Bucher Vineyards – a step back in time

When I first came to know the wines of Bucher Vineyards, it was through my love of all things Pinot.  A very specific spot in the Russian River AVA, with a true sense of terroir, I had been drinking the wines of Holdredge Winee for years before I came to know the people behind the amazing fruit from Bucher Vineyards.

As I tasted more wines from producers that were lucky enough to get a share of these babies, like Thralls Family Cellars and Siduri, I was excited to be able to taste the Bucher Vineyards wines at Pinot on the River last year.

Once I tasted them, I knew I was hooked and I had to go see the property for myself.  Fortunately, I was able to get to know John & Diane Bucher a bit, and they happily welcomed a small group of bloggers to their property for a history lesson and tasting.

Bucher Vineyards was born out of the family diary farm next door, which John’s parents, Joe & Annmarie, founded as immigrants from Switzerland int he 1950s.  Starting out in San Francisco, they elder Buchers fell in love with the farming communities of the Russian River Valley and found the property that the dairy currently sits on.

Selling to local milk processors like Clover Stornetta, the dairy was the focal point of the 11,000 White-O Ranch, dating back tot he 1930s.  With the purchase of a small 360 acre property, and a few dairy cows, the Buchers built up the herd to a prosperous 650 head. Joe & Annemarie’s son John grew up on the diary and learned the family business.

Attending UC Davis in the early 1980s, John returned after graduation to manage the operation.  His goal at that time was to make it 100% organic, which he did successfully – all while looking for ways to diversify the family business operations. In 1997, after two years of researching varietals, analyzing soils, and talking to neighboring grape growers, John planted the first Bucher Vineyard Pinot Noir blocks. starting with Pinot Noir, the plantings have grown to include Chardonnay, and now include 38 acres of planted grapes in 15 unique vineyard blocks.  Being next to an organic dairy farm has it’s benefits, and the Bucher’s practice sustainable viticulture in the vineyard. After successfully selling grapes for a number of years, John & Diane decided to start their own label.  In 2013, the first vintage of Bucher Vineyards was released and became Diane’s full time job.  I have to say, her passion and dedication pays off! The wines we tasted truly show a sense of place, and as I like to call it “The Bucher Dirt”.


2013 Russian River Chardonnay
This was a richer style Chardonnay but not at all like a classic California wine.  With beautiful balance, and bright citrus based acid, this was a creamy lemon custard, green apple, and stone fruit. Fermented in stainless steel and aged in neutral barrels, except for a single new barrel, there is just a kiss of oak.  $28

2013 Rosè of Pinot
Beautiful rose petals and floral aromas break in to blood orange and pink grapefruit, with nectarines.  Dry, with explosive fruit, this is a luscious rose.  The 667 clones of Pinot in this block are intensely floral, and created a delectable wine.  $18 (sold out)

 

2012 RRV Pinot Noir – Is classically Russian River, with pungent, beautiful blackberry flavors bursting out of the glass, followed by a hint of rose petals.  Cola and cracked black pepper follow the burst of fruit, with a nice finish of tangerine and baking spices.  A blend of three vineyard blocks, the backbone comes from a primarily Swan clone block, with Pommard and 667 making up the balance and adding complexity.  A hint of oak from 40% new French barrels rounds out this luscious Pinot Noir.  At $40, it’s well worth more, and I look forward to adding it to my collection soon!

 

If you’d like to visit Bucher Vineyards for yourself, join their mailing list here.  Tours & Tastings are available by appointment only, and Diane would love to see you!

Expression is in the eye of the drinker

What do you think about when you think about wine?  Flavor, name, price?  When I think about wine, I think about location.  Where is it from?  Is it from a vineyard I know?  An area that I’m fond of?  Somewhere new?  All of these things are characteristics of wine that peak my curiosity, and make me want to know more.

I love wines that express their sites and show the uniqueness of the area.  Luckily for me, there are winemakers that are as driven and curious as I am.  In this case, Matt Licklider and Kevin O’Connor of LIOCO, who founded the winery with the fundamentoal idea that wine should be an expression of terroir.  in this case, Matt Licklider and Kevin O’Connor wanted to express the unique charachteristics of various terroirs of California Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, as well as a unique blend – Indica, a Rhone style blend.

By selecting the best possible fruit available from independent grape growers,, they are able to express control over their fruit and hone in on the exact fruit and characteristics that make the best wine.  Through careful clonal selection, sustainable practices, and careful site selection, the wines are born in the vineyard.

