What To Drink Now: Gary Farrell Pinot Noir

I appreciate a tasting that transports you on a journey as you sip through the selections. I attended a recent Zoom tasting with Gary Farrell Winery, featuring winemaker, Theresa Heredia, that did just that.

Traveling through the glass from southern California up through Sonoma the winery showcased a selection of their single-vineyard Pinot Noir wines, highlighting the uniqueness of each area and the effect the terroir has on the fruit. To be able to taste the wines side-by-side allows even the most subtle nuances to stand out, helping develop an understanding of the locations, and your palate. It was truly heavenly.

I am a Pinot lover. The delicate variety delivers light to medium-bodied wines that though they don’t weigh down the palate, pack a punch of flavor balancing ripe fruit, textured richness, and bright, bold acidity, creating wines that you want to revisit over and over again.

Gary Farrell Vineyards and Winery founder, Gary Farrell, felt the same way when he began his Russian River winery, believing the cool Sonoma region had the ability to produce the most elegant, expressive Pinot Noir and Chardonnay wines. He was making wine from Russian River AVA fruit long before it became a designated AVA, working with fruit from celebrated vineyards like Rociholi and Hallberg.  His goal has always been to allow the cleanest, truest expression of the grape to shine through.

Pinot Noir

A Ph.D. candidate, Winemaker Theresa Heredia joined the team in 2012, bringing her passions and experience to the brand, believing that the Russian River has the ability to consistently deliver great fruit.

Adding Heredia’s skills, Gary Farrell Wines expanded their focus on crafting small lot, single vineyard, small production wines from great vineyards throughout not only Russian River, but all of California. Today the winery produces over a dozen different single-vineyard Pinot Noir wines from Santa Barbara Country up through Sonoma County.

Though each site brings different characteristics, telling the story of the place, their winemaking philosophy remains consistent. The winery believes in picking early, keeping the alcohol levels in check while ensuring the phenolic character has developed; some whole cluster fermentation is utilized, giving an earthiness and essence of the terroir to the wines; and mainly, to let Mother Nature’s touch come through from year to year with authentic vintage expression.

One of the newest named AVAs in Sonoma County, Fort Ross-Seaview hugs the Pacific coast. The Fort Ross Vineyard sits at elevations of 1400 feet less than one mile from the Ocean. Sitting well above the fog line, the vineyard has perfect sun exposure to ripen delicate fruit easily. The location though, with bustling breezes blowing throughout the day, gives the vineyard a natural air conditioner, ensuring freshness is locked in, and the growing season is consistently long. The resulting Gary Farrell Fort Ross Vineyard Pinot Noir ($75) is succulent and savory, leading with rustic earthy notes of dusty leather, black tea, dried violets, and spice. Flavors are rich and dense, with blackberry, licorice, and toasted oak.

Not far from Fort Ross-Seaview, the Gap’s Crown Vineyard in the Petaluma Gap of the Sonoma Coast enjoys similar coastal, maritime influences from the Pacific. Sitting at an elevation of 300-800 feet above sea level, steeply sloped vines sit in rocky soils, stressing the vines and creating concentrated intensity in the fruit. The powerhouse of the selections, Gary Farrell Gap’s Crown Pinot Noir ($80) is bold while maintaining balance. Fleshy and fresh, layering pomegranate, cranberry, Asian spice, and cola, the supple wine has structure and personality.

Showcasing the elevated elegance of Russian River, Gary Farrell Hallberg Vineyard Pinot Noir ($55) is earthy, juicy, and lush. A textbook-style Pinot that showcases the best of the fruit, and the place. Aromatic and inviting, the wine opens with layers of violets and rose, soft herbal notes of sage and tarragon, and ripe red and black cherry, leading to wild mushroom, dusty earthy, and truffle.

Gary Farrel Toboni Vineyard Pinot Noir ($55) sitting on the Santa Rosa plane of Russian River is the Pinot for the Cabernet drinker. The extrovert of the selections, and everyone’s friend, the wine is a crowd-pleaser. Picked later than other sites, with fruit ripening to a higher Brix level, with increased sugars, the balanced ripe blue and black fruit, like black plum, black cherry, and blackberry, with purple flowers, toasted oak, sweet spice, and vanilla.

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