Reserve: 2008 Red Label Pinot Noir by Roessler

Tonight’s occasion: 2008 Red Label Pinot Noir, Sonoma County by Roger Roessler of Roger Roessler Wines. After opening up for at least 15 minutes it reveals a well balanced nose with that signature Sonoma earth, a little oak and berry. The body remains vibrant with a hint of fruit, good acidity and ever so faint spice heading into the finish which fades away into the sunset from there on.

I am down to just one of these Red Labels. It amazes me every time how his Pinot ages oh so gracefully all the while remaining so approachable over such an unusually long life span. This vintner’s wines may be drinkable now, but the real reward is years or even a decade later. This is a bittersweet occasion but one I’m so grateful for.

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?

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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.

EDC: 2014 Pinot Noir by Apriori Cellars

Tonight’s occasion: 2014 Pinot Noir by Apriori Cellars, Sonoma Coast.

Oh this wine! Where do I start? It is a highly understated and I would dare say underrated Pinot. In contrast to most of the Pinot I review which are big bold Pinot that need to take long naps to arrive at their fullest expression, this one is made in the more traditional Burgundian style. It’s refreshing to see a delicate, light easy Pinot.

There are no overpowering notes anywhere in this wine. At 12.5% ABV it is extremely approachable. You can enjoy this wine all day and not experience any palate fatigue. You can pair it with a delicious steak or enjoy it straight. The nose is very subtle with a hint of oak, rose and berry. Of course it has that unmistakable Sonoma earth. The body is buttery and smooth with a feathery finish that almost vanishes instantly. Thank you Casemates Wine for bringing us another winner! I’m perplexed as to why I have not yet visited this winemaker in person. 🤔 I surely need to fix that soon! Great job guys!

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