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Sunday, July 10, 2011

A day in the Russian River Valley

We made several stops in Sonoma County's Russian River Valley on July 10th, an area known mostly for the cool-climate grapes Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. It was another picture perfect day with brilliant sun and temps in the 70s.  With stopping at several wineries I limited myself to only a few of the wines available at each location.
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Interesting history, folklore, redwood trees and beautiful gardens make this a popular stop for everyone from locals and international travelers.  The Heck family bought the winery from the Korbel's in the 1950s and still run it today (along with Kenwood Vyds, Valley of the Moon Winery, and Lake Sonoma Winery).
We started with a sandwich from their deli on the deck in the redwoods.
If you stick with the drier bubblies they are pretty good, especially for the price.  The Natural, the organic Brut (a different wine from the Korbel Brut found everywhere), and the Reserve Blanc de Noir (Sangiovese-based) were the best.

Along a scenic section of the Russian River the family has been making wine for over 20 years here focusing on Pinot Noir.
Good quality across the board.  The Bacigalupi Vineyards Pinot Noir was my favorite. The Bordeaux-style red blend was very good also--at $75.

Gary Farrell
Gary started making his own wines 30 years ago after working for some of the biggest names in the county. A bit over 10 years ago he built a beautiful facility on a hilltop overlooking the river to focus on Pinot. The business side went downhill and the winery has had many owners in the last few years. The wines have pretty much held steady during the turmoil.
A leaner style of Pinot with the Bien Nacido/Central Coast and Hallberg/Russian River Valley ones my favorites with the Hallberg being quite spicy.  The Starr Ridge/RRV I wasn't so impressed with.

Russian Hill
Another hilltop facility overlooking area vineyards.  They started up about 15 years ago and are family-owned focusing on Pinot and Syrah.
Richer style of wines compared to Gary Farrell, but not overripe.  The Leras Vineyard Pinot and the Estate Syrah were the best.  The Syrah was somewhat of a bargain at $28 retail.

The Martinelli family has been growing grapes in Sonoma County since the 19th century, but became well-known with their connection with winemaker Helen Turley.  No, this is not the same family that makes the Martinelli Sparkling Cider, in case you were wondering.
Most wines were very ripe and several showed heat from high alcohol levels. Most wines were very expensive. I preferred the Pinot vineyard blend, Bella Vigna, that was relatively low in alcohol and price.

Hook & Ladder
The Deloach Family sold their namesake winery and started up Hook & Ladder.  Yes, the owner is a retired San Francisco fireman.  There's even an old firetruck on the property and a collection of t-shirts from fire districts around the world.
The Cabernet Franc and Zinfandel were quite nice, the Tillerman red blend wasn't (I'm always looking a good, cheap red).

A family-run winery making everything from Barbera to Bordeaux styles.  A friendly, unpretentious place hosting great barbecues during special events.
Unfortunately, I never really liked their style and still don't.   I purchased wine at each stop except here.

Entrance to Hook and Ladder Winery
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A great way to spend a Sunday.  And we only scratched the surface of what's available in the Russian River Valley.