Ryan Pritchard, winemaker at Three Sticks Wines and Mike Barber of Barber Cellars are our two guests on California Wine Country with Steve Jaxon and Dan Berger. Barry Herbst from Bottle Barn and Harry Duke are also in the studio.
First, a cellar dweller from Dan Berger’s extensive personal cellar. It’s a 2010 Riesling from Arroyo Seco. It is very sweet but probably about three years past its prime. Ryan Pritchard’s take is that the nose is better than the palette. Dan says the screw cap helped it from being completely gone. It would have been better after only 4-5 years in the cellar.
Ryan Pritchard has a Three Sticks Chardonnay that they will taste. Steve notices the nose and Dan Berger says, “the secret to these wines is cool climate.”
Ryan Pritchard grew up in northern California and his first memories of wine are of being a student at Cornell University where they tasted wines in hospitality studies. He fell in love with wine, then worked in tech but his love was always wine. He spent all his time traveling and studying wine. He worked for Bob Cabral at Williams Selyem, where he learned a lot.
Three Sticks started when Bill Price bought the Durell Vineyard, which had been providing grapes since the ’70s for some great wines. In 2002 he decided to make some wine himself, starting with one, two or three barrels. Over the years they continue to find great fruit in the area and do different bottlings. Their goal is to develop and farm from some of the best vineyards in Sonoma County. They have vineyards in all the different areas in Sonoma County, so they can do some single vineyard wines and some blends. Notable among them is Gap’s Crown vineyard in Petaluma Gap, which has been called the crown jewel of cold climate wine growing. Bill Price had the good sense to hire Bob Cabral, who did a brilliant job of establishing a style that Ryan is continuing to produce. Three Sticks has a tasting room right off the square in downtown Sonoma in an original 1842 adobe building. They do sit-down tastings and reservations are suggested at least on weekends.
Our second guest today is Mike Barber from Barber Cellars.
They have been making wine for fifteen years. They didn’t start with a lot of money. Barber Cellars tasting room is in the Hotel Petaluma, a 100-year-old building recently renovated. Reservations are recommended but not required. They highlight local cheese makers and are super casual. Inspired by the book Big Macs and Burgundies, they offer a tasting menu of popular foods that go well with nice wines. It is a very enjoyable space, open Thursday through Sunday 1-7 PM.
Today’s selections of Petaluma Gap wines are intended to show the qualities of this new AVA in southern Sonoma County. The fruit comes from Gap’s Crown vineyard and it delivers consistent Pinot Noir character. The Petaluma Gap, where the fog rolls in early in the afternoon, and the wind, toughening the skins making the great tannin profile. The fog tempers the heat, even in hot year. It can 10 10-15 degrees cooler at Gap’s Crown on a hot day.
Dan Berger says that Petaluma Gap is one of the finest AVAs in America for Pinot Noir. It has only been approved for three years, but the difference between Russian River Valley and Petaluma Gap, if you want to compare them, you’re getting the equivalent of two different Burgundian styles.
Barry Herbst notes that there are good Syrahs coming from Petaluma Gap. People come into Bottle Barn asking for Petaluma Gap. Every single crop that comes from the 85-acre Gap’s Crown vineyard has been excellent.
Harvest this year has been difficult. They brought their Pinot Noir in about 3 weeks ago. Yield was light. There are some vineyards that got no crop at all, due to the drought. Even though this year’s yields are light, the quality is perfect by every measure. They saw a combination of small berries, which means intense flavors, and the acidity and sugar levels were maintained by cold nights.
Finally they taste a Pinot Noir, there are 2 barrels of wine from this half-acre site.