A week or so ago, we were discussing what wines to include in this club shipment, and after we selected them, we realized we hadn’t tried any of them since bottling! It happens- we go directly from bottling to harvest to raising the next vintage, and other things (life) can keep us too busy to check in on them (we don’t have a shortage of wine in our cellar). So, we put a great dinner together, and opened these wines for the first time in a year. The “conversation”, such as it was the first few minutes, was pretty much occasional short phrases like “wow”, “oh my”, “whoa”…. You get the drift. We were both captivated by these wines- it was like being reunited with a friend who had gone through a personal transformation during their absence.
Bottom line- you are going to love these! 2015 was truly an exceptional year- the harvest had a huge emotion about it, it just seemed to have a soft glow about it, paired with nature’s steady determination. I think these wines all show that emotion- there is a thread running through all of them (you’ll have to read this whole thing to find with what I mean- I’m such a tease!). All these are ready to drink- I asked one of the growers if he had tried the wine he grew from the case I had dropped off- and he looked at me like I was from Mars and said “uh, I drank all of them!” So apparently we’re late to the party - but fortunately, it’s really just getting started!
Holdredge 2015 “Rolling Thunder” Russian River Valley Pinot Noir - New Release!
Only 98 cases made.
$50 ($42.50 club members)
This was the first mountain site we took Pinot from, and in the 8 years I’ve worked with this fruit, I’ve always been struck by how consistent the wine is from year to year. Of course, there are always differences between vintages, but the voice of this place comes through year after year. We work with obsessive growers- and Jim Riddle, the grower for this wine, is as obsessive as any of them. Walk the vineyard and there’s not a leaf, a berry, anything, out of place, farming is meticulous, and nature is provided every opportunity to give her best.
There has always been a big note of boysenberry in the wines from this vineyard, and 2015 is no exception. But not in a monolithic way- other bright fruit aromas dance around the core. The biggest lesson I’ve had to learn at this vineyard is tannin management (usually not an issue in Pinot, but mountain sites are different), and this vintage shows what a difference that can make. Carri and I both felt there was a surprising elegance in the wine- we started to characterize it as feminine, but the wine is simply too big to really fit that moniker. It just continued to open up in the glass and reveal more layers- and every time I started to think “this is powerful”, that elegance stepped back in. It really is quite wonderful. Drink now until 2026.
Holdredge 2015 “Judgment Tree” Russian River Valley Pinot Noir - New Release!
Only 100 cases made.
$70 ($59.50 club members)
One day during the 2015 harvest, I dropped by the Rochioli vineyard to tell Tom that although I had been planning to pick in a couple days, I had decided to wait a little longer. Tom said that he had made the same decision, and we began discussing the year in general. Tom said he thought it was the best year since 1994 (a legendary year among winemakers), and my decision to wait could bring great rewards, and in retrospect, I think we were absolutely right.
The Rochioli Sweetwater vineyard presents the same challenge as the Rolling Thunder does- tannin management. It’s a steep, hillside vineyard, and planted to 100% Rochioli “West Block” clone (some Pommard clone we used to take is being replanted). Whether it’s the soil, the clone or whatever, we always have more tannin to deal with in this vineyard. But with the extra hang time nature allowed in 2015, the tannins became super ripe and very fine and silky. Some of the past vintages of this wine have needed time for the tannins to smooth out- not this one.
It is driven by darker red fruit notes, and in the mouth, the tannins are super-fine and just part of a seamless elegance. We both feel this has a “polished” character- indeed, it is a very focused wine- tons of depth (but not ponderous), but the acidity and fine tannin keep the palate focused. I hate it when winemakers say “this may be our best yet”- I have no idea what “best” means- but we both think this is by far our favorite wine from the Rochioli vineyard at this stage. You can open it right now- tonight if you like- or enjoy it over the next 10-12 years.
Oscuro 2015 Dry Creek Valley “Montepulciano - New Release!
Only 69 cases made.
