PinotFile: 6.41 October 4, 2007
- Picking Plump Pinot in Petaluma
- Prince Meets Namesake Equine
- Pellegrini Olivet Lane Heritage Pinot Noir
- De La Montanya Sweeps
- Pinot Briefs
- Central Otago Pinot Noir Celebration
- Last Page Humor
Picking Plump Pinot in Petaluma
Chris and Karen London farm 20 acres of Pinot Noir in the Chileno Valley west of
the town of Petaluma on a south-facing hillside that is cool and windy. Near the
Marin County - Sonoma County border, the area is uniquely influenced by fog
from the Pacific Ocean which reaches inland for miles through the Petaluma Gap.
The resulting hang time is prolonged with picking this year on September 27 and
29, a few weeks behind the warmer neighboring Russian River Valley vineyards.
Chris is a Captain for United Airlines, flying the Airbus out of San Francisco. Karen
was a former hostess for United Airlines. They both became interested in agricultural
pursuits and in 1999 purchased their property on Western Road in Petaluma
(above). Chris was a friend of noted Sonoma viticulturist Warren Dutton. The two
had flown together frequently and Chris was in the process of assisting Warren in
obtaining his instrument rating when Warren suddenly passed away from a heart attack while riding his horse in 2001. Warren had planted his first parcel and started the famed Dutton
Ranch in 1964. He was a visionary in Sonoma County agriculture and one of the first to plant Pinot Noir
and Chardonnay in western Sonoma County. At the time of his passing, the Dutton Ranch owned or
leased over 1,000 acres of vineyards.
Both Chris and Karen have attended classes in viticulture at University of California Davis and Santa
Rosa Junior College. They are among the new generation of younger winegrowers. They had been
advised to grow field crops and potatoes on their property and discouraged to farm grapes because of
the coolness of the site. Warren Dutton thought otherwise and provided the Londons with valuable
direction as they planted their vineyard over three years from 2000 to 2002. Much of the budwood
came from the famed Bien Nacido Vineyard and clones 2A, Pommard 5, Swan, Calera, 114, 667 and
777 were chosen. The vines are planted on well-drained silty clay soils with considerable underlying
fossil decomposition. The cool, windy conditions are challenging, requiring extra care and attention
and every vine is personally tended to throughout the season. The vines tend to be small, the clusters
ripen slowly, and the skins are thick, imparting dark color to the finished Pinot Noir wines.
The Londons have a modern barn on the property and all of the equipment required to be selfcontained.
Chris has designed and modified several types of heavy duty farming equipment including
a sprayer, all of which are quite innovative and practical.
In addition to their vineyard, the Londons raise livestock on their property. They have the only two
Kobe beef cattle in Northern California and Chris recently purchased more. He plans to cross breed
the Kobe cattle with the Scottish Highlander breed he also raises to produce prime beef. The cattle
are treated very humanely and are fed a special diet high in grain residue picked up weekly from a
neighboring brewery. (In the United States the term Wagyu beef is often used synonymously with
Kobe beef. The truth is that real Kobe beef can only come from Kobe, Japan - just like Champagne can
only come from France. The American equivalent - Wagyu breeds - need only have one parentage of
genetically pure Kobe heritage.)
Kobe calf (foreground)
The 2007 vintage was the third at Spring Hill Vineyard. The grapes were sold to Flowers Vineyard &
Winery in Cazadero on the Sonoma Coast (destined for their Sonoma Coast bottling), and Nickel &
Nickel in Napa Valley (part of a Russian River Valley blend). Next year, the Flowers allocation will be
sent to Landmark, Patz & Hall, and Scherrer. An additional 5 acres is being planted for Jamie Kutch of
I was invited to lend a hand at harvest and headed north to join in the celebratory event. There is
something very therapeutic about sticking your hands in bins of grapes, sampling the harvest and
really getting down and dirty. The Londons make quite a team. Chris runs the forklift, loads the bins
on trucks, and supervises the whole operation. Karen, who is really the chief tractor butt, drives the
Polaris like a Nascar professional, shouting orders and leading the charges of pickers and directing
the field grape sorters like myself. It was nine hours with few breaks, but I never enjoyed work more. I
would encourage any reader with an interest in wine to try and participate in some way in harvest.
Every vineyard and winery welcomes the help and a good time is had by all. The photos that follow
will give you some idea of the day’s action.
