemanFamilyVineyards #HeintzVineyards #KesnerWines #Landmark #Littorai #Migration #MooneTsai #PearlMorissette #PeayVineyards #PeirsonMeyerWines #RadioCoteau #RealmCellars #UltramarineWines #VonHoltWines #WilliamsSelyem #ZepaltasWines #Chardonnay #WestSonomaCountyVintners #WOWSebastopol

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

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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Annual End of Frost Party – Emeritus April 2014

Emeritus’ Annual End of Frost Party last weekend was fabulous, although Lost Dog Found provided amazing music and Pizza Politana delectable pizzas the star of the show was, of course, the wines. Rebecca and Keith greeted you with a 2013 Ruby Ruby (Ruby will you be Wine?) Pinot Noir Saignee from the Russian River Valley. This wine from the Hallberg Vineyard was crisp and fruity. It was placed into the fermentation tanks with the skins for a few days and then just the juice was removed to ferment. It spent 3-4 months in natural oak and is the perfect wine for the warm weather that has moved into Sonoma County this week. Continue reading

Littorai Spring Release 2014

I ran into Littorai wines via a Charity auction a few years back and have been an avid follower every since. I appreciate their support of the community and especially their commitment to sustainable farming methods. They treat the land gently and their wines truly reflect the terroir. At their spring.release party last weekend they rolled out some of their 2012 pinot noirs including Les Larmes (Anderson Valley) and Platt Vineyard and Pivot Vineyard from Sonoma County. My personal favorite was the Pivot – rich in cherries and herbs with a robust earthiness. Continue reading