$38 ($32.30 club members)
My quest to bring this noble and often overlooked grape to America’s dinner tables is proceeding at a solid clip of about 60 cases a year. At this rate, the grape may remain under most American’s radar- but not yours! We continue to become more fascinated by this grape each year- both for its distinctive flavors and structure, as well as its fabulous food versatility. Any food you’d serve with Cab, Merlot, Syrah, Zin, etc., will be a great fit with this wine, the grape just seems made for pairing with dinner.
The 2015 has the traditional flavor profile of the grape (notably dark black fruit), but like the other wines in this shipment, the story is one of elegance. The tannins in this wine, usually massive and needing some real time in bottle to resolve, are just about as fine as they can be. The wine has great structure front to back, and yet, we both kept coming back to the same descriptor: “elegant”. Despite being a dark, powerful wine, this too carries a certain elegance about it, it’s just a delicious and fun wine to enjoy with dinner. Best now and for the next 5-7 years.
John & Carri Holdredge
We’re bottling our wines from the 2016 vintage in a couple weeks, so it’s really a pretty intense time for us; there a ton of logistical details that all have to come perfectly together, not to mention the fine finishing details of all the wines themselves. It’s akin sending the children off into the world, and you can do nothing further for them- it’s frankly emotional on a lot of levels. We fret over small details, and the actual bottling days can range from a grueling ordeal to getting a real beat-down! But that’s part of the price nature demands if you want to make Pinot, and when it’s over, we look at each other and laugh as we know we managed to [somehow!] do it again.
Over the past few months we’ve made our blending and barrel selection decisions, and we are extremely happy with them. It looks like we’ll bottle eleven Pinots from 2016. This includes a new Pinot blended from two vineyards on Sonoma Mountain, one at the top along the sandy eastern slope, and one near the base of the west slope that seems planted in shale. Sonoma Mountain is a special place, and dramatically different from other places we get Pinot, and the wine is dramatically different. We’re also bottling a small Pinot blend that celebrates some of our higher elevation vineyards along the coast. These two new wines represent geographic bookends for our vineyard sources- ranging from Sonoma Mountain to the mountain sites in the True Sonoma Coast.
- John Holdredge
A Very Special Wine- A Very Limited Offer.
2015 Holdredge Russian River Valley Pinot Noir “American Dreamer”
If you’ve been a customer for a while you may recall that in May 2005, I wrote about the best day of my life working in a winery. It was the first day my son Will, then 6, worked a full day with me in the winery, racking barrels. He’d had lots of small jobs starting at age 4; but this was the first full day he ever worked. He was so small, he could hardly turn a barrel to clean it. But he struggled through and we worked, and talked, and it was just the best day ever. Until now.
When we started, Saralee Kunde (the winegrower, not the baking company) sold us our first Pinot grapes from her eponymous “Saralee’s Vineyard”. It was the wine that took us from our plan of a Zinfandel and Syrah winery, to making nothing but Pinot. We’ve used those grapes every year since, and the plain fact is that Saralee had a huge impact on our lives; in fact, we wouldn’t be sending this note were it not for her.
She was also a big part of Will’s life too; I taught him to fish in the ponds in the vineyard starting when he was three, and we fished together there many times. He knew her workers, went to events at her home, and just loved that place. Saralee passed from cancer in 2014, and it was a great loss for our community and a loss for our family.
In 2015, as Will and I were racking our wines to prepare for bottling, he mentioned he’d done all “the parts” of winemaking, but he’d never made a wine from start to finish. He had a senior project coming up in school the following year, and decided he would make a wine in 2015, and auction some and donate some of the proceeds from selling some big bottles at auction to an educational barn being built at our local fairgrounds in Saralee’s honor (for ag education for kids).
The harvest was short in 2015, but we pulled some strings, and somehow managed to get some fruit from “Catie’s Corner” a vineyard Saralee used to own. Our friend Rod Berglund of Joseph Swan freed up a little “Swan Clone” from his rows, which in addition to being a generous move in a small year, was really cool because Rod and Saralee and I had some running jokes about certain Pinot from her vineyard that we “fought” over, and it was great to have Rod part of this story too.
