Tasty Pinots from the Russian River Valley
The following Russian River Valley Pinot Noirs were tasted recently. All of them were commendable,
some even more considering their price/value ratio. They are listed in no particular order.
De Loach Vineyards De Loach Vineyards celebrated their 30th vintage with the release of the
2005 vintage. This venerated Russian River winery encountered financial difficulties and entered
bankruptcy in 2003, eventually being purchased by the Boisset Family Estates of France. Since the
change of hands, the winery has reached new heights. Accomplished winemaker Greg LaFollette
(below) has been given the reigns, biodynamic farming of the estate’s 22 acres has been instituted,
and the wines have continued to reach improve with every vintage.
2005 De Loach Vineyards Russian River Valley OFS Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., $28. This wine is a reserve
level Pinot Noir (OFS stands for “Only Finest Selection”). Open-top oak fermenters are used in
the vinification. These fermenters offer the advantages of advantageous temperature maintenance,
slow and gentle fermentation, and ideal extraction.
Very nice cherry and raspberry infused wine which
is elegant, silky and nicely balanced. There are pleasing wood overtones and the lively acid make it a
delicious wine with roast chicken.
De Loach Vineyards is located at 1791 Olivet Road, Santa Rosa. The winery is open for tours and tasting
from 10-4:30 daily. OFS Reserve wines may be tasted with food for a small charge. The phone
number is 707-526-9111 and the website is www.deloachvineyards.com. The winery also produces a
Russian River Valley Pinot Noir ($20) which is often served in restaurants, and single vineyard Pinot
Noirs including Masut Vineyard ($45), Sonoma Stage Vineyard ($85) and an appellation Pinot Noir
from the Green Valley ($45). The wines are in widespread retail distribution.
Balletto Vineyards John Balletto started farming in Sonoma County at the age of 17 in 1977. Today
he owns 280 acres in western Sebastopol devoted to wine grapes. 60 acres are planted to multiple
clones of Pinot Noir. The western edges of his property are shared with the Laguna de Santa Rosa wetland
habitat and are preserved lands. 2001 was the first year that wine was made under the Balletto
label. The winemaker is Dan Cederquist.
2006 Balletto Vineyards Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
13.9% alc., 3,178 cases, $20. Clones 667,
777, 32, 114, Swan, 37, 9 and 23. Aged 9 months in French oak.
Black cherry nose with a forest floor
accent. Nicely spiced fruit flavors. A medium-bodied, light and silky wine which finishes clean. Very
enjoyable and a great drink for a Jackson.
is at 5700 Occidental Road, Santa Rosa. The tasting room is open daily from 10-4
and is shared with Dutton-Goldfield wines which are made at the Balletto winery. The phone is 707-
568-2455 and the website is www.ballettovineyards.com
. The wines are sold on the website.
Moshin Vineyards Moshin Vineyardssits on Russian
River Valley’s Rodeo Drive of Pinot Noir - Westside Road.
Moshin Vineyards winery is one of the few gravity-flow wineries
in Sonoma County. Owner Rick Moshin is a former
mathematics professor at San Jose State University who has
farmed and sold Pinot Noir in the Russian River Valley for
several years. His recently built winery was designed to
utilize a four-tiered gravity flow system. The costs of building
a true gravity flow winery prevent many from accomplishing
the task - the retaining walls for the Moshin Winery
cost $500,000 alone. The Moshin Winery is built on a hill
with the front facing formed from old barn wood to give it
an aged look. The crush pad is on the highest or first level. The sorted and destemmed grapes then
drop directly into one of the fermenters on the second level. A hose connected to the fermenters directs
the juice to the tanks on the third level. Wine then flows by gravity directly into barrels and is
stored in the cellar. The bottling room is on the fourth level and receives wine from the cellar into the
bottle filler and then the bottle. The winery has all sorts of technological wizardry including custommade,
closed-top fermentation tanks, specially made settling tanks, an ozone machine for sterilization,
Italian membrane presses and destemmers, a power washer and barrel cleaner, and a pneumatic
punch down system. The current permit allows for 30,000 cases. Custom crush is available at the winery
and Merry Edwards, Guy Davis (Davis Family Vineyards), and George Levkoff (george wine company)
among others have made wine here.