Moving indoors to the winemaking itself, using wild yeast in hand sorted grapes, with very little oak treatment, you get unique, wild, clear representations of the fruit in each bottle.  Having known about LIOCO since my early days of blogging, I was excited to have the opportunity to taste the latest releases.

First up, the fresh and lively 2012 Estero Russian River Valley Chardonnay.  This blend of two vineyards, both in Russian River Valley, reflects the cooling influence of the sites, low in elevation and susceptible to the fog fingers that linger in the mornings.  This proximity to the ocean creates a need for longer hang time, delivering a strength in flavor and bright acidity that is so magical in this wine.  This is what chardonnay should be:  expressive, bright, fruit driven.  Vinified in all neutral oak, the selection of blocks for the Estero is very specific, with all other lots going in to the Sonoma County bottling.  The Estero is showing Meyer lemon, lemon curd, fresh cream, underripe nectarines, fresh cream, and a flinty mineral finish that dances on your palate.  For $35, I’d drink this all day.

Next, two Pinot Noirs from different areas of California.  The first, the 2012 Laguna Sonoma Coast, is a blend of the Teach-Mor and Hirsch vineyards, both from the extreme Sonoma Coast.  This wine is everything I love about Sonoma Pinot Noir, with tangy, hibiscus and bright cherry filled bursts of flavor, with forest aromas of cedar and mushroom.  Fermented from wild yeast, the fruit was fermente with 30% whole cluster bunches.  With vineyards in the fog catching zone, the cool temperatures create the bright red fruit and zingy acidity that I love so mcuh.  This wine was not long for the table as we drank it quickly and happily, but it will age well and the big black raspberry and pomegranite notes are tasty with Thai curry and anything bacon.  Yum!  At $38 it’s an affordable luxury.

The second Pinot is from the Santa Cruz Mountains AVA, south of San Francisco at at elevation.  The 2012 Saveria Vineyard Pinot Noir is also 30% whole cluster, and is unfined and unfiltered.  Finding fruit from a well kept secret in the Saveria Vineyard 6 miles from the Pacific Ocean, clones 115, 667 and 777 are cooled by constant morning fog and a diurinal swing of ~40 degrees.  That ocean is fickle she is!  Aromas of gingerbread and Christmas trees are followed by flavors of balsamic strawberries, rose hips, cranberry sauce with orange zest and black cherry.  The juicy red fruit lingers with the spice box on the finish that is just wonderful, with a touch of cedar smoke lingering on my palate.  A splurge at $50, this would be a wonderful wine with your Easter ham.

The wines of LIOCO bring back the true meaning of terroir, and what it means to be a winemaker and not a wine factory.  WIth so many wineries tryign to achive continutity year after year, makign a product that is a known entity, LIOCO strives to go beyond that and focus on expressing the fruit as much as they can.  Every vineyard and every vintage demands different treatmetn, and deserves careful attention and focus through bottling.  These guys are doing it right.  Balance, flavor, uniqueness.

If you would like to visit the winery, it is located in an urban wine ghetto in Santa Rosa, CA.  Open by appointment only, you can find them at liocowine.com.

These wines were provided by the PR company for consideraton, but I have been known to buy a bottle or two of LIOCO myself.  After this trio, I will buy a bottle or three more!

Speed tasting 11: Going back back back to Cali Cali

Ok normally i would NEVER ever ever say Cali. But, Biggie Big is calling my name, and since we’re in Virginia sweating our asses off, I thought it was appropriate as we taste the 2010 Sivas Sonoma Sav Blanc.

This is a VERY grassy and green pepper wine.  It is 68% Sonoma Valley and the rest of the fruit comes from Russian River; it is 100% stainless steel fermented and is aged on the lees.  For $14 it could be a great summer quaffer, but it’s too grassy for me.

Speed tasting!

How do you taste 10 wines in 5 minutes?  Or something like that.  It’s the annual wine bloggers conference, and we’re kicking off speed tasting with

Rodney Strong 2009 Reserve Chardonnay from the Russian River Valley

sandlewood

hazlenut

a touch of apricot

toast

nutty

lemon drop

Arrested Development

After our adventure barrel tasting at Cartograph, we were lucky enough (ok fine, Alan knows people) to be treated to a very special private tasting at Arista Winery.  I’ve been to Arista before, and have always enjoyed their Pinot Noirs, but this was realy a treat a we were able to taste 7 older vintages of rare wines. Mark McWilliams met us outside with a plethora of older vintages and we were wowed by some of the Pinot Noirs from Arista.