Will did all the winemaking, getting to the winery before school, after school and after homework (he once missed 2 punch-downs because he had to study for and I made him punch-down every fermenter in the winery as payback). There were a couple technical decisions we talked through, but in the end he had to decide what he wanted to do. Personally, I think he made the right decisions all the way through, and I know he made this wine himself. Will came up with the name because Saralee was a dreamer who believed in America and in helping kids chase their dreams, and the barn project will help kids pursue dreams of careers in agriculture.
This wine is absolutely distinctive from all the wines I made- the kid made a great picking decision in an amazing vintage. The wine has fully ripe flavors, but tremendous focus from natural acidity. Will also extracted an amazing amount of tannins from his punch down regimen (oh, to be young and strong again!). As a result, the wine really has backbone and poise. We drank a bottle over a four night stretch; it is still incredibly young and tightly wound, but each day it became progressively more generous. Young wines with this structure can age a very long time; I fully expect this wine to be the longest-lived wine from our winery for this vintage, and given that structure, I think it may be one that shows well for 15 or more years..
Will sold two large format bottles (3 liter bottles) at auction for a combined $3,300.00! We have very little of this wine in 750ml bottles, so we have to limit this offer to first come/first served. It’ll make a great story to drink someday, and you’ll have a little “Holdredge History” in your cellar until then.
$42 (wine club price: $35.70). Only 30 cases produced
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John & Carri Holdredge
We've always said the critics we care about most are our customers, it's what you think of what's in the glass that matters to us most. But it's also nice to get a little critical recognition every now and again, and Virgine Boone of "The Wine Enthusiast" really liked some of our wines:
2015 Holdredge Russian River Valley Pinot Noir 92 POINTS
I get a fair number of customers telling us that they usually like one or two wines at most places, but that at our place they like them all, and I guess Ms. Boone felt the same way. We appreciate the validation of our customer's good taste!
Wine Club – March 2017
With our spring release, we are releasing our last wine from the 2014 vintage. I feel we'll look back on the vintage as a watershed year. Every year we feel like we have learned a lot, but 2014 felt like a year where the kindness of nature and our skill set seemed to just converge, and we were left with some of the best wines we'd made to date. Or more correctly, that nature had made for us.
This is a pretty cool little 4 pack; with two pinots that are from completely opposite ends of the flavor spectrum, and a very rare wine from our other brand- Oscuro (Italian for "obscure"). They are more evolved than our wines usually are simply because they have been cellared longest, so there's no need to wait on any of these- although you certainly can- they will all age well. There are rumors of some forthcoming critical acclaim for some of our 2014s, but in the end, the critic that matters most to us is you. We think you're going to approve of these wines!
Holdredge 2014 "Bucher Vineyard" Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
Only 125 cases made.
$50/btl (Club Price: $42.50)
I've learned a lot about "place" at Bucher- I work with three different pieces of it, and they have all made decidedly different wines over the last decade, but with a common thread. In 2014, we actually picked our blocks at Bucher later in our schedule than we normally do, with our biggest pick being quite late for us. The weather cooperated, and the fruit seemed content to wait so we let it hang quite a bit longer than usual. Although Westside Road can get warm, we never really had an issue with severe heat (good canopy management by John Bucher helped a lot). So the flavors went far past where they normally are at harvest, and this is a very distinctive Bucher.
This wine just envelopes the palate; it is round, creamy, and full. If the "feel" of wine on your palate is something you understand, you'll love the feel of this wine. The common thread" of our wines from Bucher has been a nose of rose petal, and 2014 is no exception, but it's a much darker rose petal – like a Portland Rose. And the fruit profile is dark- black berries, black cherries, and black plums, with a hint of earthiness. This is a wine you can simply drink (sure, bring on the cheese), but to me, a little rack of spring Lamb would be a perfect pairing. This is a real pleasure to drink, and it has the acidity to hold itself well for some time. I'd suggest drinking them now (like right now!) and over the next 7-8 years.
Holdredge 2014 "Selection Massale" Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
Only 120 cases made.