From top left clockwise: 6:00 AM; Feeling no pain; Chris; Karen; Winery Dog Likes Shotgun; Picker; Tractor Crew; Pinot in heat; Pinot Grapes; Off to Cazadero
2005 Nickel & Nickel Spring Hill Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., $55,
321 cases. Nickel & Nickel is the sister winery to Far Niente founded in 1997 and
dedicated to single-vineyard wines including Chardonnay, Cabernet, and Pinot Noir. This
wine was aged 10 months in French oak (40% new, 60% once-used).
The color is
dark, dark, dark ruby. The complex nose offers a dried flower potpourri, black cherry,
oak and cigar box. Powered by a healthy core of dark fruits, this unique wine offers
mushroom, game, forest floor and herbal overtones, It is broad-shouldered, but soft in
the mouth with well-concealed tannins. Atypical for Pinot Noir, it will appeal to those who
like the muscular and exotic expression of this varietal.
Nickel & Nickel Winery, Oakville, CA. 707-967-9600. The wine may be ordered on
the website at www.nickelandnickel.com.
Prince Meets Namesake Equine
Recently I traveled to Hidden Springs Ranch just outside of Prescott, Arizona to visit my namesake thoroughbred
horse, “Prince of Pinot.” A good friend of mine, John Maggiano, has taken a financial interest
in several thoroughbred race horses over the years. Most of these horses have finished last or next
to last in races. Undaunted and willing to burn some money, he has recently invested in a horse with
great promise. The name was chosen from three submitted to the jockey. When you think about it, the
name makes since as great Pinot Noirs are often referred to as thoroughbreds.
The horse is now 9 months old and the day after I visited he was to begin “school” to learn how to race.
Hopefully he will race within 4-6 months on a track in Southern California where I can go and root him
home. The trainer says the horse is feisty and has quite an attitude, both attributes that indicate a
competitive streak. He will take a little longer than most to train.
I brought an apple to give him, but he wouldn’t take it. I might have known he would prefer grapes.
Pellegrini Olivet Lane Heritage Pinot Noir
Bob Pellegrini is one of the wine patriarchs of the Russian River Valley. He has
been involved with wine in one way or another his entire life and he can
weave many fascinating tales about the wine business both during and after
Prohibition. The Pellegrini Family traces its wine business heritage to the
early 1900s when brother Nello and Gino Pellegrini immigrated to New York
City from their native Tuscany. They soon traveled to California and began
shipping Sonoma County grapes throughout the United States for home winemaking.
They also supplied the many Italian San Franscians who made wine
in their basements both before and during Prohibition. After the repeal of Prohibition
in 1933, the family started the Pellegrini Wine Company, shipping
grapes from Sonoma County and making wines for San Francisco’s best restaurants.
Later the family moved into wholesale distribution of imported and
In 1973, Nello’s son, Vincent, purchased a 70-acre apple and plum orchard
on West Olivet Road in Santa Rosa. Vincent’s son, Bob, was fresh
out of school and had just returned from a tour of Burgundy when he had
the idea (crazy at the time) to plant Pinot Noir on the property. In the
early 1970s, Pinot Noir vineyards were far and few between in Sonoma
County (Joe Rochioli first planted his East Block Pinot Noir in 1968). In
1975, Bob planted the Olivet Lane Vineyard to Chardonnay and Pinot
Noir (Martini clones) with the only cuttings available at the time. Fortunately,
the family had a wine import business which kept them afloat as
the winegrowing business developed. Bob says today he was just naïve
enough at the time to think it would work, but if he knew then what he
knows today, he would never have done it. The Olivet Lane Vineyard
continues to thrive on rootstock vulnerable to phylloxera and has now
seen 32 vintages. It is one of California’s cherished heritage Pinot Noir
vineyards. Bob is pictured left. Note the large trunk size of the old vines.
Vincent Pellegrini died in 1989, and remaining family members Robert, Richard and Jeanne took over
management of the wine business with the aim of focusing on premium estate-bottled artisan wines.
Besides farming the Olivet Lane Vineyard, the family acquired the 55-acre Cloverdale Ranch in the
Alexander Valley allowing them to produce a whole range of varietal wines. In 2001, a state-of-the-art
Tuscan style winery was built on the Olivet Lane Estate. In 2003, the family purchased a 12-acre vineyard
of old-clone Zinfandel alongside the Olivet Lane Vineyard. A top winemaking team was assembled
headed by talented Kevin Hamel. The wines have steadily improved and numerous awards have
You must avail yourself of Olivet Lane Estate Pinot Noir. There are only a few other heritage vineyards
in the Russian River Valley including J. Rochioli East and West Block and the Bacigalupi Vineyard, both
on Westside Road, and the Trenton Estate Vineyard at Joseph Swan.