Arista Winery was founded by the McWilliams family in 2002, with the intention of creating world class elegant Pinot Noirs from the Russian River valley.  Creating wines in the vineyard with sustainable practices and small lots, each wine is an expression on the local terroir.  OK yes, fluff and bother but true all the same.

We started with a Longbow vertical.  Longbow is known for it’s blend of the best barrels, and for creating a more powerful style.  As a general rule, it is unfined and unfiltered, and uses the racking process as a natural filter.  the Longbow series is minimally invasive, which allows the fruit to really show throguh.  Named for the midevel weapon that is very difficult to master, the Longbow series really shows the best of the bunch with Pinot Noirs that are difficult to master.

Megan is working very hard on her Pinot!

The 2004 Longbow Pinot Noir was dark and rich, with powerful black cherry and raspberry flavors.  2004 was a warmer year, and more new French Oak (60%)  was used to counterbalanced the strong fruit.  This is a blend of the Manoni and Taboni vineyards, and the vibrant cherries were followed by a chewy and rich flavor of stewed tomato, caramel, and balsamic strawberries.

the 2005 Longbow Pinot is slightly lighter than the 04, and showed more muddy earth flavors of allspice, nutmeg and black pepper.  I tasted forest floor and mushrooms, with bark and cedar followed by cola and hints of red fruit.

The 2006 was very aromatic and had strong rose petal aromas, with orange blossom notes.  It is primarily clone 113, and was very herbaceous with herbs de Provence, meaty earth, and less pronounced fruit.  there was a strong sense of smoke and sandlewood, which dark plums lingering.  It was quite smooth and velvety, but a bit too smoky for my taste.  Don’t get me wrong, I really liked all of the wines, but this was my least favorite of the batch.

2007 was too young, and the finish fell a bit short.  there was a lot of vanilla and cherry, but I also found tomatoes and soy sauce.  The wood was a bit too pronounced and needs more time to integrate.

I actually really loved all of the Longbow wines, and they are all very different.  My favorite was the 2004.

Mark McWilliams - Arista

Next we moved on to some barrel samples with the 2009 Two birds Swan Vineyard.  this was a HUGE wine, and I referred to it as my hunka hunka burning love.  The 2009 Two Birds Calera Selection was a completely different wine, with acidic zippy cherries and raspberries and bright red fruit.  It had a lot of spice and slightly muted earth.

After tasting both of these wines, we had some fun making our own blends, and I found that about 33% Swan and 66% Calera made for a beautiful wine with the dark red fruit, and zippiness of bright cherries.  I hope the final blend will be something like that1

Special thanks to Alan & Mark for yet another great day out at Arista!

C a golden ray of sun!

C is for Cellar Rat, Craggy Range and Cobb.  All pinots, and all very different.  I’ve reviewed the Cellar Rat before, but every time I open a bottle I like it more.  On this night, I was at my friend Amy’s house, who was serving pork butt, and what goes better with pork than pinot?

It was the perfect way to start the evening as we sat around chatting about the ins and outs of pork and wine.  As the others started to arrive, we opened the 2006 Craggy Range from Central Otago.  Keeping in mind that the 2006 is actually 6 months older than our 2006 due to the southern hemisphere flip, this was a huge wine with lots of cherry, berry and cola flavors.  I enjoyed this one as well but was a complete departure from the Cellar Rat.

Our final pinot of the evening, but certainly not our final wine, was the Cobb piont.  I tasted this again yesterday along with two other single vineyard pinot noirs from Cobb, and was duly impressed; I was able to discuss the wines with the winemaker, and had the added delight of meeting the new vineyard owner of Jack Hill as well.

  1. 2007 Jack Hill – This is the first commercial release of this wine from a 2 acre vineyard near Occidental.  It was big but not overwhelmingly dark pinot reminiscent of a Russian River Valley pinot without the overwhelming cola-berry characteristics.  I tasted blood orange juice, cranberry, raspberries and mild bits of earth.  There was just a touch of mushroom at the end, with a hibiscus finish that lingered.
  2. 2007 Emmaline – is located closer to Sebastopol, but is still influenced by the ocean air.  I found it bigger than the Jack at first, with more of the classic RRV cola and cherry flavors.
  3. 2007 Coastlands – This is Amy’s favorite, and she did try to convince me I liked it best.  Yes, I loved it but I’m not sure I could pick a favorite!  I loved them all.  Coastlands was first planted in 1989, before Pinot Noir when crazy.  This tiny 1.5 acre vineyard gave me big bold baking spices, cranberry, strawberry and white pepper.  There was also more earth to this wine than the previous two, and there were notes of mushrooms and herbs.

