Tickled to have an opportunity to taste wines with a winemaker – via Zoom – after such a long dry Covid-induced period! And it would be a favorite winery of many pals – Gary Farrell Vineyards and Winery – whose website says they’re “A Grand Cru of the Russian River Valley for more than three decades, (producing) wines of balance, elegance and pure varietal expression.” Well, I would be putting the varietal expression to test with seven of their single vineyard Pinot Noirs.
I’d like to invite you to a special tasting we are organizing with Gary Farrell winemaker Theresa Heredia, via Zoom, that explores the depth and breadth of Gary Farrell Pinot Noir for a small group of media. She will lead a tasting of her single-vineyard Pinot Noirs that includes bottlings from long-time Gary Farrell growers such as Hallberg and Toboni and more recent vineyard additions such as Gap’s Crown, Martaella and Fort Ross. The tasting will be 7 wines total, which we would send you in advance. She will provide background on each vineyard and will discuss her approach to making each wine, which is tailored to the vineyard and focuses on achieving bright, vibrant aromas, intense yet supple flavors, and the winery’s signature balance and purity of varietal expression. And, of course, she will welcome questions and discussion.
What We Learned
Did a little advance googling to learn a bit about the winery and Heredia in advance of the zoom presentation. I learned that the majority of the newly released 2017s are for members only and that they have an “Inspiration” series that offers a one-time released wine to members only as well. Most of their wine is available at the winery and online, some may be found in restaurants and a few retail outlets.
They were named one of the top 100 wineries in the October 2019 issue of Wine and Spirits Magazine, one of the Top 50 producers in Wine Spectator’s June 2020 issue and their recent 2017 Fort Ross Pinot was awarded 95 points by Wine Spectator. Prince of Pinot named them the 2016 Vineyard of the Year.
Heredia began her tenure with Gary Farrell in May 2012, after working as the winemaker for Joseph Phelps Vineyard’s Freestone label. The San Francisco Chronicle named her the 2012 Winemaker to Watch.
From Heredia we learned that most of her wines are made with whole clusters, they have less alcohol, she likes skins on, ferments all separately, and a light toast to her barrels – that is her influence showing. What is Heredia most proud of: Her 2017 vintage, including two more vineyards she picked up in Lompoc. What is her favorite Pinot vineyard: Fort Ross, it reminds her of Burgundy, as does the Martaella vineyard.
The winery makes 12 to 14 Pinots, and though they also make a Rose, Sauvignon Blanc, and others, their focus is Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
The Wines (Tasting notes were provided and discussed. I put the ones I agreed with in bold.)
2016 Bien Nacido Vineyard Pinot Noir, Santa Maria Valley
Heredia called this wine a “sexy spice box” and I agreed with finding pomegranate, dried stems and anise. WE 95, WS 89, $70 https://shop.garyfarrellwinery.com/product/2016-PINOT-NOIR-BIEN-NACIDO
2016 Fort Ross Vineyard Pinot Noir, Fort Ross-Seaview
Heredia used more whole cluster grapes in this wine and the area is known for being foggy and cooler, which produces a darker wine. One pal noted it as “bright and cheerful” and I did find the wine earthy, savory, with tea, blackberry and strong tannins. $75, 94 WE
2016 Hallberg Dijon Clones Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley (Green Valley)
Savory again, lots of black tea, and noted a beautiful color. 94 Pinot File, $60, https://shop.garyfarrellwinery.com/product/2016-PINOT-NOIR-HALLBERG-DIJON
2016 Hallberg Vineyard Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley (Green Valley)
Clones in this wine included 667, 772 and 828. It had aromas reminiscent of dark cherries, cola and dried mushrooms. wine.com 54.99, RP 92, WS 92
2016 Martaella Vineyard Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley
These last three wines Heredia said showed more concentration and are structure-driven. Lots of red to black fruit, sweet cedar and plenty of tannins. 94 WE, $65 https://shop.garyfarrellwinery.com/product/2016-PINOT-NOIR-MARTAELLA
2016 Toboni Vineyard Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley
Clones 115, 667 and 777 were used in the wine. Lots of vanilla bean, with the expected cherry, in this one. Ed’s favorite. 93 WS, $55 https://shop.garyfarrellwinery.com/product/2016-PINOT-NOIR-TOBONI
2016 Gap’s Crown Vineyard Pinot Noir, Petaluma Gap
A crowd pleaser, this one went well with a Pork Wellington Eddie made for dinner. We loved the nose of cherries, cola and that nice savory quality we kept finding in the wines. Heredia said it could age five or more years. 94 WE, $80 https://shop.garyfarrellwinery.com/product/2016-PINOT-NOIR-GAP-S-CROWN
Contact information and links
Eve Bushman has a Level Two Intermediate Certification from the Wine and Spirits Education Trust (WSET), a “certification in first globally-recognized course” as an American Wine Specialist ® from the North American Sommelier Association (NASA), Level 1 Sake Award from WSET, was the subject of a 60-minute Wine Immersion video (over 16k views), authored “Wine Etiquette for Everyone” and has served as a judge for the Long Beach Grand Cru and the Global Wine Awards. You can email Eve@EveWine101.com to ask a question about wine or spirits.