gary farrell

Theresa Heredia from Gary Farrell Winery

There is no new California Wine Country show this week due to NBA basketball on our home station KSRO in Santa Rosa, CA. Here is a repeat of our show from April 26, 2017 that you may have missed, featuring winemaker Theresa Heredia from Gary Farrell Winery. 

Steve Jaxon and Dan Berger welcome Barry Herbst of Bottle Barn and this week’s special guest, Theresa Heredia, the winemaker at Gary Farrell Winery.

teresa heredia

Theresa Heredia

Steve asks Theresa Heredia to tell how she became a winemaker. She says she grew up in Pittsburgh, California, which was not a wine producing region when she grew up. She went to Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and studied microbiology. She was accepted to grad school at UC Davis, where she discovered the wine program. She heard that they were using gas chromatography, which she was using for her research. But they were also using “olfactometry” i.e. sense of taste and smell, to identify aromatic components being separated on the instrumentation. She had been doing peptide synthesis, so wine was much more interesting.

At the time UC Davis was the only big university wine program. Today there is also Fresno St., and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo has a new program. Dan points to Santa Rosa Community College too and says the programs need more funding as the industry develops. He mentions programs at Columbia, Cornell, Purdue, Michigan State (Steve’ alma mater), U. of Texas at Austin, Mississippi St. and that there are about 30 programs in the country.

Gary Farrell was a pioneer with his 1982 Pinot Noir. Back in the ‘80s people were beginning to develop name brands and get high scoring reviews. But the pioneers were coming together to make wine from what are now iconic vineyards. He built the Gary Farrell winery in 2000, retired in 2004 and now is selling classic cars. Dan says he was tired of all the different social obligations a famous vintner has, so he left the business.

He was the handyman at Davis Bynum winery, then in 1978, Hampton Bynum gave him the opportunity to make the wine, which won a Silver Medal at the Sonoma County Harvest Fair that year, where Dan was a judge. He remembers how good it was.

Theresa tells that in 2011 they were purchased by a group called Vincraft. Bill Price is one of the owners. Steve remembers that he has been on the show before. She has been at Gary Farrell Wines for almost five years.

Dan remembers knowing Gary since before his first wine came out in 1982. He says this is a winery that respects terroir and respects acidity, which together in the same bottle makes a great wine.

Theresa Heredia is proud to work with an all-star list of great vineyards. She likes to pick on the early end of the ripeness spectrum, to get better acidity, just as Gary did.

They begin by tasting a Rosé that Barry brought in, a Sancerre Rosé from the Loire Valley. Made with 100% Pinot Noir, with longer cooler growing season and chalky soils, Dan says it gets great cherry flavors and is dry without being austere.

Dan says that Rosé is the best of both worlds. You get the fruit of the grape variety and when made right, it’s got the acidity. So it has the structure to go with great food, whether creamy or austere flavors.

Rosés are coming in now from all kinds of varieties from all over the world.

They are doing renovations to the old tasting room, which had an amazing terrace view over the valley, stunning in any weather. The new room will be for seated appointment tastings only, with floor-to-ceiling windows and more comfortable furniture on the terrace.

Teresa also tells about how they also do “glamping” which is “glamor camping” or fancy tents with nice furniture.

Next they taste the 2014 Olivet Lane Russian River Valley single vineyard Chardonnay. She likes to harvest it a bit early and this is her third vintage for the winery and she is happy with it. Steve really likes it.

Next they have two Pinot Noir bottles to taste, a 2014 Rochioli Vineyard and a 2014 Hallberg Vineyard.

Dan mentions that a Sonoma County vineyard-designated Pinot Noir of good quality should cost about $80 and if the price is lower, it is a bargain. Hearing that this Hallberg is $55, he says it is a bargain.

Theresa Heredia says they pride themselves at Gary Farrell Winery in having affordable wines and they want to make the best wine possible.

Dan says he doesn’t think people realize how much work goes into one of these vintages. He says it takes 15 years to reach that level of quality. First, you have three years before the grapes even produce a crop. Then it is another three years from the time the wine is made to the time it is on the shelf. Then if you consider that you can’t produce a high quality Pinot Noir from immature vines, now you’re adding two to four more years before the vines are even slightly mature. Then, the winemaker has to get used to the fruit and the first year is a shooting match. It’s hard to know what the proper decisions are until a few years in. Steve notices that rose petals are the essential quality of the Rochioli vineyard and Teresa agrees. They also taste berries.

Dan brought in a 1982 Napa Cabernet from William Hill winery. It wasn’t a great year and Dan was disappointed, it had been too long in the cellar.

Next they taste the Hallberg Pinot Noir. Dan says these two wines show the characteristics of their vineyards. The Rochioli is red fruity and velvety while the Hallberg has more blueberry and blackberry and cool climate characteristics. Dan thinks they both have good acid and so an oily fish like salmon would go well with it. Dan thinks the Hallberg would bear three years in the cellar.

Just at the end, Sean, a listener, calls and asks, if it takes 15 years to get high quality wine, how long can a vineyard produce, once it is established? They answer, 75 years or more, just as time is up.

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