(Contributed by Jennifer Schiff) Is it a restaurant, a farm, a tasting lounge, an historic site, or a winery? Well actually Russian River Vineyards encompasses all five of these functions. Established in the 1960s in the heart of the 10,000 acre Russian River AVA, Russian River Vineyards has grown to be one of the premier organic and sustainably farmed grape-growing properties in California.
This past week a group of Sonoma State University Millennials was fortunate enough to attend an educational session and tasting at the SSU Wine Sense Club Meeting, with Russian River Vineyards winemaker, Giovanni Balistreri. Giovanni is also one of four owners of the estate. The team carries with them a myriad of backgrounds/experience in real estate, winemaking, fine dining, environmental health, and more — that has helped aid in their success in producing world class wines at this state-of-the-art winery.
The Restaurant in an 1890 Farmhouse with Organic Food Garden
Today, if you visit the winery, you not only find beautiful wines in their tasting room, but just less than a hundred feet away over 45 different types of vegetables are grown with each of them being served at their restaurant daily. The restaurant is housed in a beautiful historic farmhouse dating from the 1890’s.
Beyond the standard tasting experiences you will find at a winery or restaurant, those who visit Russian River Vineyards also have the opportunity to tour the estate, learn all about its sustainable practices and biodiversity, as well as enjoy fine wines alongside fresh produce from the estate’s farm.
Winemaking at Russian River Vineyards
Giovanni explained that they use grapes from their own 6 acre vineyard as well as those produced from surrounding vineyards, and as far away as Mendocino County. Their approach very much embodies the concept of ‘quality over quantity.’ They specialize in pinot noir and Gewürztraminer, but also make a range of other varietals. Almost all wines featured were aged in 35% New, 100% French Oak, with a range of 12 to 20 months for the aging process. Click here to see a great video of Giovanni.
Tasting of Five Wines from Russian River Vineyards
Giovanni led us through a tasting of five different wines, all small lots, of which none exceeded a case production of 700.
|Pinot Noir||2014||Sonoma Coast, Petaluma CA||Acidic, Silky, Soft||650|
|Pinot Noir||2014||Appian Way, Sebastopol CA||Tart, Bright Fruit, Sleek Style||490|
|Cabernet Sauv.||2014||R. River Valley, Sweetwater Springs Vineyard||Herbal & Dry Integrated Tannins, Dark||200|
|Charbono||2014||Guido Venturi Vineyard, Ukiah||Long Fermen.
|Gewurztraminer||2016||Kunde, Kenwood||Balanced Acidity and Sweetness||420|
Favorite Wines of the Evening
When the vote was conducted at the end of the tasting to determine the two favorite wines, the winners were the 2013 Russian River Vineyards Appian Way Pinot Noir ($65) and the 2014 Russian River Vineyards Charbono ($48).