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2017 Holdredge Pinot Noir Russian River Valley Saralee's Vineyard
While I feel a close connection to each vineyard I work with, I have a deep emotional bond with Saralee’s Vineyard. When we started out, we wanted to make Pinot but it was hard to find then. I had taken care of a problem she had, and one day in early 2001, she called and said she had heard I was looking for Pinot, and would be willing to sell me 5 tons. While we had planned on being a Zin and Syrah house, we really loved Pinot and wanted to make it too. So with no experience with the grape, we plunged ahead with a wine to compliment our mainstays.
While the Zin and Syrah did great, the response to our (her) Pinot was fantastic. Four years later, we were making even more Pinot, and the movie “Sideways” came out, and the world of Pinot just exploded. A couple years after that we decided to simply focus on our favorite grape, from our favorite region. Although we’ve added quite a few Pinot vineyards to our lineup since our start, we have made wine from this vineyard every single year; some formed the backbone of our Russian River blend, and some (Martini Clone) wass used to make our single-clone Pinot called “Shaken Not Stirred”.
We had some great times with Saralee and Rich, a party at their house was always epic. But my bond here goes deeper than graes and socializing- I taught my son Will how to fish in the ponds in this vineyard starting just before his fourth birthday. A father never forgets the moments and places where his son learned how to fish. He went with me on vineyard checks, and over time, got to know a lot of the guys on her crew, many of whom still remembered him years later when he began doing field labor in the vineyards. I also forged a friendship with winemaker Rod Berglund out of our shared love for this vineyard that lasts to this day. So this place has played a central role in my life, and that of my family, and my connection runs very deep.
Saralee sold the vineyard to the Jackson Family in 2012 two years before she passed away, and the Jackson family has been exceedingly gracious and continues to sell us fruit. They farm the vineyard as they do all their vineyards- sustainably, and with respect for the place. Walking this vineyard stirs a lot of memories, all of them good. A few years ago, when Will made his first wine to commemorate Saralee, Carri and I realized we needed to designate a wine from this very special place that has touched our family in so many ways, and show our love and respect for SaraLeee. Starting with the 2016 vintage, we are finally doing so. I hope to make Pinot from here for as long as I make Pinot.
I learned a lot about the voice of place from this vineyard. It sits in a soil series known as “Yolo” – the soils are quite deep and quite vigorous (they use a double cordon to keep the vigor at bay and balance the vines). It took quite a few years of working with this place until I understood that no matter what I wanted this place to be, the wines were going to be what nature would give me: red, pretty and elegant. Really grasping this was a real milestone in my development. That lesson of yielding my goals to nature’s gifts is an approach I take into every vineyard with which we work.
The first entry in my tasting notes when we finally opened our first bottle of this say it all: “Classic Saralees Vineyard”. For me, that kind of sums it up- but to elaborate, it means the quintessential lifted red fruit, round mid palate and nice palate weight we always get from there. This wine is made from Martini clone, Pommard and some clone 114 that was especially delicious, all of which cold soaked for 7 days, and then fermented on native yeasts for 16 more days. We pressed it to barrel where it remained until being bottled in August 2018. The wine is focused and stays firm despite that voluptuousness, and while this is always a wine that is delicious when young, it always develops a lot of nuance in the bottle. As we tasted the bottle (Ok, “drank”), I kept thinking about past vintages- and the 2017 is very reminiscent of the 2005, which was (and is) one of our favorite wines from that vineyard. This one has plenty of acid, and I expect it to offer great drinking pleasure from now (decanting is a good idea) for the next 8-9 years. I think it really captures the voice of this place, which has, over the years, become a good friend of mine.