Rick Moshin farms a total of 18 acres and produces about 5,000 cases of Pinot Noir each year. Six
different bottlings make up the offerings. Moshin has retired from his academic job to pursue winemaking
full time. He is a self-taught grape grower and winemaker with over 30 years of experience.
The Moshin label dates to 1989 when Moshin traded grapes for crush services with Gary Farrell and
Davis Bynum. He remembers way back in the early 1970s when he used to drive along Westside Road
dreaming of owning some acreage in the area and now feels blessed to own vineyards here.
The winery is open for tasting from 11-4:30 daily, tours are by appointment. The
address is 10295 Westside Road, Healdsburg. The wines are available on the website at
and by phone at 707-433-5499.
Davis Family Vineyards Proprietor Guy Davis never set out to make wine but while attending
college and majoring in economics, he worked in a French restaurant, developing an interest in the
grape. Subsequently he was a cellar rat at a few wineries and gained valuable wine knowledge as a
wine broker. It was while working at Sky Vineyards in the Mayacamas Mountains that he found his
winemaking calling. In 1996, he bought a property in the heart of the Russian River Valley that had
been abandoned for 20 years. He planted 6 acres of Pinot Noir to clones 115, 667, 777 and Pommard
and rescued a 2.5 acre parcel of Zinfandel on the property which had been planted in 1896. He farms
his vineyard meticulously himself with the assistance of his son. Davis has an attractive small winery
and tasting room located on the banks of the Russian River just outside of downtown Healdsburg.
Currently 4,000 cases of wine are produced including Chardonnay, Cabernet, Syrah, Zinfandel, and a
Sauvignon Blanc (Gusto) from New Zealand (Guy travels down under during the winter here).
2005 Davis Family Vineyards Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
13.9% alc., 957 cases, $40. Fermented in small temperature controlled
fermenters. Each clone was kept separate and blended
later according to Davis’s preferences. Aging was carried out for
11 months in 40% new French oak from Allier and Troncais forests,
air-dried a minimum of 30 months.
The aromatics need some air to
emerge, showing seductive darker fruits The fruit attack is quite
pleasing with black cherry, raisin and mushroom leading to a finish
with barely perceptible tannins. Nicely crafted and easy to like, it is a
very good wine that is still a bit closed and will improve with more
time in the bottle. Hold off for another 6 months.
Davis Family Vineyards is located at 52 Front Street, Healdsburg. The tasting room is open from
Thursday thru Sunday from 11-4:30. Private tastings by appointment. The wines are largely sold
through a mailing list but are available by phone at 707-569-0171 or through the website at
www.daviswines.com. Davis also makes and sells an excellent artisan olive oil from the Sierra Foothills.
A very consistent and reliable producer.
Dutton-Goldfield This winery is a partnership between winemaker Dan Goldfield and viticulturist
Steve Dutton. Steve (left in photo below) is the son of the noted Russian River Valley grape farmer,
Warren Dutton, who first planted Pinot Noir in the cool Green Valley region of the Russian River Valley
in the early 1970s. The story goes that it was Warren that suggested Steve and Dan form a partnership
in 1998. The label was consummated at a Sebastopol pizza parlor with a handshake and the winery
has been producing superb Pinot Noir, Zinfandel, Syrah and Chardonnay ever since. Dan is an
energetic and high-spirited winemaker who intended to enter medical school. In 1983, he was at a
tasting with noted winemaker Larry Brooks (Acacia, Campion) when he had an epiphany, and decided
to become a winemaker himself. He received a master’s degree in enology from University of California at
Davis and honed his skills at Mondavi, Schramsberg, La Crema and Hartford Court.