$50/btl (Club Price: $42.50)
This one came out of nowhere. Historically, it has always been (except for 2007) our last pick in the Russian River Valley. Because the vineyard is a "mass selection" of Pinot clones, it's usually been a wine with a mix of lighter and darker flavors (again, except for 2007). As I walked this vineyard in the fall of 2014, I was struck by the tannin development, which was way further ahead of where it normally is at the levels of ripeness I tasted. That tannin development is usually slower, and makes us wait to pick, which alters the flavor profile. The last time I had tasted tannins like this in this vineyard, was, you guessed it, 2007.
So, I called the pick earlier than I usually do, and looking back it was a great decision. There is not a speck of black fruit in the flavor profile; it is simply a "perfumed" wine; with a showy, almost ethereal character; the kind of wine you just want to swirl and smell. Beneath that perfume (you'll see, it just jumps out of the glass) there's plenty of red fruit and spice, but at its core, it's the perfume that carries the day.
It is decidedly light in color, and a reminder that for Pinot, color is the least important part of the equation. It is so reminiscent of the 2007 (my favorite from this vineyard), except this is far more plush. Spring brings a chance to work with light seasonal ingredients, and I can see this complimenting a piece of salmon with some fresh peas. This is drinking well now, but should gain depth and improve for at least the next 6-9 years.
Oscuro 2014 Dry Creek Valley "Schioppettino"
Only 92 cases made.
$38/btl (Club Price: $32.30)
This is an exceedingly rare grape from our other brand- which is in homage to John's Italian roots, and his desire to bring lesser known and sometimes obscure Italian gapes to our customers. They are all grown on volcanic soils (we did find a piece of quartz this year that had no earthly business being in those soils), and in a warmer mountain site, which is respectful of the Italian heritage. This grape, once thought extinct, is only cultivated in several villages in Italy, and we were the first American producer to release one starting in 2004.
The 2014 is Carri's favorite Schioppettino that we've made. She points to the black fruit and cracked pepper, and a subtle little thread of pie cherry woven through it. It has a nice full mouthfeel (always does), and as usual, the tannins are very silky and evolved. We've found this to be a super versatile food wine- from the cheese and cured meats before dinner, to meat (it sings alongside a grilled Chateaubriand with sauce béarnaise), to root vegetables (hello roasted carrots with tamarind), and of course, pasta dishes (non- tomato based). This is a really fun and delicious wine, and as we always say, the best part is you can brown bag it and quiet down that guy who knows everything about wine" (we all know one!).
John & Carri Holdredge
Wine Club – December 2016
We're privileged to release the first of our 2015 wines. The emotion of the 2015 vintage was incredible- by which I mean how it felt to work the harvest. You know how a lingering sunset with vivid colors can draw you in to the point it seems to just flow though you? That was the emotion of 2015. This shipment includes two wines from 2015, and we love them both. We are also including one of the last of our 2014s; a wine we always love, and it is a graceful expression of its place.
With the arrival of December and its shorter days and winter weather, we find ourselves beginning to reflect upon the past year and planning for the next one. We'll be making some great meals in the coming weeks, and drinking some great wines with friends, and we'll remain aware how fortunate we are to be able to share those moments with friends and family- because that's what life is about. We hope you have a fantastic holiday season, and as always, we're honored that our wines can grace your table.
Holdredge 2015 "Petits Cadeaux" Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
Only 98 cases made.
$50/btl (Club Price: $42.50)
You likely know the story of this wine- the "little gifts" are the tiny clusters, tiny berries and huge flavors that come from a clone of Pinot grown on the "Laguna Bench" above the Santa Rosa plain. The small berries mean a lower ratio of juice to skin, which in turn leads to a wine with more structure- because the skins are where all the goodness lies. This wine is grown by two good friends of mine, whom I consider being amongst the best growers around; and their care and attention in the vineyard makes our job a lot easier.
This vintage delivers in a big way. Black fruit dominates the wine; it is the rich full powerful wine this place produces, and magnified by the tiny berries. It's capable of pairing with the heaviest dishes of winter; I personally love it with Cassoulet. I think it is more approachable than the 2014 was at this stage, and while I would decant it the near term, it has the potential to go 6-8 more years. In case you're wondering, we included a gift bag with one of the bottles because we figure everyone needs to keep a "little gift" handy to take to a holiday party!
