In Russian River Valley many of the wineries and vineyards have a long history going back to when they were farmers, supplying the Bay Area with fresh fruits and vegetables. Weather and economic changes found many of these farmers looking to alternative crops and with the growing strength of the wine market, vineyards seemed to fit the bill for many of these farmers. Others came to the valley in the 60s and early 70s, already seeing the future of grapes. This passion for the land and understanding the relationship of the soil, the climate and the vine gave them the skills that only experience can deliver to produce award-winning wines.
During the Russian River Valley Passport Weekend, a special VIP Barbecue celebrated that history of the Russian River Valley. Wine lovers and local vintners gathered at Gail Ann’s Vineyard near the Santa Rosa Airport to feast on roasted pig, enjoy Russian River Valley wines, chat and share stories of this special wine region. The event started with a walk around tasting of wines from eleven wineries:
Bacigalupi Vineyards – Charles and Helen Bacigalupi first purchased 121 acres on Westside Road in 1956 and while there were 16 acres of vines already on the property, in 1964 Charles planted six acres each of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir based upon recommendations from Paul Heck of Korbel and Karl Wente of Wente Winery. Both varietals did very well in this location. In 1973 Mike Grgich of Chateau Montelena visited the Bacigalupi’s and tasted their Chardonnay grapes, stating, according to Helen, “boy these are the most beautiful grapes I ever saw in my life.” Mike negotiated a contract with Helen purchasing these grapes. Helen hauled them over the hill to Napa in a trailer behind a 1973 Volkswagen. These grapes were used to produce the 1973 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay that won the famous 1976 Judgment in Paris tasting! Bacigalupi has preserved this small plot as the Historic Paris Tasting Block. Helen Bacigalupi was at the VIP Barbecue and is such a pleasant enjoyable lady. At the BBQ tasting they offered:
Benovia Winery – This winery was established in 2005 by Joe and Mary Anderson, and their winemaker partner, Mike Sullivan. The winery name, Benovia, plays homage the fathers of Joe and Mary, Ben Dewane and Novian Anderson. Joe and Mary state that, “Our fathers taught them to be the best at what we do, and always produce something we can be proud of. Nothing else will suffice, period.” They now have 71 planted acres in three distinctive locations in Sonoma County producing Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Zinfandel and Grenache.
Camlow Cellars – Two friends, Craig Strehlow, winegrower/winemaker formerly with Keefer Ranch, and Alan Campbell, a Sonoma County native and local photographer, joined together to form Camlow Cellars (drawing upon both their last names). The Pinot Noir is crafted from fruit from Keefer Ranch. Alan also owns a 4-acre vineyard in Graton named Magna Porcum, named for his love of anything pork. The 2013 Magna Porcum is their new single vineyard Pinot Noir. Their first release was the 2012 Camlow Green Valley of Russian River Valley Pinot Noir from Keefer Ranch.
Dutton Estate Winery – Joe and Tracy Dutton have a heritage in the Russian River Valley going back generations. Tracy’s great-grandparents began farming apples in the 1920’s and that tradition continues today in the farm and food production facility in Forestville at Kozlowski Farms. Joe was raised on his family’s ranch in Green Valley near Sebastopol. He grew up picking apples and operating farm equipment. Both loved farm life and wanted the same for their children. They also wanted to start a business of their own and in 1995 purchased a 20-acre Chardonnay vineyard and tasting room along Highway 116. Today, Joe continues as co-owner of Dutton Ranch overseeing 1300 acres of grapes and apples. Tracy is President of Dutton Estate Winery and oversees that operation where they produce Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Syrah.
Dutton Goldfield – One of the most common questions is, “what is the difference between Dutton Estate and Dutton Goldfield?” The answer is that Dutton Estate is owned by Joe and Tracy Dutton. Dutton Goldfield is owned by Dan Goldfield and Steve Dutton. Joe and Steve are brothers and work together daily at Dutton Ranch (a third company). Dan Goldfield and Steve Dutton have been friends for years and started the Dutton-Goldfield Winery on a handshake in a vineyard in 1998. Steve grew up as a farmer and always knew that is what he wanted to do. Dan started as a chemist but then dreamed of winemaking and entered UC Davis. With his Enology degree he started with Robert Mondavi and Schramsberg and then fell in love with Chardonnay and Pinot Noir at La Crema. He was the winemaker who created the Hartford Court wines.
Kobler Estate Winery – The Kobler family has been wine growers for over two generations and honors their grandparents’ legacy by continuing the tradition of growing and producing fine wines. They specialize in Rhone and Burgundian varietals including Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Syrah, Grenache and Viognier. In the mid-90s they bought a five-acre apple farm and planted Syrah. The Syrah grapes were sold to other winemakers including Pax Winery where it became the 95-point Pax Syrah wine. In 2009 the Koblers created Kobler Estate Winery to share their passion with their public making handcrafted wines.
Nunes Vineyard/St. Rose Winery – Fred Nunes grew up farming row crops with his father in Salinas and loved traveling to San Francisco to listen to his Italian grandfather Fred Muzio tell stories about winemaking and brandy distilling. But life took him in another direction and he had a career as a firefighting helicopter pilot. As he retired he desired to fulfill his dream of farming and winemaking. He purchased his grandfather’s property in Russian River Valley from his mom, took every viticulture and enology class he could find and read every recommended book and in the fall of 2000 he planted ten different plots of Pinot Noir. For several years he sold his grapes to other winemakers. But like many grape growers, he was anxious to try his hand at winemaking. He named his winery St. Rose for the place, Santa Rosa. 2004 was his first vintage of St. Rose Pinot Noir.
Russian River Vineyards – Russian River Vineyards was first planted in 1963 and has become one the premier organic and sustainably farmed vineyards in California. It is a unique destination winery in the Russian River Valley, offering not only fine well-crafted wines, but also fine dining at the Corks, love music on the patio on the weekends or simply strolling through the country farm property.
The Calling – Jim Nantz was an award-winning commentator and a five-time National Sportscaster of the Year calling everything from the Masters Tournament, the Final Four and the Super Bowl for CBS Television. Jim had written a book Always By My Side about his father and his struggle with Alzheimer’s. Peter Deutsch has 27 years of leadership experience directing corporate strategy for W. J. Deutsch & Sons, a leading wine and spirits company, a company started by his father who he admired. Inspired by their mentor fathers and guided by their common values, the two found a new calling: a partnership to produce hand-crafted wines that bear the standard of excellence and style that are the hallmarks of these two men.
Via Giusti – This winery was founded in 2009 by Kurt Giusti who sought to preserve his family’s 150-year Sonoma County farming tradition and continue a legacy that goes back to the Via Giusti wines in Italy. Growing up in Sebastopol he spent many days working in the family apple orchard and the family Giusti Apple juice plant. Today Kurt spends his time split between his family apple business, his winery and as a hairstylist in San Francisco during the weekends. He now produces three different Pinot Noirs and a Chardonnay.
As part of the festivities of the evening, a panel discussion took place with some of the wine legends of the Russian River Valley as they shared stories of the past. The panel included Helen Bacigalupi, Christine DeLoach (who founded DeLoach Vineyards with her husband Cecil in 1970, they founded Hook & Ladder Winery in 2004), Joe Rochioli (of Rochioli Winery on property purchased by his dad in 1934), Mel Sanchetti (Korbel) and moderated by Bo Simmons from the Healdsburg Wine Library.
Dinner followed with a spit-roasted pig from SucherNova Farm prepared by Corks Restaurant, gourmet appetizers and sides from Twist Eatery and luscious pies from Kozlowski Farms.
For more information: Russian River Valley Winegrowers