2006 Dutton-Goldfield Dutton Ranch Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
13% alc., $38.
black cherry scents evolve in the glass to a purely dark fruit compote which is very alluring. Black
raspberry flavors are set off by a hint of oak. The texture is soft and the finish pleasantly tangy with some
unresolved tannins. Plenty to like here.
2005 Dutton-Goldfield Dutton Ranch Freestone Hill Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
13.8% alc., 361 cases, $58. The vineyard was planted in 1997 on the far southwest edge of the Russian
River appellation. Clones 667, 115 and 2A. Aged 17 months in 55% new French oak.
Deep and haunting
aromatics featuring black cherries and wild blackberries. A plush mouthful of dark Pinot extract with
a hint of herbs, spice and earth. Succulent and robust with a long, scented aftertaste. Beautifully balanced,
clean and pure. Power without flab. This one makes you want to clap your hands.
2005 Dutton-Goldfield Dutton Ranch Sanchietti Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
alc., 343 cases, Goldfield has worked with fruit from this vineyard at La Crema and Hartford Court
before bottling it under the Dutton-Goldfield label beginning in 2002.
A fruit driven beauty with demure
dark red Pinot fruits that are elegant and juicy. More subdued and sensuous than the Freestone Hill with
well-concealed tannins, it will be even better with more time in the bottle.
2005 Dutton-Goldfield McDougall Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
13.8% alc., 250 cases, $58.
From the true Sonoma Coast, close to Hirsch Vineyard at 1,100 feet. Yields were about 1 ton per acre.
Enticing nose of blue fruits, plum, ocean air and earth. Supple in the mouth with delicate wild berry fruits,
suave tannins and a snappy, clean finish.
Dutton-Goldfield wines are made at Balletto where they share a tasting room (see page 10-11 for details).
All of the Pinot Noirs clearly stand out and are extremely well crafted. As they should, each wine
reflects a different terroir and it is to Dan’s credit that he lets the wines show off their distinctive terroir-
driven traits. The wines are largely sold through a mailing list but are available on the website at
www.duttongoldfield.com. The phone is 707-829-6766. Wine club discount is 15%. Magnums are
available. Annual production is 9,000 cases.
Williams Selyem I must admit that I have been a bit reticent about Williams Selyem Pinot Noirs
since the winery was sold. The prices have seemed to escalate noticeably and my allocations have
shrank. Recently, however, what I have tasted has been drawing me back and I think Bob Cabral
(pictured below) is really hitting his stride.
2004 Williams Selyem Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
13.9% alc., $42. Sourced
from several vineyards, mainly the winery’s Drake Estate Vineyard in Guerneville.
Cherries, herbs, oak and port aromas lead to a mouthful of bright Bing cherry fruit and a
sidecar of clove and other spices. A pleasurable drink that would be better enjoyed at the
dinner table then sipped for contemplation.
built a new winery at 6575 Westside Road in
Healdsburg. The wines are highly allocated and are sold
through a mailing list at www.williamsselyem.com
6425. Tours and tastings are by appointment.
Merry Edwards Merry Edwards, often called the “Queen of Pinot,” has been a spokesperson for
Russian River Valley Pinot Noir and her wines have been best sellers on restaurant wine lists in this
country for many years. She has been making wine for 35 years including stints at Mt Eden (where she
worked from 1974 to 1977 and developed the Mt Eden clone of Pinot Noir - UCD 37), Liparita, Matanzas
Creek, and Pellegrini Family. In 1997, she started her own winery and released a Russian River Pinot
Noir and an Olivet Lane Pinot Noir. Unlike many women who craft Pinot Noir, her wines are bold expressions
of the grape and typically show flavors of black cherry, dark chocolate, mushroom and lavender.
She noted in Wine & Spirits (Fall, 2004), “We work with a grape deficient in phenolics and tannins.