Holdredge 2015 "Indigo Dreams" Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
Ultra limited. Only 50 cases made.
$50/btl (Club Price: $42.50)
When I first made this wine, I was completely unprepared for how much people would love it. Stylistically it was far riper and bigger in presence than we strive for; and yet, not only did our customers love it, so did we. The 2015 follows the previous vintages in this regard, and although we only made a tiny amount, it carries the same voice. This is a "winter" wine if ever there was- perfect for one of those nights you want to hunker down with a good bottle in front of a roaring fire and let the world go on its way.
Like the Cadeaux, this will work with the biggest dishes. But for me, a little warm crusty French bread with some soft cheese lightly toasted under the broiler, and this wine is about as perfect a match as I could want. If you are a fan of this wine, order any additional bottles sooner than later- we don't expect it to be available long. It'll offer optimum drinking for the next 4-6 years.
Holdredge 2014 "Shaken Not Stirred" Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
Only 92 cases made.
$45/btl (Club Price: $38.25)
Pinot is a grape with many voices, and this wine offers a very nice contrast to the other two wines in this shipment; it is on the light, pretty, and more delicate end of the spectrum. Where the other two are all about power, this one is entirely about grace. It is a single-clone Pinot, made entirely from the "Martini" clone (hence the name). We've worked with this vineyard for a while, and it has always made a red fruit driven wine, brighter cherries, cranberries and raspberries, with notes of baking spices and sandalwood.
This year is no exception to that flavor profile, although it is a slightly more delicate and restrained wine. It'll pair perfectly with seafood based dishes, things like salmon, halibut, or shellfish are ideal- and the simpler the preparation, the better. And yet, it can go with richer foods- I had it with shrimp Newberg (old school!) and it absolutely rocked. I'd definitely decant it now, and it should be best over the next 7-8 years.
John & Carri Holdredge
Harvest 2016 Wrap Up
"Well...that escalated quickly" - Ron Burgundy. I'm writing this as I'm waiting for the last three fermentations to finish (Schioppettino, Montepulciano and Nero d'Avola), and frankly, more than a little worn out. The interns have been sent home, so Will and I are finishing this on our own. It means I'll likely clean the press the last time, which is fitting because I cleaned it first this year. The place has a quiet energy- so far from the cacophony of crush, and I get to really focus on the few wines still fermenting.
We picked our first grapes August 20, and we made a lot of wine. In addition to the Martinelli "Three Sisters" vineyard, we also added a Pinot from an amazing vineyard situated on the lower slopes of Sonoma Mountain. Wine is the story of stones- and this one is a really interesting story.
Even though it's been a long harvest, there was a lag on the front end, and then it seemed like we were bringing in fruit every day. Which we pretty much were, but it was all excellent fruit this year. We also had a lot of laughs- which is important as well. I worked as hard this year as I ever have, partly because we made a lot of wine. But perhaps best of all, I had noticed one day that the thing I value most in harvest- a moment when one captures the entire emotion and expression of harvest, hadn't really happened this year. I even mentioned it to Carri one day- I wasn't sure if it was just the insane work load or what.
And then, one afternoon, while tending to the last few fermentations alone, I suddenly had a moment where I felt it- although it was totally unexpected and caught me by surprise. It's hard to describe- it's a connection to place and time, and the power of nature. It's feeling like you are part of the whole thing- that it's flowing through you, and though it can happen in the most humble of places, the serenity one feels as a result is beyond words. A very nice closing to a wonderful harvest.
Harvest 2016 is underway and we are knee deep in grapes right now. Actually, our female intern "Matilda" is knee deep as she gently walks on the grapes to break the skins; an ancient technique that helps coax a lot of flavor and color out of the grapes without breaking the seeds. The year was shaping up to be another very early year (the super late harvest of 2011 seems like forever ago), and we crushed our first fruit on August 22. It looked like it was going to really get going, but then it suddenly cooled down and everything stalled.
Now "stalled" might sound bad, but it's actually great. It allows flavors to keep developing, while sugars stay in check. It is the kind of thing that makes everyone happy. Well, everyone except the interns who have to just keep cleaning things endlessly to stay busy. All the while, like every other winemaker, I watched the weather forecasts, worrying that if we got a little heat, everything would come in at once.
