A memorable Pinot Noir from Russian River Valley

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One of a kind: Pinoit Noirs from the Russian River Valley are all about aromatics and elegance, and they are unlike wines grown anywhere else in the world. | Photo by W. Peter Hoyne

If you talk with anyone who is passionate about Pinot Noir from California, it is likely that Russian River Valley will come up in the discussion. While evidence exists that grape growing and agriculture were an integral part of this landscape since the early 1800s, it wasn’t until the 1960’s that winemaking gained momentum. The boundaries of Russian River Valley run lengthwise across Sonoma County within a corridor that is a few miles east of the Pacific Ocean, encompassing nearly 126,000 acres of land. Because of its close proximity to the ocean, cool evenings and morning fogs can shift temperatures downward by 30-40 degrees. The soils here are diverse with alluvial, clay and sandstone deposits.

Although Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel are grown in this region, it is the cool climate grapes of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir that can achieve a truly profound character. Chardonnay can express a bright minerality while Pinot Noir can be feminine and intensely aromatic with alluring violets and spice. Pinot Noirs from Russian River Valley are all about aromatics and elegance, and they are unlike wines grown anywhere else in the world.

Owner and winemaker Guy Davis established his winery in Russian River Valley just south of the town of Healdsburg. He handcrafts a modest seven acres of Pinot Noir near his home from small lots that are limited in production. Different soil types and microclimates make up his Starr Ridge, Horseshoe Bend and Soul Patch single vineyard Pinot Noirs.

The Soul Patch is a hillside vineyard with an east-facing slope that receives the gentle morning sun and cool breezes from the Pacific Ocean, allowing it to develop exotic aromas and delicate acidity. The 2010 Davis Family Vineyards “Soul Patch” Pinot Noir is among the five most memorable Pinots that I have tasted. I remain rather particular in my choice of Pinot Noirs since there are many average wines that flood the market. This Pinot is in its own class and defines a style that few can duplicate. It can benefit from an hour of decanting before enjoying so that the floral elements can fully open. The wine has a soft ruby color with a seductive nose of lavender and rose petals. Within there is an underlying core of Provencial herbs, underbrush and cranberry preserves that lead you to some fresh acidity at the end. This is a luscious and complex Pinot Noir that may only come along every 10 years.

Suggested Retail: $44.99

W. Peter Hoyne has been a wine journalist for over 20 years, covering stories of national and international significance. While his professional relationships in the wine industry have allowed him to share a unique perspective of wine, he is also intrigued by the culinary aspect and harmony that exist between wine and food. As a wine advocate, he is committed to consumer education and is focused on upcoming trends and American wine-buying habits. Email him at wphoyne@att.net.