I’m going to do what I have to do to maintain them.” She currently crafts Pinot Noirs from several
Russian River Valley sources including Flax Vineyard, Olivet Lane Vineyard (my favorite), Tobias Glen
Vineyard, Klopp Ranch Vineyard and her own ( with husband and business partner Ken Coopersmith)
24-acre Meredith Estate Vineyard and 9-acreCoopersmith Vineyard. She made some lovely Pinot
Noirs from Windsor Gardens Vineyard but this vineyard was a victim of housing development a few
years ago. She was chosen Winemaker of the Year by the San Francisco Chronicle in 2004.
Wines are sold primarily through a mailing list and to restaurants. A new winery was
completed in time for the 2007 vintage and is located at the site of the Coopersmith Vineyard, 2959
Gravenstein Highway North, Sebastopol. Tours and tastings are available by appointment at 707-823-
7466. The wines will appeal to those who prefer their Pinot Noir with deep fruit, heft and oak. For me,
the Olivet Lane bottling (reviewed in a previous issue) is clearly the best wine in the lineup. Edwards
also crafts an outstanding Sauvignon Blanc. The website is www.merryedwards.com
Radio-Coteau A very small boutique producer of Pinot Noir from cool vineyards on the Sonoma
Coast, in the Russian River Valley and Anderson Valley that proprietor Eric Sussman manages organically.
Sussman began his training in France at Domaine Armand in Pommard and Domaine Jacques
Prieur in Meursault. Upon returning to Northern California, he worked at Bonny Doon and Dehlinger.
After crossing paths with Bill and Joan Smith, the owners of W.H. Smith, Sussman became partners with
them in Radio-Coteau Wine Cellars. Production is only 2,600 cases annually of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay
and Syrah. He employs a hands-off style of winemaking which starts with a 7-10 day cold soak, fermentation
with natural yeasts, and nothing is added or removed. He doesn’t fine or filter and allows
his wines to sit on the lees for 16 months with no racking. Sussman is fanatical about quality.
2005 Radio-Coteau Alberigi Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.4% alc., 436 cases.
This vineyard is exclusively sourced by Radio-Coteau and lies in the Vine Hill road area.
The nose offers
confected and oak-spiced darker Pinot fruits. Richly layered blackberry and black raspberry extract
with noticeable but not intrusive tannins. Well-rounded and immensely satisfying now, it is still a touch
awkward and will benefit from more time in the bottle. A great expression of Pinot Noir.
is only sold through a highly allocated mailing list at www.radiocoteau.com
. The phone
number is 707-887-6041. Spectacular wines but a challenge to obtain.
Papapietro Perry Ben Papapietro grew up in a family of home winemakers and wine lovers. He
developed a passion for Pinot Noir early on after tasting a number of Burgundies from the mid-1950s.
He struck up a friendship with Burt Williams of Williams Selyem fame while both were working at the
San Francisco Newspaper Agency. In the 1970s, Ben was helping Burt make his homemade garage
wine and he continued to work each harvest at Williams Selyem after the winery was started in the
early 1980s. Ben began making his own homemade wine in 1980 and a few years later was joined by
Bruce Perry, another fellow worker at the San Francisco Newspaper Agency. Upon the urgings of family
and friends, they started Papapietro Perry in 1998 with an initial release of 75 cases of Pinot Noir.
Today they produce well-regarded small lots of Pinot Noir from prime vineyards on the Sonoma Coast
and in the Russian River and Anderson Valleys.
2005 Papapietro Perry Leras Family Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., 950
cases, $46. This vineyard is located off Woolsey Road and is planted to Pommard, 115, 667 and 777
clones of Pinot Noir. The wine was aged for 11 months in 50% new Francois Freres oak. Lovely hi-tone
Flavors are cherry driven with attractive side notes of herbs, cocoa, cola, spice and a
pinch of oak. Modest in weight and light on its feet, this wine oozes finesse and charm. Well crafted and
Papapietro Perry wines are available through retail channels and on the website at www.papaietroperry.
com. A tasting room is open daily from 11-4:30 at 4791 Dry Creek Road in Healdsburg. The
phone is 707-433-0422. The wine above is sold out at the winery but may be available at fine retail
Aubin Cellars Verve Jerome Aubin is a Frenchman who grew up in Burgundy near Beaune. He
resides in Northern California where he imports French and Hungarian oak wine barrels. Along with
winemaker Laren Tayerie, he crafts small lots of Pinot Noir from the Sonoma Coast and Russian River
Valley from a small winery in Novato. Aubin also produces a Pinot Noir from the Dundee Hills at Carlton
Winemaker’s Studio. The name “Verve” translates to “creative enthusiasm.”
