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Roadhouse Winery: Pleasing Pinot Noir in Healdsburg

The name is intriguing, the labels are cool, the Pinots please the palate, and the tagline, “Two Guys, a Pool Table, Some Barrels and Love for Pinot Noir” was inviting, so I decided to investigate further. Principal owner and cofounder Eric Hall spent twenty years in the pre dot-com and dot-com world working in the San Francisco Bay area for Apple, Oracle, KPMG and others. Flush with Nasdaq gains after his last dot-com employer went public in 1999, he attempted to retire in Cazadero on the Sonoma Coast where he bought a former B&B. After the stock market went south in 2001, he sold the B&B and bought a small resort hotel in Guerneville in the Russian River Valley.

In 2003, Eric founded the popular “Pinot on the River” event featuring a large tasting of Pinot Noir, which celebrated its tenth anniversary last year with an event on Healdsburg Square. He admits that the event was a blatant attempt to get his hands on some fine Pinot Noir, but it led to a desire to produce his own Pinot Noir himself.

He spent a year working at Papapietro-Perry Winery in Healdsburg (Eric on the right with Bruce Perry is pictured below) and in late 2006, became a partner in an ill-fated venture formerly known as Russian River Vineyards in Forestville. He extricated himself from that business over a year or so, landing on his feet with the founding of Roadhouse Winery in 2008 in a garage (hence the name Roadhouse) on Westside Road. The Sonoma County bureaucracy thwarted that short-lived facility, so he moved to downtown Healdsburg where he opened a tasting room on the square next to Oakville Grocery, and a winery in a warehouse behind City Hall.



Roadhouse winemakers Eric Hall and Eric Anderson produce about 3,000 cases of Pinot Noir and Zinfandel which is sold through the winery’s wine club and at the tasting room. The tagline mentioned earlier comes from the original start up when the first item they bought for the winery was a pool table which they still have. They also have essentially a full-on disco installed in their barrel room which thumps during their events.

As a holdover from Eric’s tech days, he practices slot ranking but applies it to vineyards, rotating out the lower ranking 20% to 30% of vineyard sources each year, and trying new ones in the same areas, hoping to find ones that will perform better. This is why the color-coded labels do not mention the vineyard sources. Once a certain level of quality is displayed by a vineyard, and ongoing agreements on farming practices are secured, some of the wines and their colored labels will be vineyard-designated. The vineyard sources are top notch as you can see by the wines reviewed below which are the first releases from the 2012 vintage. Upcoming 2012 releases include Pinot Noir from Sangiacoma Roberts Road, Weir, and Tina Marie vineyards.

The four wines reviewed here are all well-crafted, and along with their diversity of clonal mixes, they all show individuality.

The winery’s website is www.roadhousewinery.com, and the Facebook page is www.facebook.com/ RoadHouseWinery.



2012 Roadhouse Winery Yellow Label Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

14.6% alc., pH 3.74, TA 0.69, 325 cases, $46. Released fall 2013. Sourced from multiple River Road vineyards west of Highway 101 within two miles of the Russian River. Sandy-clay loam soils. Harvest Brix 25.5º. Clones 115, 2A. 100% de-stemmed, 5-day cold soak, inoculated fermentations, aged 12 months in 20% new, 60% 1 and 2-year-old, and 20% 3- year-old French tight grain or very tight grain French oak barrels. Unfined and unfiltered. · Moderately light reddish purple color with slight haze in the glass. Nicely perfumed with bright aromas of cherry, backing spice and red roses. Vibrant and juicy on the palate with a delicious core of Bing cherry fruit accented by cola, spice and pomegranate flavors. Very refreshing with well-integrated suede tannins and a pleasing and lingering finish. Score: 90

2012 Roadhouse Winery Orange-Red Label Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

14.7% alc., pH 3.70, TA 0.598, 375 cases, $49. Released fall 2013. From vineyards along Eastside Road in Windsor. Clones are Pommard, 115, 667, 777 and “828.” Harvest Brix 24º. 100% de-stemmed, 5-day cold soak, inoculated yeast fermentations, aged 12 months in 40% new, 60% 1 and 2-year-old medium toast, tight grain or very tight grain French oak barrels. Unfined and unfiltered. · Moderately light reddish-purple color with slight haze in the glass. Aromatically alive with scents of wild berries, blueberries, pomegranate and balsam. Mid to full-bodied core of dark red and blue fruits with a hint of black raspberry. More body than the Yellow Label with a touch more structural tannins and a more intensely fruity finish. Highly enjoyable. Score: 91

2012 Roadhouse Winery Dark Yellow Label Middle Reach Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

14.8% alc., pH 3.61, TA 0.67, 325 cases, $49. Release second quarter 2014. Wohler Road and Bacigalupi vineyards. harvest Brix 25.5º. Clones 2A, Pommard, Wente, “828,” and 667. 100% de-stemmed, 5-day cold soak, inoculated yeast fermentations, aged 12 months in 20% new, 60% 1 and 2-year-old, and 20% 3-year-old tight grain or very tight grain French oak barrels. Unfined and unfiltered. · Moderately light reddish-purple with slight haze in the glass. Shy aromas of red cherries and berries, underbrush, dried herbs and incense. The most savory wine of the four tasted here, also armed with a tasty essence of ripe cherry and red raspberry. The dry tannins are well-mannered, and the intense finish holds on. Score: 90

2012 Roadhouse Winery Dark Purple Label Sonoma Mountain Pinot Noir

14.8% alc., pH 3.65, TA 0.625, 275 cases, $49. Release first quarter 2014. Sourced from Silver Pine Vineyard located at the western edge of the Sonoma Mountain at 980 feet above sea level.Harvest Brix 26.5º. 100% de-stemmed, 5-day cold soak, inoculated fermentations, aged 12 months in 20% new, 60% 1 and 2- year-old, and 20% 3-year-old tight grain or very tight grain French oak barrels. Unfined and unfiltered. · Medium reddish-purple color and slight haze in the glass. This wine’s nose is the clear standout with effusive aromas of black cherry, blackberry, spice and earthy flora. The ripest and darkest-fruited wine of the four tasted today. This wine really stands out from the pack with mouth-filling flavors of black cherry pie, black raspberry jam and spice. Medium to full-bodied, and creamy in the texture, with a spectacular finish that explodes with fireworks in the mouth. The wine picks up allure over time in the glass. I have had some exceptional wines from this vineyard and this beauty follows suite. Score: 94

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