I may not be psychic, but I sure called it right. We had two days of heat September 6 and 7, and we have been absolutely buried in grapes. As I write this, the winery is packed full of fermenters packed with fruit, and I have tank capacity for about 5 more tons with about 12 scheduled to be picked this week. Meanwhile, I'm pushing back our picks for our Italian grapes. We simply can't take more fruit. I could buy more fermenters, but I have no place to put them, and when I need to fill barrels, I have to move stuff outside just to be able to do so.
But this is the joy of harvest; it's a series of humbling reminders that nature has her ways, and as winemakers we are at her mercy. Really, a compressed harvest is just fine. It's a harder physically, but the fatigue is what makes you alive. If you haven't been by in awhile, you really should. The place smells great, it's got great energy and we are having a lot of fun.
At age 58, I'm still cleaning presses and doing punchdowns at 3 am. My body aches, I've had one night of full sleep in the last three weeks and I'm running on fumes. But the grapes have been fantastic, the flavors are great and there is calm within the chaos. I wouldn't miss this for anything. If you're in the neighborhood, you should stop by, it's a fabulous time of year to be in a winery.
Martinelli "Three Sisters"
Getting fruit from a great vineyard is no easy thing. The farmers who own such places tend to be patient, which is the cornerstone of farming, and they make decisions about who they sell fruit to the same way. I first discussed buying Pinot from Lee Martinelli, Jr., and his wife Pam about 12 years ago. "Discussed" may be an overstatement. It was late at night at a party where everyone had jumped into the pool fully clothed and big bottles of wine were just floating around. Bacchus, in his day, never had it so good.
Thoughts were exchanged, and Lee was receptive to discussing some of his Russian River sites, but I had my heart set on a particular vineyard he and Pam own out in the trust Sonoma Coast: "Three Sisters". It sits at about 1,200 feet elevation, atop the second ridge in from the Pacific, around 14 miles northwest of Cazadero. The county road, such as it is, ends at Lee's property. It is a place where a tiny handful of absolutely iconic sites are located; vineyards like Marcassin, Hirsch, Blue Slide Ridge and "Three Sisters".
I still recall Lee having a fairly bemused smile at my temerity. The vineyard was split between the Martinelli family's own winery, and a very highly regarded consulting winemaker who used it in her own brand. But I had always loved the wines from that neighborhood, and in my heart it was a place I truly wanted to make wine from. I've never been one to not go after what I wanted. Our discussions didn't get far that night, but over the years our paths crossed. I coached his daughter in T-Ball, his niece was a harvest intern for us in 2009, and we'd see each other at wine events. And each time I saw him, I'd jokingly (half) say "just two tons, that's all I need", and we'd share a laugh.
Finally, this year, Lee sent me a note and said he had some fruit available and asked if I was interested. Of course I was, so we met out there and walked the vineyard. As much as I loved the neighborhood, I absolutely fell in love with the vineyard. We quickly reached an agreement and our first fruit from there came in the other day.
There are two separate vineyards, located perhaps a ½ mile apart. Both have chardonnay and Pinot, both are farmed meticulously, and both have their own voice. One block is called "Lambing Barn" after the sheep operation that Lee's great-grandfather ran there decades ago. The other is called "Buck Meadow" so named because it was a place a hunter could always find a buck if you were so inclined. The Meadow is planted to Pommard clone, and the Lambing Barn is planted to clone 777.
Every place we work with has a distinct voice, and Three Sisters is no exception. It is wild, surrounded by steep mountains, deep canyons and incredible views. In fact, just past the vineyard there is a point where you can see the pacific ocean. I picked the Lambing Barn September 8, and it is just starting to ferment. We are picking Buck Meadow later this week. I'm thrilled to have the fruit as it is really delicious but I'm a little sad I won't have an excuse to take a few hours to drive out there for awhile. We haven't chosen a name for the wine, and we have a long ways to go before it is in bottle. But we are honored to add this to the roster of iconic sites we are blessed to work with, and look forward to the journey we are just starting with these grapes.
