russian river vineyards

Russian River Vineyards winemaker Gio Balistreri

Giovanni Balistreri from Russian River Vineyards and Wendy Hilberman from the Russian River Valley Winegrowers are our guests today.

russian river vineyards

Wendy Hilberman, Executive Director of the Russian River Winegrowers.

Wendy Hilberman is executive director of the Russian River Winegrowers Association. They will be putting on a Paulée Dinner which is a traditional Burgundian event, a dinner that celebrates the end of the harvest. (The word comes from a Burgundian dialect term for the last skins that are put in the press.)  In France they do it in November, at the end of harvest. They do it here on August 31, because putting on an event for 200 people is too inconvenient in November. The Russian River Valley Wine Growers Association are hosting the event on Friday August 31 at Sonoma Cutrer.

Giovanni Balistreri and three other partners took over the Russian River Vineyard and they opened in October 1 2008. Their first vintage was a Pinot Noir. They bought it out of foreclosure from Toppolos family. Gio is the winemaker. It took 3 or 4 years to rehab the place. They focus on wine and food for a combination experience that you can only get there. Dan says that they have some old zinfandel vines on the property. He has one last bottle of 1971 Russian River Vineyards Zinfandel.

They taste a 2017 Chardonnay, which is a stainless steel style, with good tropical fruit flavors and spice flavors. They make three kinds of Chardonnay, all stainless steel, all oak, and halfway. Dan says that this one is for drinking now, not for cellaring.

This is the sixth year that the Russian River Winegrowers Association puts on the Paulée Dinner. Wendy tells how they invited a fantastic group of local chefs this year and they have a lineup of great talent. They will make pork shoulder, short ribs, seasonal vegetables. Steve from the Farmhouse Inn and Restaurant is growing special salads and veggies just for this event.

russian river vineyards

Giovanni Balistreri, winemaker at Russian River Vineyards.

Paulée is a French practice but they don’t do very many of them in the US. Gio says this is one of the only winemaker events in the area that follows this practice.

The Rosé that they taste is called 50-50 because the Pinot Noir grapes come half and half from two vineyards. Vanilla strawberry cream, Dan tasts some watermelon. There is a little more sugar that broadens the intensity and gives it balance between sweetness and dryness.

Dan says that First, don’t have too much sugar. Then, a Rosé should not be too dark to keep the tannins low. Third, don’t chill it down too low. This one is 14.4% alcohol. Gio picks the grapes based on flavor and ripeness, not just on a Brix value. Dan originally didn’t cellar Rosés but he found that if you lose a bottle, in 2 or 3 years later, they can be interesting. They change but in a way that is usually pretty beneficial. You wouldn’t plan to age it but if you lose a bottle, it’s OK.

Wendy describes the Russian River Valley Wine Growers Association. They have about 300 members who are growers and winemakers. The Paulée event brings people in from all over to showcase Russian River Valley and Sonoma County in general. Gio is their Board President. Sarah Soelger is also in the studio today, she does Marketing and Public Relations for the association.

Now they taste a Pinot Noir. It is a 2016. The 2014 won Best Red Wine at the Harvest Fair. Gio likes to make soft velvety wines and he thinks this is a good example of how he likes to make wine. Dan says the three regions of the Russian River Valley go from cooler to warmer as you go north and they all make different styles. This is a lighter style and Dan says it should be cellared for 7 to 9 years.

Gio talks about the Neighborhoods Initiative. Dan says that the varieties like Sauvignon Blanc or Sangiovese that come from Russian River Valley have characteristics of the location. Barry Herbst from Bottle Barn who is back from vacation today says that Russian River Valley wines from the core of their Pinot Noir section in the store.

Wendy says that people at this event tell stories of meeting new people and sharing some wine and then they become friends. Dan says that people bring wines with a story and they share the wine and the stories too.

Barry Herbst describes the new Bottle Barn website which will feature wine for sale that can be shipped to the customer. They will have special sales and free shipping inside California.

Finally Gio tells that Russian River Vineyards is celebrating locals with pizza for all Sonoma County locals on Sundays at noon, with pizza from 2-5pm at Russian River Vineyards on Hwy 116 just north of Sebastopol.

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