The cool and foggy Russian River Valley is a haven for Burgundian-style varietals. Well-drained soils, warm afternoons and nights cooled by Pacific fog yield Pinot Noir and Chardonnay with pure, crystalline flavors. Winemaker John Allbaugh has sought out small, exceptional vineyards, meticulously planted, cultivated and harvested, to bring out the true terroir expression of this appellation.
The crystalline, complex flavors of our 2016 Orogeny Pinot Noir speak to the distinctive soils and micro-climates of four tiny vineyards in the Russian River Valley. The sunny 2016 vintage intensified the wine’s fragrant ripe blackberry, blueberry and mulberry expression, while its notes of forest loam and redwood bark reflect the terroir. Warm spice nuances, from 40 percent new French oak barrels, lift the aromas and linger on the finish. Fine tannins and beautifully balanced acidity support the silky palate. John recommends this luscious Pinot Noir with grilled salmon over mashed potatoes with truffle oil, or smoky pork tenderloin with sage polenta.
John selected a number of small, exceptional vineyards within the Russian River Valley American Viticultural Area (AVA), which is the coolest and foggiest region in Sonoma County. While the vineyards share similar mesoclimates, their roots dig deep into different soil types, including famous Goldridge soil and Pajaro gravelly loams. Our 2016 Pinot Noir includes grapes from the outstanding Martinelli Vineyard, Gallaher Vineyard, the Lancel Creek Vineyard farmed by Ulysses Valdez, and Vineyard 11. The clones and selections budded to these vines include 114, 115, Pommard and 777, which together build the wine’s rich complexity.
We picked the grapes very early in the morning and then sorted them three times: first in the vineyard and then at the winery as both clusters and destemmed berries. The berries were cold soaked, with twice daily punch-downs, for gentle extraction of varietal character and tannins. Native yeast fermentation in small open-top fermentors was followed by in-barrel, native malolactic fermentation to round acidity. John tasted the wines every day during fermentation so he could tailor his winemaking procedures to develop the unique aroma, flavor and tannin profile of each vineyard. Ten months of aging in French oak barrels integrated oak spice and toffee into the vibrant berry character.
Here, in one of the coolest appellations of the North Coast, the 2016 vintage even surpassed the highly touted 2014 vintage in grape quality. A very low-rainfall winter was followed by a dry, warm spring and nearly ideal summer. These factors resulted in balanced vine canopies, excellent fruit set and small, concentrated grapes. Perfect weather throughout harvest—fostering intense, beautifully balanced and expressive wines—crowned the Russian River Valley vintage.