RIVER VALLEY - redux, with the Pinot on the
This past weekend I attended the 3rd
annual Pinot on the River Festival, held this
year at the Vintner's Inn and John Ash & Co. brand
new Event Center in Santa Rosa. This multi-day event
(Thurs-Sun this year) consisted of a couple of "road
trips" to wineries on the pre-event days of Thursday
and Friday, while Saturday and Sunday contained no less
than seven seminars, two tastings, and sumptuous dinner
on Saturday evening. Very enjoyable, and, aside from
the final tasting, a nice small intimate event.
Kudos to the organizers (Pinot Report's
Greg Walter & Eric Hall) on the Sunday tasting.
At four hours in length (Noon-4:00), it seemed like
a daunting undertaking - both for wineries as well as
for guests (unlike Saturday's tasting, Sunday's Grand
Tasting was open to the public). You might think that
four hours of Pinot would have produced a lot of staggering.
Ironically, it was just the opposite. I'm sure people
felt less rushed to get to the tables, and seemed to
pace themselves. And another thing -- At 3:50, only
two wineries had run out of wine or had left. This is
almost unheard of.
On the downside, seminars seemed to
run into endless delays in Saturday. The first seminar
finally started 40-45 minutes late, and that in itself
threw everything else into a tailspin. That said, everyone
seemed to take it in stride, so it appeared that everyone
was determined to have a good time.
It will be awhile before I get the tasting
and seminar notes posted, but just to whet your appetite,
here were some of my favorites of the show (in no particular
'05 Harrington - Brousseau, and Gap's
'05 Skewis - Bush
'04 Sojourn - Sangiocomo
'04 Freeman - RRV
'05 Peay - Pomarian, and Scallop Shell
'05 Kosta Brown - Garys', Koplen, and Keefer
'05 August West - Rosella's
'04 Du Nah - Estate
'03 Clos Du Val - Carneros
'04 Dutton Estate - Jewel Block
'04 Etude - Carneros Estate, and Deer Camp Estate
'04 Failla - Hirsch
'04 Native 9
'04 Vergari - Du Nah Vnyd
'05 MacPhail - Toulouse
'04 Inman - Olivet Grange
'04 Roessler - La Brisa (Kanzler)
RIVER VALLEY - visits and interviews
Brian Clark and I joined our cinematographer
Mark Ryan up in the Russian River Valley for visits
to Williams Selyem, and interviews with growers Joe
Rochioli, Howard Allen, and Jim Forchini. Our goal -
a couple of podcasts for GrapeRadio,
and a video podcast or two for W/S.
Arriving early Monday, we immediately went over to Williams Selyem to see how crush was going - and it was indeed going! This operation is a well-oiled machine, with everything moving at stop watch precision. Grapes come off the truck, get dumped onto the sorting table, and get moved to the fermenting bins ASAP. Aside from documenting the process, our job was to stay the hell out of the way - something that we were mostly able to do well!
After racing into town at Noon for a
quick bite, it was back to Westside Road for an interview
with Joe Rochioli, Jr. Meeting out in front of the winery/tasting
room, we told him we needed someplace quiet to conduct
the interview. Joe suggested his patio deck - which,
since it's right next door, has exactly the same view
as the tasting room - perfect! We began at 1:30, and
were slightly concerned how long we'd be able to keep
Joe from things that might have needed his attention.
Well, by 6:00, we figured that was a moot point. What
a blast - what a great guy, with lots of great stories.
The next morning we had a cancellation,
so we took the opportunity to run over to one of Williams
Selyem's Estate vineyards - the Drake Vineyard, as well
as pick up some footage of the RRV. It had been raining
off and on since morning, but we were able to get a
break as we checked out this relatively new vineyard
across the river from Guerneville.
From here, it was back to interview
Howie Allen, owner of the famous Allen Vineyard right
near (actually surrounding) the W/S winery. Crush was
still actively going on, so we had to try to find a
quiet place to record. Luckily, we were right in Howie's
back yard - literally! We set up behind an old barn
on the Allen property, and cranked away. Great guy!
Up bright and early Thursday for our scheduled interview with Bob Cabral, head winemaker and General Manager for Williams Selyem. After that, it was over to Dry Creek to meet with Jim Forchini to discuss old and new vine Zin. Then finally, back to meet with Mark Malpiede, Marketing Director for Williams Selyem.