C. Donatiello Winery
Christopher Donatiello, a former New York based wine and spirits distributor, has teamed with investment
banker Bill Hambrecht to totally transform the site of the former Belvedere Winery on Westside
Road in Healdsburg. Belvedere Winery was acquired by Bill Hambrecht in 1989. The new spectacular
14.5-acre estate has an organically farmed vineyard, a contemporary wood and glass hospitality center
and tasting room designed by noted winery architect and landscaper, Ken Munson, and an organic
garden that introduces visitors to flora that have a natural affinity for the aromas found in the Burgundian
varietals. The existing winery facility is being upgraded and outfitted with the latest in winemaking
technology. A soft launch of the label occurred in April, with the official Grand Opening celebration
taking place on June 21, 2008.
The focus of C. Donatiello Winery is small lot Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays from the organic estate vineyard and specially chosen vineyards in the Russian River Valley. Two very talented winemakers
are on board. Winemaker Troy McEnery (photo below on left, Chris on right) has years of experience
at Gallo Sonoma and Belvedere, and Associate Winemaker Webster Marquez developed his skills at
Williams Selyem and now is partnered with two other winemakers at Anthill Farms. The entire operation
is very classy with considerable thought given to a distinguished image and tasteful presentation
of the wines.
I was recently invited to sit down with Chris Donatiello and briefly taste the current inaugural lineup of
wines. This winery will be a serious player among the already crowded Middle Reach winery region.
2007 C. Donatiello Russian River Valley Sauvignon Blanc
14.2% alc., 230 cases, $24. From the
Crinola Vineyard in Santa Rosa.
A very fruity version of Sauvignon Blanc without the grassiness that can
creep in to this varietal. Interesting green apple, pear and mineral notes with acidity nicely corralled. I
am not a big Sauvignon Blanc fan, but I enjoyed this wine immensely and thought it compared favorably to
Merry Edwards’ version which is my favorite.
2006 C. Donatiello Russian River Valley Chardonnay
14.4% alc., 3,400 cases, $28. A blend of several
vineyards, primarily Orsi Vineyard. Slight oak influence.
This is fruitier than the above Chardonnay
with an understated fullness and richness. Subtle spice, butter and citrus notes.
2006 C. Donatiello Orsi Vineyard Russian River Valley Chardonnay
14.4% alc., 225 cases, $38. The
best barrels. Orsi Vineyard is a 30 year-old dry-farmed vineyard on Eastside Road. 50% new oak.
This is a penetrating, full-bodied wine. Brioche, lemon peel, stone fruits, and smoke are profiled. Excellent
density and enough acidity to predict a long life ahead.
2006 C. Donatiello Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.2% alc., 2,750 cases, $48. A blend from the
estate owned Floodgate Vineyard (clones 667, 777) on Trenton Hills Rd (not to be confused with the
former Floodgate Vineyard in Anderson Valley), and estate owned Maddie’s Vineyard (Pommard
clone), both in the Russian River Valley. Aged in 40% new French oak barrels.
A moderately light
wine with admirable finesse. Classic Pinot perfume of red fruits and savory herbs. On the palate there
are red stone fruits veering toward raisin. The wine finishes with bracing acidity.
2006 C. Donatiello Floodgate Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.3% alc., 175 cases, $57. 35 year-old vineyard planted to Martini clone
(UCD 6). Aged in 50% new French oak barrels.
This one was saved for last
and no wonder. It has the most striking aromatic and flavor profile which only old vines can offer. Deep
on the palate, packed with copious red and black fruits, and nicely complimented by spice and herbs.
Despite the evident power, the wine retains an admirable elegance.
2006 C. Donatiello Maddie’s Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.2% alc., 185 cases, $61. Maddie’s Vineyard is 3½ acres of Pommard clone
Pinot Noir planted in 1998. Aged in 50% new French oak barrels.
aromas of Bing cherry, baking spice and wet oak. Dominated by redder fruits
nicely spiced. Supple and plump in the mouth. Well-concealed tannins and a
nice acid lift on the finish.
C. Donatiello wines are available through a mailing list (The Cellar List and The Cellar Guild) at
www.cdonatiello.com, and in the tasting room which is open daily from 11-5. The winery address is
4035 Westside Road, just a short drive from downtown Healdsburg. Tours of the winery and Aroma
Garden are given daily at 12:30 and 2:30. Private tours and tastings are available by appointment.
Initimate “Live from the Middle Reach” singer-songwriter ticket performances are scheduled in the
Aroma Gardens and complimentary concerts are planned for the first, second and third Sundays of the
month. Check the website, www.cdonatiello.com, for schedules. Come for the view (below), stay for