We have been releasing our 2014 wines, and have been very gratified by the response. It was a really fine vintage and the early excitement about the quality seems borne out by the wines in bottle. We've already sold out of some of them, but we've just released our 2014 "Judgment Tree" from the Rochioli "Sweetwater" Vineyard. Anyone familiar with Pinot knows how special the Rochioli Vineyards are and what exceptional farmers they are as well. They make my job easy, all I have to do is not screw it up!
The 2014 is a very rich, extracted Pinot with a lushness that is counterbalanced by fine tannins. It's really complete all the way through the palate. Where the 2013 was a little tighter and more tannic on release (it has really evolved as we expected and it is stunning), the 2014 just seems to be saying "it's go time". Tom Rochioli, who is an accomplished winemaker and wine grower, really liked it quite a bit, which is about all the validation I need. We only made 70 cases, and we are almost sold out, so if you are interested, you should check out the website.
We also just released the first of our 2014 wines from our "Oscuro" brand which is devoted to lesser known (and sometime obscure) noble Italian Red grapes. The first 2014 is our "Montepulciano", a grape grown widely throughout central/south Italy- everywhere it seems except in the commune of Montepulciano (where they make "Vino Nobile de Montepulciano" which is the Sangiovese grape grown in the commune of Montepulciano. ~sigh~). My Italian ancestors took some very interesting approaches to things sometimes.
But no matter, the wine is true to the grape. Dark purple, with huge notes of black fruit, big silky tannins and a vibrancy in the palate you wouldn't expect from such a dark wine. It is a blockbuster and pairs equally well with grilled meats, mushroom dishes and all kinds of antipasti and cured meats. It's a really fun wine that will keep your guests guessing as to what grape it is and really perfect for autumn fare.
We have a few other 2014s available, all are drinking very well right now. Check it out. And we have a special on shipping for club members (it costs nothing to join the club, there is a discount on all purchases, and it is a pretty cool deal especially if you aren't able to be out here and drop by to buy wine). We appreciate all the support we have from our customers, and we know you'll enjoy these wines.
With this release, we unleash one more 2014 Pinot. This shipment also marks the release of a wine from our other brand –OSCURO which is devoted to wines made from grapes of noble Italian lineage. Did we save the best for last? You be the judge. We loved this vintage and we love these wines, we hope you do too.
This was our third year to get fruit from the Rochioli “Sweetwater” Vineyard on Westside Road, southwest of Healdsburg (about ¼ mile south of the Bucher Vineyard). Anyone who knows me knows how special I feel this place is; and how fortunate I feel to be one of the very few winemakers to get to work with fruit from this vineyard, which is almost entirely Rochioli “West Block” clone.
The 2014 bears a strong resemblance to ‘12 and ‘13, except in two ways. First, the flavor profile of the fruit is darker and deeper. This came about because I was striving for more tannin ripeness (the “west Block” clone tends towards a bigger tannic profile), so I let the fruit remain a touch longer than I had in prior years. As a result, it already shows more refined tannin development in the bottle, and is more generous at this stage than our prior wines. My feeling is it is going evolve for another 5-8 years in a big way- it has the fruit and the structure to do so. But this has been in bottle a year already and it is a wine we are really enjoying.
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I don’t think I’ll ever be able to adequately describe the emotion of this vineyard, which sits at the convergence of the redwoods and the Pacific Ocean, but the place is undeniably distinct. So is this wine. 2014 again gave us a little late season warmth- just enough to stave off the heaviest fog and ensure we got some incredible flavor development. From tasting in the vineyard, to fresh juice, to barrel and finally to bottle, we really liked this wine a lot.
And yet, it still completely blindsided us- we weren’t prepared for the transformation it has shown in the year it has rested post bottling. It has evolved into such a complex wine, with layers of goodness, far beyond what I ever hoped for (and I had very high hopes). It stands out from all our other Pinots- not qualitatively, but in terms of its voice. Which is as it should be- I expect the Russian River Pinots to speak of the overall appellation as well as the specific vineyards, but this is from a very different place and speaks of it. While always a very popular wine for us, this one is a real stand out already. I rarely urge people to “buy more”, but were it me, I’d get after this one. It’s easily got 6-9 years of development ahead of it, but I’d hate to have to wait that long to enjoy it.