2006 Pellegrini Olivet Lane Estate Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.6% alc., $36. 10% whole clusters placed with remainder of the de-stemmed
fruit and lightly crushed. After a 3 day cold maceration, the
vats were inoculated with a selected strain of yeast. Fermentation
lasted 12 days with traditional hand punch downs. Aged 11 months in a
combination of French and Eastern European oak, 33% new.
Sensuous aromatics featuring Bing
cherry, anise, toast and strawberry. The core of red fruits is tasty and forward but elegant in presentation.
The wine is supple in the mouth with pleasing persistence and has a refreshing acid lift on the finish. Impeccable
balance. Ready to drink now, it will remain a really lovely wine over time. With a comfortable
price point, this is one to buy by the case.
Pellegrini Family Wines is located at 4035 West Olivet Road in Santa Rosa. The tasting room is warm
and inviting and the staff is very friendly. Located in the winery, the tasting room is open daily from
10:30 to 4:30. Tours are by appointment and highly recommended if Bob or Kevin are available. The
phone is 1-800-891-0244. Wines may be ordered on the website at www.pellegrinisonoma.com.
There is good retail distribution.
De La Montanya Sweeps
I wrote about De La Montanya Vineyards & Winery recently
(PinotFile, Volume 6, Issue 39). Proprietor and winegrower Dennis
De La Montanya (pictured right with his wife) is a relative newcomer
to the Russian River Valley but his family has farmed grapes
for several generations. His 2005 Christine’s Vineyard Sonoma
Coast Pinot Noir
won the coveted Sweepstakes Award for red
wine at this year’s annual Sonoma Harvest Fair.
Last Saturday night, the awards ceremony, Sonoma’s equivalent of
the Academy Awards, was held with 2,000 people attending. The
wine competition began in 1975 with 59 entries and the 2007 version attracted over 1,000 wines all
made from Sonoma County grapes. Judging was done by 25 professionals including several international
experts. The Pinot Noir winners:
2005 De La Montanya Christine’s Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir, 241 cases, $40.
Best of Class
Gloria Ferrer Caves & Vineyards Sonoma County Blanc de Noirs, $20
2005 MacMurray Ranch Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir, $24
2005 Paradise Ridge Winery Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir, $35
2005 Armida Winery Bacigalupi Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir, $39
2005 Davis Family Vineyards Russian River Valley Pinot Noir, $40
2005 Everett Ridge Russian River Valley Pinot Noir, $40
2004 Gloria Ferrer Caves & Vineyards Rust Rock Terrace Vineyard Carneros Pinot Noir,
2004 Gloria Ferrer Caves & Vineyards Sonoma County Brut Rose, $42
2005 Hartford Court Winery Lands Edge Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir, $45
2006 Mayo Family Winery The Barnstormer Sonoma County Pinot Noir, $30
2005 Moshin Vineyards Estate Reserve Russian River Valley Pinot Noir, $55
2006 Paradise Ridge Winery Russian River Valley Pinot Noir, $35
2006 Rodney Strong Vineyards Estate Vineyards Russian River Valley Pinot Noir, $22
2004 Rodney Strong Vineyards Jane’s Vineyard Reserve Russian River Valley, $35
2004 & 2005 Sapphire Hill Vineyard Sapphire Hill Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot
2005 Willowbrook Cellars Estate Russian River Valley Pinot Noir, $34
2005 Willowbrook Cellars Kastania Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir, $48
2005 Willowbrook Cellars Morelli Lane Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir, $42
De La Montanya Pinot Noirs may be ordered by calling 707-433-3711 (2 bottle limit on Christine’s).
The website is www.dlmwine.com.
Dutton-Goldfield After a four year hiatus, Dutton-Goldfield is releasing a Freestone Vineyard
Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir. This is a vineyard that requires perfect October weather to ripen and when
it does reach maturity, the result is lively blue and black fruit, alluring baking spice, and all of the
depth that coastal Pinot Noir can provide. Dan Berger declared it “Exceptional” in his newsletter and
in a future issue of the Wine Enthusiast it will receive a score of 96. Only 361 cases, $58. Can be ordered
online at www.duttongoldfield.com. 707-823-3887.
Varietal Wine Grape Juice First Blush is an exclusive offering through Whole Foods Markets.
