2019 Holdredge Rochioli Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir, 97 points
This wine comes from the Rochioli Vineyard, one of the most iconic North American Pinot Noir vineyards. The story of Russian River Pinot Noir literally began at Rochioli where, in 1968, Joe Rochioli Jr. was among the very first to plant Pinot Noir in the Russian River. He did so at a site that is now synonymous with excellence in Pinot Noir, an undisputed Grand Cru location if we used that measure in America. The farming is meticulous but reflects deference to nature that is shown in the fruit.
The vineyard is about 140 acres, divided into five blocks; there are 22 separate sub-sections among the Pinot plantings. Our fruit is grown in a block off Sweetwater Springs Road (the “Sweetwater Block”), which is their highest elevation planting of Pinot Noir. Our grapes come from a section of Sweetwater called the “West Block Selection section”, as it is planted to 100% Rochioli West Block clone (until 2015, all our wines from there also had a small amount of Pommard clone, which was replanted to West Block clone). The vineyard sits on an east-northeastern facing slope, has Goldridge soils, and the rows run northeast-southwest.
We began making wine from the Rochioli Vineyard in 2012. Our experience has been that there is an amazing level of consistency year to year for the aspects we consider from a scientific viewpoint, like sugar, acid/pH, and tannin (the West Block clone typically shows great tannins), and more importantly from a flavor standpoint. But the most distinctive aspect of the vineyard is the certainty of the voice of the wines from here. There is a real heritage in the place, and the wines reflect that heritage in a quiet, confident way.
I read through my harvest notes as I started to write about this wine, and there were three things I had focused on; the tannic structure, the weight and the aromatics. Then I read my blending notes, and they called out the very same three things. And in a way, I think these things really encapsulate this vineyard. Whether the soil or the clone (Rochioli West Block), these wines have always had lots of tannins; it’s part of why it ages so well. It’s always showed great weight, and the secondary aromatics (like forest floor and fine spices) show up around the edges early on, and only become more pronounced with time. And as I drink it now, it’s got all those traits, in spades. This is really one hell of a wine; I have no predicted outside drinking window as I think this could last a very very long time.
The overarching memory of making the 2019 Rochioli Pinot didn’t take place in the cellar, but actually took place about a week before harvest. Carri and I were going there to taste grapes, and Gracie decided to join us. We parked and began walking through the vineyard, each in our own row, and at the top of the hill we all met and talked about the grapes. It was one of those perfect warm late summer evenings, where the soft light of the setting sun made it feel like everything you could see down valley was being filtered through gold, coupled with that quiet pause where nature settles down for the evening. Those are the kind of moments that stick with me, and in this instance, being there and watching my wife and daughter smile, and talk, and laugh, reminded me that for as blessed as I feel to be able to make wines from this vineyard, the real blessings in my life were standing in front of me. Or two of them anyways. I thought about that moment a fair amount the past two years, and I hope some of what I felt comes through in the wine.
Only 124 cases made. 97 Points- Wine Enthusiast; 95 Points – Jeb Dunnuck