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2016 Holdredge Fort Ross-Seaview Pinot Noir Martinelli Three Sisters Vineyard
The “Three Sisters” Vineyard sits at the very top of the second ridge in from the Pacific Ocean, approximately 1260 feet above sea level in the “Fort Ross-Seaview” appellation. To describe the surrounding terrain as “rugged”, or the site as “remote”, doesn’t really begin to even capture it. The vineyard is located on “Bohan-Dillon” Road, which is the site of a tiny handful of iconic “true” Sonoma Coast vineyards, including Marcassin, Seaview, and Blue Slide. Surrounded by steep slopes and forests of unrelenting beauty, the vineyard has a voice quite unlike any of the others we work with, even in the Sonoma Coast.
The soils are “Josephine” series soils, which are the residue of sedimentary and igneous rocks. They are typically found on ridgetops and slopes (most commonly steeper slopes), and are underlain by tilted slate and shale. The first time I walked the vineyard, I literally stumbled across a huge slab of slate; and that is the kind of thing that gets a winemaker’s pulse racing (second only to the friendly rattlesnakes who find that lying underneath is a cool way to spend the afternoon!).
Aside from the empirical aspects of this very special place, the growers, like our other growers, are people I genuinely care for and respect. In this instance, they are Lee Martinelli Jr. and his wife Pam, whose farming roots in this county go a long ways back. In fact, Lee’s great-grandfather grew up on the ranch, rode a horse to school, and ran sheep there for many years. I love just walking the vineyard and enjoying the spectacular views, and reveling in the feel of the place. It took me almost a dozen years to convince Lee and Pam to sell me fruit from this special vineyard, and we are honored to be able to include it in our portfolio of wines.
The vineyard is two different blocks located almost a half mile apart, one planted to clone 115, the other to “Pommard” clone. We picked them about a week apart (the Pommard came in first), and both were raised in the same fashion- the fruit was 100% destemmed, fermented in ¾ ton lots, both underwent gentle pigeage immediately after destemming, and were fermented using only native yeasts. The only point of departure from our “typical” winemaking is that they underwent extended skin contact at the end of primary fermentation- I just liked how the structure was developing each day so I let them go longer.
Whatever one may “expect” from a place, the simple fact is that the place will say what it has to say, and in its own way. The wines I had tasted from this vineyard over the years (from the Martinelli family and from Helen Turley), consistently exhibited a red fruit character, and this wine follows that profile. But it is not the same red fruit as in certain of our Russian River Valley Pinots (SaraLee’s vineyard a prime example), It is a less “candied” red, and while the wine is decidedly generous across the palate, there is a sense of restraint about it at the same time. It is everything I hoped it might become, and I think captures the distinctive nature of that place rather well. For me, the 2016 is a wine that I will likely drink more in the near term (now to 4-5 years) as I don’t see a need to wait.