2005 Verve Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., 375 cases, $33. The grapes come from an
unnamed well known vineyard located between Sebastopol and Forestville. The clones are an unusual
mix of 115, Beringer, Jackson 9 and Swan. The wine was fermented in a Rousseau 2 ton French oak
open-top fermenter and aged for 17 months in 40% new French oak followed by 6 months in bottle.
This wine smelled great with rich black cherry, plum, spice and pleasant oak aromas. Black cherry infused
with sidecars of anise, herbs and spice, this medium to full bodied Pinot was soft and smooth in the
mouth and left a refreshing impression on the finish. Plenty of Pinot love here.
Aubin Cellars address is 6050 Colton Blvd, Oakland. The phone is 510-339-
0170. The wines are available on the website at www.aubincellars.com and
through fine retail shops. There is a mailing list. No tasting or tours.
Lynmar Winery The Fritz family purchased the Quail hill Vineyard in 1980 and founded Lynmar Winery
in 1990. In 2004, the winery launched a five-year investment plan to complete a phased replanting
of Quail Hill. An impressive new winery and hospitality center was added. Winemaker Hugh
Chapelle (and consultant Paul Hobbs) have brought Lynmar to a world-class level. Lynn Fritz is pictured
2005 Lynmar Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.4% alc., 3,064 cases, $36. A blend of fruit from the
estate Quail Hill Vineyard and other vineyards in the Russian River Valley locale.
Restrained scents of
cherry, herbs and forest floor. Lovely red cherry fruit imbibed with spice. Soft and gentle, it floats across
2005 Lynmar Quail Hill Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.4% alc., 1,459 cases, $60.
Primarily Swan selection from the estate Quail Hill Vineyard. Aged 16 months in 45% new French oak.
Deep, dark ruby in color. A penetrating, rich nose with dark Pinot fruits, forest floor and restrained oak.
Gamy and earthy with plenty of black fruit front and center. Very smooth in texture, seamless throughout
with a healthy tannic structure. More body, more flavor, more of everything compared to the Russian River Valley bottling
Lynmar Winery has a beautiful hospitality center and tasting salon overlooking the estate vineyards.
The center, located at 3909 Frei Road in Sebastopol, is open daily from 10-5. The Lynmar Food and
Wine Experience pairs small appetizer-sized foods with each of the Lynmar wines. Tours are by
appointment. The wines are available on the website at www.lynmarwinery.com. The phone number
is 707-829-3344. Lynmar has released its first vineyard-designate Pinot Noir from outside the Estate,
the Jenkins Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir. There is also a reserve bottling, the Five Sisters
Pinot Noir which is spectacular. The Chardonnays and Vin Gris of Pinot Noir are first rate as well. A
very classy operation with noteworthy wines.
Dain Wines David Dain Smith produces small amounts of several vineyard-designate Pinot Noirs
that are vinified at CrushPad in San Francisco. He still resides in Missouri and commutes to craft his
wines. Each of the wines are named for a prominent now-deceased family member (David’s maternal
grandmother, Cora Whitley Duffer, is pictured on the label of American Beauty reviewed below. Look
him up at any of the Pinot Festivals in California - he has an infectious smile and is a great guy to talk
2006 Dain American Beauty Amber Ridge Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.1% alc., $48. Dijon clones 115, 667. Aged in 50% new French oak.
Attractive aromatics featuring Bing cherry
and wood spice. Red fruits and cola compose the taste track. Very soft and elegant with ample acidity.