The four juices include Cabernet, Merlot, Chardonnay and a Zinfandel rosé (no Pinot Noir so far). Aris
Janigian, part of a grape growing family in the San Joaquin Valley of California is the co-founder of the
First Blush juices along with Victoria Briggs. The juice is made from grape concentrate, not pressed
juice. Cost for 16 oz is $4. Sugar content is 16%+. Although the marketing material emphasizes the
health benefits of the antioxidants in the juice, grape juice without alcohol does not confer the same
health benefits as wine. Www.firstblushjuice.com.
25th Anniversary of Wine Touring in Willamette Valley
November 23-25, 2007 marks the 25th annual Wine Country Thanksgiving
in Oregon’s Willamette Valley. Many small, family-owned wineries
are only open to the public Thanksgiving and Memorial Day weekends.
Each winery organizes their own events ranging from tours, to sampling
new releases and library wines, to artisan food tastes, art displays
and live music. More than 120 wineries will welcome visitors Thanksgiving
weekend. Looking back to the first Wine Country Thanksgiving,
there were only 9 wineries: Adelsheim, Amity, Arterberry, Chateau
Benoit (now Anne Amie), Elk Cove, Erath, Eyrie, Hidden Springs, and Sokol Blosser. For a complete
listing of wineries open during Thanksgiving weekend, visit the Willamette Valley Wineries Association
, and request a free touring map and guide. The 2008
Guide to Willamette Valley Wineries includes 167 member wineries and tasting rooms. Besides
highlighting Willamette Valley’s seven American Viticulture Areas (AVAs), it includes dining, lodging
and attractions. For additional travel information, consult www.TravelOregon.com
Silhouette Wine Glass
Now that you have several different types of Riedel
stems crowding your cabinet space for your various red and white wines, along
comes a novel design that claims to do the work for all of them. A notched wine
glass, Silhouette, is a handcrafted crystal stem that is said to be “the only wine
glass in the world that harmonizes the true dimensions of taste.” Its notch design
allows easy pouring with no dripping and the shape creates a “cyclone effect”
that aerates the wine quickly, and allows the drinker to intimately extend the proboscis
into the glass to capture the aromas. I have not personally sampled the
stemware, but I am leery of the hype. They are priced at $54 each at
A Moveable Thirst This book chronicles the travels of two people throughout the Napa Valley
who visit every tasting room that allow visitors in the Valley (141 to be exact). Rick Kushman, who
wrote the book, is a television columnist for the Sacramento Bee, and his companion Hank Beal, is a
wine buyer for Nugget Market. This is an excellent guide of wineries to visit sprinkled with many humorous
anecdotes about tasting room experiences, many of which we can all relate to.
Central Otago Pinot Noir Celebration
The 6th Central Otago Pinot Noir Celebration is to be held January 25 & 26, 2008 in Queenstown, New Zealand.
Noted wine writer Jancis Robinson has described the event as “Surely the most relaxed pinotfest ever.” The
aim of the two day program of events is to educate, invoke debate, and above all, to highlight Pinot Noir regionally,
domestically and internationally. It is called a Celebration as winemakers and consumers meet in a relaxed,
In 2006, the Celebration’s Formal Tasting and Historical Presentation featured Le Clos
de Vougeot Vineyard. In 2008, Allen Meadows (aka Burghound) and Jean-Pierre de
Smet of Domaine de l’Arlot will be presenting a formal tasting of five definitive examples
of Romanee-Saint-Vivant 2004 including: Domaine de l’Arlot, Domaine Robert
Arnoux, Domaine Jean-Jacques Confuron, Domaine Follin-Arbelet, and Domaine de la
In addition, the Celebration will feature two major tastings of Central Otago Pinot Noir, showcasing over 35
Central Otago producers.
To register, express your interest now at www.pinotcelebration.co.nz. Further information can also be obtained
by contacting Catherine Badrak at Catherine@rockburn.co.nz.
Last Page Humor
This is a true story. It has not happened to me … . yet.
Last night, a couple were sitting in the living room and
he said to her: “I never want to live in a vegetative
state, dependent on some machine and fluids from a
bottle. If that ever happens, just pull the plug.”
She got up, unplugged the TV and threw out his glass of
A Mormon was seated next to an Irishman on a flight
from London. After the plane was airborne, drink
orders were taken. The Irishman asked for a glass of
Pinot, which was promptly brought and placed before
him. The flight attendant then asked the Mormon if he
would like a drink. He replied in disgust, “I’d rather be
savagely raped by a dozen whores then let liquor touch
my lips.” The Irishman then handed his glass of Pinot
back to the attendant and said, “Me, too, I didn’t know
we had a choice.”