Gary Farrell, Russian River Valley

Gary Farrell was my first stop as I wandered through Russian River Valley in search for Pinot Noir that I felt was representative of the region.  Before I continue, I feel I must inform you that their tasting is by appointment only. This creates an atmosphere of calm and serenity devoid of any noisy crowds and distractions. Combined with the hilltop view of the valley below it creates an environment ideal for focus and reflection on what you are tasting. I think for the discerning palate this presents good value as you explore this region and what it has to offer. I will surely make an appointment on my next visit to this region.

The grounds were impeccably maintained, minimalist architecture and clean balanced interior decor really complemented the overall energy and experience. The staff were very warm and courteous and although I did not have an appointment they did go out of their way to at least get me a sampling of two of their Pinot Noirs from the region. They also offered to add me to their up-coming wine tour/tasting session however I was pressed for time. Very gracious indeed.

That being said, I was perfectly content sampling two of their Pinot Noirs as this would give me and quick idea of the caliber of the wines on offer. I must say, I was not disappointed. I instantly thought to myself, “this is what I came here for”. Rich, layered, complex, structured Pinot Noir. Further review of their menu revealed more Pinot Noirs from some of the most coveted vineyards all up and down the West Coast. I selected one of their Pinot Noirs from the Russian River Valley which I will be reviewing tonight and will post my thoughts.

Have you visited this winery? What did you think?

Gracianna Winery, Russian River Valley

This weekend I finally got around to exploring the Russian River region. After a weekend of camping in Bodega Bay with friends it seemed only fitting that we make a slight detour through Russian River on our way back to Sacramento.

I have had some amazing Pinot Noir from this region and I was eager get out there and get a sense of what it is about. I wanted to personally see what it is about this region that produces such great Pinot Noir.

As I meandered through the winding back roads sometimes almost getting lost, I wished for something off the beaten path. Small, family owned and operated wineries. No sooner than the thought crossed my mind, I noticed the sign to Gracianna Winery. I did not recognize the name. It did not show up on my google map search. I thought to myself, this could be precisely what I was looking for.

The grounds were neat, uncluttered, minimalist and generally understated. The Winery sits lower in the valley and is very easy to completely overlook. As I pulled up I had no expectations whatsoever. I merely wanted to taste some Russian River Pinot. The tasting room is one of the more interesting ones (read cool) I’ve seen in a while. It is and indoor/outdoor setup, welcoming you in one side and leading you to a terrace/patio and into the vineyards where your detailed tasting happens among the vineyards.

On the tasting menu were the following wines with some of my initial notes.

  • 2018 Arozza Rosé – Rose was delicate, smooth and buttery.
  • 2018 Sauvignon Blanc – Oakey, smooth, mild acid, hint of citrus, gentle overall.
  • 2015 Chardonnay – Beautiful, delicate, buttery great floral notes, complex.
  • 2016 Pinot Noir – More Burgundian style, crisp clean nose, subtle oak, subtle acid, hint of spice, delicate balance. What I was looking for.
  • 2014 Pinot Noir – More of a big California style Pinot albeit restrained. Once opened huge earth/terrior dominates the nose, beautiful, perfect balance of jammy fruit, berry, bold tannin for a Pinot especially from this region. Rich. Should lay down a little more to fully develop. I will have to revisit this.

It is difficult to do an in-depth tasting on site while tasting other wines. So I picked up a bottle each of the Pinot Noir, one of which will be tonight’s occation and will post my thoughts shortly.

The Tasting was conducted by staff with extensive knowledge on the wines and the region at large. This really helped guide the tasting and added great perspective. The tasting was occasionally punctuated by the owner Trini who’s warm lively energy I found very reassuring as he shared the history of the winery going back generations. Equally impressive was his son’s ventures into viticulture and enology. This family is truly all about the love and passion for making great wines. It was a truly special and personal experience.

Thank you Trini, Fernando and the entire Gracianna Family. I look forward to seeing you all gain.

Wine Review: 2013 La Stupenda, Barbera by Peterson

Tonight’s occasion: 2013 La Stupenda, Barbera by Peterson, Mendocino, California. Courtesy of Casemates who invited me to review tonight’s offering. I am writing this as I begin my review. My initial impressions right out of the bottle are very dark and inky for a Barbera. Barbera typically run on the lighter, ruby side of the spectrum like a classic Sangiovese or Pinot Noir. The twist-off held a very tight seal all these years and despite its journey. Making the first pour I got hit with big spice and a hint of raisin. I typically don’t care for raisin in my wines however I am pleased to confirm this rapidly dissipated. This tells me the wine is very much alive.

