Theresa Heredia from Gary Farrell Winery is back on California Wine Country with Steve Jaxon and Dan Berger. Barry Herbst from Bottle Barn is also in.
Gary Farrell had his own ideas, he wanted to pick his grapes earlier, rather than the trend at the time, which was to pick rather later. Theresa came to Gary Farrell wines and carried on Gary’s practices in the winery where he had all the right equipment. It’s not easy to grow grapes in a cold climate and make great wine, and Dan says that Gary Farrell agrees that Theresa is succeeding.
Theresa Heredia explains that Gary Farrell is one of the pioneers of the Russian River Valley. He started at Davis Bynum and worked at Rochioli. His first vintage was the 1982 Pinot Noir. He makes “site-expressive” wines.
Dan tells how Gary started as a cellar worker and later, wineries wanted his magic. Theresa tells how they do it, that they have the same idea in mind. Gary wants the vineyard to shine through in the bottle, rather than any other components like the oak, or ripeness, or alcohol. It’s what she was tryign to do at Joseph Phelps Freestone Vineyard previously. She’s getting wines that are generally under 14% alcohol and uses light oak, so as not to mask the flavors.
Theresa was a graduate student in Chemistry at UC Davis and she thought she would get a PhD and teach at the University level. But she discovered wine at UC Davis and “that was it.”
Dan Berger says you have to have great intuition and great vision to work in cold climates. The cooler years are more challenging, she says. Theresa’s first vintage was 2002 for Joseph Phelps and 2012 for Gary Farrell. They taste a 2016 Russian River selection Chardonnay blend. The grapes come from many of the famous Russian River vineyards, she mentions Rochioli, Olivet Lane, a bit of Durell, Bacigalupi, Ritchie. They always want to pick the components for this blend first, then they set aside the single-vineyard selections. Dan says it could take 6-8 years in the cellar.
The next bottle is a 2015 Chardonnay from Durell Vineyards. Theresa says it takes about 3 weeks to create the blends, both the Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, they need time to pick out the components of the blend. Dan says that the secret of this wine is the acidity, which allows it to pick up many nuances. It could take a decade in the cellar. Theresa Heredia says that Durell is one of her favorite vineyards, with natural concentration and structure. Dan notes the citrus components in the flavors.
Next tasting up is a 2016 Pinot Noir blend from all the great Russian River Valley vineyards. Dan tells about an expensive French Burgundy, which sells for $5200 per bottle. They consider Chardonnay to be colorless red wine and Pinot Noir to be white wine with color. These Gary Farrell bottles cost around $35 but they are comparable to those French wines that cost many times more. Dan proclaims that Sonoma County specializes in premium wines at affordable prices.
Barry says he has tasted some fantastic Pinot Noirs from 20 years ago that come from a cellar that Bottle Barn has purchased. Then they taste the 2015 McDonald Mountain Pinot Noir. This is a new vineyard for them. It’s located in Sebastopol Hills between the Petaluma wind gap and Green Valley. It’s foggy and windy and the yields are low, so it gets great concentration. Dan smells some raspberries and wild strawberries, with a faint taste of cranberries in the aftertaste. Theresa says it works very well with lamb.
Dan points out that there are some iconic wines in the region but that they are only sold direct to consumer at the vineyard. Last they taste a 2014 Siduri, a lush Pinot Noir that will sell out in the next few days, at a low discount on the new Bottle Barn web store. Dan says it has the lightness and elegance of Sonoma County character and Theresa says it’s an amazing wine for its $20 price.