The aftertaste lingers with a woodsy bent. The fruits are a little shy at this point and more bottle age
should change this.
Dain Wines are sold primarily through a mailing list at www.dainwines.com. The phone is 417-860-
Olson Ogden Wines John Ogden and winemaker Tim Olson started a boutique winery in Sonoma
County in 2002, making about 1,000 cases a year of Rhone varietals and Pinot Noir. Tim Olson began
crafting wine in his home garage over 20 years ago. A film major in college, he developed enough of
a passion for wine that to gain experience, he began working for free at Caymus for Charlie Wagner.
Before long, he was rewarded with a paycheck for his hard work and he has never looked back. He
made some excellent wines for Tarius before starting Olsen Ogden Wines. Olsen Ogden has gained
some national press recognition for their Unti Vineyard Syrah.
Olson Ogden Wines are sold through a mailing list at
www.olsonogdenwines.com. There is some retail distribution. The phone is
Barnett Vineyards At 2,000 at elevation on Spring Mountain in the Napa Valley, Fiona and Hal
Barnett created a vineyard and winery specializing in Cabernet Sauvignon. They make limited
amounts of Merlot, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Total production is 6,000 cases. The current winemaker
is David Tate who comes to Barnett from Ridge where he as an assistant winemaker.
2006 Barnett Vineyards Tina Marie Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.4% alc., 1180 cases, $40.
Tina Maria Vineyard is in Green Valley, a sub AVA of the Russian River Valley, planted
entirely to Dijon clones.
Complex aromatics dominated by blackberries and black raspberries complimented
by herbs, hay, oak and barnyard. Juicy and succulent dark fruits with an oak sidecar running
throughout. Rich and smooth in texture with integrated tannins. Well-crafted, easy to like and very approachable.
Barnett Vineyards wines are sold on the website at www.barnettvineyards.com. There is some retail
distribution. The winery and vineyards are located at 4070 Spring Mountain Road, St. Helena. The
phone is 707-963-7075.
Rutz Cellars Owner Keith Rutz crafts Pinot Noir in the style and flavor of the great Burgundies of
Vosne-Romanee and Chambolle-Musigny. His unique winery in Sebastopol is housed in a 5,000
square foot extending 300 feet into a hillside.
2005 Rutz Cellars Maison Grand Cru Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., $35.
Very light in
color. The nose is quite charming exhibiting crushed strawberries, exotic woods, spice and a floral lift. A
very elegant wine with delicate red Pinot fruits with oak accents. This is a wine for those who prefer the
feminine side of Pinot Noir.
Rutz Cellars produces several other Pinot Noirs including two blends - French Cuvee and Sonoma
Cuvee - as well as vineyard-designates including Windsor Gardens, Dutton Ranch and Burnside. The
wines are sold on the website at www.rutzcellars.com. The caves and winery are located at 3637 Frei
Road, Sebastopol. 415-482-6565. Tours and tastings by appointment.
J Vineyards & Winery Judy Jordan founded J in 1986 to produce sparkling wines of distinction as
well as still Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir. The winery’s vineyard holdings encompass 274 acres of diverse
hillside, bench land and valley floor plantings. The J sparkling wines have been exceptional through
the years, but the still Pinot Noirs have failed to distinguish. Last year, George Bursick, the former
winemaker at Ferrari-Carano, was brought in along with viticulturalist John Erbe to transform J with an
emphasis on site-specific Pinot Noir. The 2006 vintage will be the first to fully show the fruits of their
2005 J Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., 22,000 cases, $32. A blend from all of the estate
vineyards. Aged 11 months in 30% new French oak.
Rich scents of wild berries and cherries. Subdued
red and blue fruits with a leafy and toasty edge. Decent but lacks energy and excitement.
J Vineyards & Winery has a beautiful tasting and hospitality center at 11447 Old Redwood Highway in
Healdsburg, and offers special tasting experiences with wine-food pairings. The wines are in wide
retail distribution and offered on the website at www.jwine.com. 707-431-3646.