The Russians Are Coming

By G.M. “Pooch Pucilowski

There are few appellations that make my mouth water, but Russian River Valley is one of them. Pinot Noir from the Russian River is about as good as it gets, so when I recently had the opportunity to spend the day there tasting wines, I couldn’t pass it up.

Gary Farrell has been producing wines in the Russian River area of Sonoma County for 30 years—and he’s darned good at it. Gary Farrell 2003 Pinot Noir Russian River Selection ($32) is his workhouse wine, made with a blend of fruit from some of his best vineyards. It has a cherry/berry nose, medium tannins and full flavors, with strawberry and smoky overtones. This wine is a good example of how nice these Pinots can be.

Gary Farrell 2002 Pinot Noir Rochioli Vineyard ($40) is medium-bodied, with berry and black cherries in the nose (and a dash of black pepper for good measure) and a dry finish. It’s still a little young, but after six more months in the bottle, it should have its act together. Gary Farrell 2003 Sauvignon Blanc Redwood Ranch, Sonoma County ($20) has a typical grassy/grapefruit nose with a fair amount of acidity—it would be delightful with barbecued chicken or pork medallions.

La Crema Winery specializes in Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays. La Crema 2003 Chardonnay, Russian River Valley ($25) has a good balance of acid and fruit, and a dry finish. Hints of apple, vanilla, pear and a touch of butter make this a wine that’s hard to put down. La Crema 2003 Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley ($24) has a pleasant licorice/blackberry nose, with plenty of chewy tannins and cherry flavors in the finish. This wine needs a few months in the bottle to come around.

Hartford Court 2002 Chardonnay Seascape Vineyard, Sonoma Coast ($55) has a beautiful golden-yellow color with a vanilla/lemon aroma and a nice, soft finish that lingers on the tongue. Hartford Court 2002 Pinot Noir Velvet Sisters Vineyard, Anderson Valley ($50) is distinguished by its velvety, spicy quality, with hints of raspberry and cherry thrown in. And Hartford Zinfandel 2003 Fanucchi-Wood Road Vineyard, Russian River Valley ($39), made from the fruit of century-old vines, has an intense raspberry nose, with good balance and medium to heavy tannins. What a treat!