I was met with a medium-to-big nose, full of subtle oak, hint of berry and at least another floral note I cannot pinpoint (lavender comes to mind, not sure why), perhaps you can help me here. A hint of minerality come through after a few hours. The attack is fairly fruit forward but restrained. Up front, as with most Barbera, the body comes with noticeable spice and acidity which easily gives way once your palate adjusts after a few sips.

After about 15 minutes the body quickly becomes buttery smooth, adding the faintest hint of caramel into the mix. The finish, without doubt is a big one, starting out hot and spicy and as it opens, develops more tannic grip albeit restrained. This is by any account a big Barbera especially at 13.9% ABV. For a single VARIETAL Barbera, it is surprisingly layered, complex and balanced. A testament to the winemaker’s craft. I can appreciate its richer tone as I feel in this case it balances out the acidity typical of the varietal. Once opened up the acidity is quickly tempered by a creamy buttery expression.

This wine shows great maturity. This Barbera is well built. It commands your attention. It is aging much more gracefully than a typical Barbera. I feel like it’s time is now. It’s a somewhat different take on Barbera from a region off the beaten path that has had time and patience to fully develop. I think it presents a tremendous value. Please visit Casemates to take advantage of this deal before it’s gone. Fred and Jamie Peterson, after twirling it for a couple hours now, I like it! Estupenda!!!

Reserve: 2014 Syrah by Dierberg

Tonight’s occasion is a 2014 Syrah by Dierberg Star Lane Vinyard. I posted a while back about my visit last year here. I wanted to try something special tonight so I reached for the Santa Barbara region in my cellar. Any mildly savvy palate should be able to identify the terrior in the nose alone. Very nice and rich. It prompted visuals of the vigneron (the one who tends to the vines) and contemplated all he/she put into those vines for the terrior to be so pronounced in the nose alone. A great, buttery, well balanced body (especially for a 14.2% ABV wine) a testament to the winemaker’s skill and craft. The finish is not as massive as your average California Syrah, but still has that signature tannic grip albeit restrained for a Syrah. This region is most known for it’s amazing Pinot Noir, so it’s always a treat to see what Syrah – a typically big bold wine – would taste like. I like what they’ve done with this Syrah. Great job!

Reserve: 2007 Syrah by Rusack

Tonight’s occasion is a 2007 Syrah by Rusack from Santa Barbara County. I posted a while back about my visit here. You know whenever I feel like tasting something truly special, this region never fails and Rusack is a must. This region is most known for its rich exquisite Pinot Noir, which is precisely why I picked up their Syrah. This 12 year old vintage is drinking perfect right now. Full of gentle subtle aromas, a wide body devoid of any overbearing character and a finish that’ll make you do a double-take as it starts fading and then quickly gets overwhelmed with a long gentle, enduring tannic grip. This is my kind of wine! Great work Rusack!

This wine is a great candidate for your term reserve. You can pick up their current vintages and lay them down for another 5 years or more. I have some 2014 I picked up on this trip as well and I very much look forward to opening them 7 years from now. The good news is they have an extensive list of well priced library wines you can pick from. These will give you an idea of how they will age.

Reserve: 2014 Merlot by Kunde

Tonight’s occasion is a 2014 Merlot from Sonoma Valley by Kunde Family Winery. They put out a veritable lineup of quality wines. This one stood out to me in particular for one main reason: it has very big long lasting tannin, good structure and none of the overbearing fruit typical of most California Merlot. It’s overall posture lends itself to a very long and graceful aging perhaps just as much as their Century Vine old vine Zin, my other favorite in their lineup. It is a very understated wine in my opinion. I am building a vertical of this wine. I think it’ll be a real gem in another 5-10 years. If you are in the Sonoma area I highly recommend stopping by. What’s your favorite winery in Sonoma?

Reserve: 2008 Merlot by ParaVi (Primus)

Tonight’s occasion we are checking in on this 2008 Merlot by ParaVi (formerly Primus) from the Sierra Foothills. This was one of my all-time favorite winemakers until they closed several years ago. Their top end flagship was a Merlot, very unusual and a testament to the winemakers skill and craft. This Merlot has lots of character, mild, subdued fruit, good oak, nice pepper and a finish with boat loads of tannin. My cellar is full of hidden gems like this that I’ve collected over the years, never to be seen again. Every sip bittersweet. Thanks to Coravin I’m able to save these gems and open them when they are peaking.