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2017 Holdredge Judgment Tree Pinot Noir Russian River Valley
This wine comes from the “Sweetwater” block at the Rochioli Vineyard. One of the most iconic North American Pinot Noir vineyards, the story of Russian River Pinot Noir literally began at Rochioli. The vineyard sits at the intersection of Westside Road and Sweetwater Springs Road, and the Sweetwater block is their highest elevation planting of Pinot Noir. It is planted to 100% Rochioli West Block clone (until 2015, all our wines from there had a small amount of Pommard clone, which was replanted. The vineyard sits on a northeastern facing slope, has highly prized Goldridge soils, and the rows run northeast-southwest.
Being part of the tiny handful of winemakers who get to make wine from here is a real privilege. There is a pedigree to this site that just has a presence you can feel. I lack the words to convey how strong that presence is, it’s really just something you have to experience by walking the vineyard. We always say that wines have two judgment days- the day you harvest the grapes and the day you bottle the wine. If you lied to yourself in the interim (that’s good enough, that can wait, etc.) you have to face those lies, and it isn’t pleasant- so it does keep us on our toes.
So as I walked the vineyard one afternoon, getting ready to call that first harvest, I found myself at the top of the hill, standing under a massive oak tree, eating berries and thinking that “judgment day” was coming. Just then, I looked up at the tree, and thought for as expensive as these grapes are, if I screwed up this wine, Carri would hang me from that tree. When I got home, she asked how the fruit was and I told her “fantastic”. “What are you going to call it?” she asked, and I replied “Judgment Tree”.
I opened a bottle of this last night (August 2019) for the first time since bottling it a year ago and it took me back a little. Carri and I have a tradition a night or two before bottling to go to the winery, and taste all the wines from their tanks one last time. We talk about the year and what we experienced. We see the wines in a different light as this is the first time they are truly “finished” wines- what we taste is what we are bottling. Both of us loved this and we both commented on how striking this wine was; and that it had all the hallmarks of what we have come to expect of wines from Rochioli vineyard, the distinctive flavor profile, the fine tannins across the palate that help give it focus, and the acidity that we look for to carry the finish.
With a year of bottle age, all that has just become more so. Carri poured this into my glass without telling me which of our Pinots it was. One smell and I said “Rochioli”- it’s just that obvious and true to the place. While Rochioli is always a more red-fruit driven flavor profile, it also carries a savory note that lends a lot to the wine. The tannins are fine to the point of silkiness; this one is wonderful now, but should continue to evolve for the next 8-10 years. We had it with grilled pork tenderloin on a “shmear” of fresh tomato sauce (from the garden), with sautéed bell peppers and onions (from the garden) and oven browned “smashed” potatoes (also from the garden). It seemed to work pretty darn well….