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When we began making Pinot (long before “Sideways” made it fashionable to do so), our Russian River Valley Pinot was our largest production wine; about 300 cases, which a huge winery would lose to evaporation in a year. While we make more than we used to, it still is under 1000 cases, almost all of which is sold to restaurants in Las Vegas, California, and New York. It’s always represented our take on what the vintage meant for the appellation as a whole, as opposed to one single place.
In 2014, nature was exceedingly generous, and this wine reflects that generosity. It maintains a nice balance between red and black fruit, has great weight, but carries enough acid that the wine is surprisingly nimble, and decidedly food friendly. How food friendly? We’ve had it with food ranging from Ahi poke with tempura avocados, to steak with foie butter and mushrooms, and a lot of stuff in between. And, the fact that it’s in darn near every resort property in Las Vegas (or seems that way), means a lot of other people are having it with dinner too. We’ve sold out of it, but have a very small amount for our club to enjoy. You could wait to drink it, but I don’t think you’ll regret enjoying it immediately.
The Oscuro brand is my homage to my Italian heritage, and Montepulciano is a grape grown throughout southern Italy (except in the area of Montepulciano, where they grow the Sangiovese grape. Italians, go figure). Montepulciano tends to be more of a mass produced wine there, but more producers are treating it with the care and devotion of a noble grape. It is akin to the difference between growing grapes for jug wine and growing for artisan wines.
These grapes are grown at about 900 foot elevation on rocky volcanic soils above the Dry Creek Valley. We strive for authenticity, and this bears the trademark black color and blackberry flavor profile of the grape. It also carries a low alcohol, and stunning tannins. This grape has a long and noble pedigree in Italy. We believe this grape deserves to be treated with deference to those noble origins, and we feel this wine does so. The tannins will carry this wine for a long time, but it can be enjoyed now, and for the next 7-9 years.
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John & Carri Holdredge
The adage that "every vintage is different" was perhaps especially true in 2014. The year brought a number of variables in weather that shaped harvest expectations. While a very strong year in many respects, it seemed hard to get a read on ripeness; one aspect might seem good while others seemed to need more time. This seemed pretty widespread- it was like everything was "almost" there, but not "quite" there. But at the same time, things seemed closer in ripeness relative to each other than normal.
Normally, we bring in one or two small pieces from a couple vineyards that tend to ripen earlier, wait a bit, and then fruit comes in from various places at a nice orderly pace. It's usually 8-10 weeks to harvest all the grapes, with fermentations extending that further. The harvest started as I expected- we picked two small pieces in late August, and waited for other things to slowly come in.
And then all hell broke loose; instead of another 8 or 9 weeks, everything came in within a 19 day window. Everything. Every. Last. Grape. 19 days. The entire winery was packed- wall to wall with fermenting grapes; it was stacked so tight we had to move things out in the morning just to maneuver the forklift. I've never seen anything like it, neither had anyone else.
If I described it as "crazy, insane, hectic", I'd be understating it. And yet there was joy to it, the fruit was dazzling and delicious, and had real spirit and confidence. We had a great harvest crew, and there was serenity at the core of the insanity. We worked hard, slept little (I may be getting too old for this!), and had as much fun as I'd had in a very long time.
The harvest was truly "fast and furious". But standing each day in the midst of a building crammed full of fermenting Pinot, inhaling the pitched aromatics of all these different fermenting delicious gifts of nature at once- those are the moments.
Nature's power is unrelenting, it's the thing that shapes wines most. The wines are wonderful- the thing that made them special when they were made, that spirit they showed, is still very much there. I really don't know if wines can "smile", but to me, these seem pretty happy with whom they are. Kind of how I've felt as I've opened them up. I hope you enjoy them
This is the first "official" release of wines from 2014 (a couple tiny production wines already went to our wine club). All are drinking beautifully and just in time for the summer and all the great Pinot and food combinations that you'll be serving.