All in all, I loved all of the Cobb wines and can’t wait to try them next year (if not sooner!)

 

C is a great letter for Pinot Noir lovers like my self!

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Over the river and in to the Pinot


Davis Bynum
has quite a history to live up to, as the first winery to produce a single vineyard pinot noir from the Russian River Valley.  Now, three decades later, the winery was sold to the Rodney Strong family of wineries, through Klein family, who has farmed here for 4 generations.

One of the things that strikes me about this winery is that the focus is on nature, and how they can best make world class wine with a minimal impact.  Additionally, the careful management of the vineyards pull out the local qualities in the grapes without homogenizing the fruit to a generic style.

The 2007 Russian River Pinot Noir is a blend of several vineyards, which gives the winemaker the ability to create the best concoction.  It was a big pinot, which is somewhat indicative of the RRV these days.  I found it bold, dark and full of black cherries and strawberry jam, followed by dusty bark, dried cherries and craisnes on the palate.  After leaving it open for a while, I started to taste rose hips, hibiscus and rhubarb with those bright berry flavors that are so yummy.  The juicy finish on this wine lasts a long time, and I found just a touch too much oak make the end a little bitter.  The very last note I tasted was a Dr. Brown’s Black Cherry soda, which is pretty high praise since when I was a kid and we got to go tot he Holey Bagel, it was my sweet treat in a Coke-Free household.

For $35, I feel it is just a little overpriced but still tasty.  I would also say that if you did buy this, hold on to it for another year as I think it will settle downand become amazing, and therefore well worth the price point.

This wine was a sample provided by David Bynum winery.

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I smell a Rat!

Alan Baker and David Horowitz

A Cellar Rat!  When I first met Alan Baker, aka @thecellarrat, I was in my first year of making a mess wine at Crushpad.  What I didn’t know, or rather, the connection I failed to make, is that he was the same Alan Baker who was the voice behind this crazy podcast that I had become addicted to over at Cellarrat.org.  Mind you, this was before I was a wine blogger, before I was the “glue that holds the twitter wine universe together”, and before I was Wine Biz Radio’s #1 fan.  Ahhh the olden days.

The months past, and I would see Alan every now and then around Crushpad, like a mad scientist on a mission to create the world’s best wine for himself, and other clients at the same time.  Enter Cellar Rat wines.  I first tasted the Cellar Rat syrah at one of Crushapd’s infamous tasting events parties, where Alan was pouring a touch of pinot and a smattering of syrah.  WOW!  I was blown away by this wine.  Both the pinot and the syrah were outstanding, and somehow, I was lucky enough to get a door prize (thanks Alan!) in a bottle of syrah that I took home and squirreled away for safekeeping and later drinking.

Fast forward 3 years, and Alan is now working with Arista Winery where he can both hone his winemaking craft and work on his social media and broadcasting skills.  I somehow convinced, cajoled, and begged him to let us come up and taste his pinot noir in progress, and so a blogger’s binge was born.
On a recent cool and foggy day, we met up at the picnic grounds of Arista, off of Westside Road in Healdsburg to talk wine, blogging, and fun.  Amongst the hoards were Patrick Llenra (@oenophilus), Marcy Gordon (@marcygordon), Hardy Wallace (@dirtysouthwine ), Ashley Routson (@thebeerwench), Shana Ray (@sharayray), Paige Granback (@thesnarkhunter), Danica Sattui (@danicasattui), and of course Alan & Serena.  Cool and foggy but happy, we set out to taste the latest and greatest.

Patrick Llerna, the birthday boy!

Patrick Llerna, the birthday boy!

First, we started out with a barrel sample of the 2008 Two Pisces Vineyard.  This vineyard is located just west of Petaluma, and has a wide variety of soil types, giving it a lot of diversity.  With 5 clones planted, I tasted sour cherries in this rich and spicy pinot, with bright raspberry flavors and classic Russian River Valley character, with cranberries and cinnamon.  33% new French Oak gives the wine just enough structure and spicy without going overboard.  Though I rather enjoyed this wine, Alan says he’ll definitely add some bigger fruit pinot in to the final blend, since it already seems to be falling off a  bit.  Tasty tidbit about this vineyard:  This is where our Bus 4 Cellars 2009 Sparkling Wine is coming from!  I’m excited about hte potential in this pinot, and what it means for my fledgling bubble enterprise.

The 2008 Split Rock (also known as Gap’s Crown, but they don’t like us to say that) is in the Sonoma Coast AVA, near Petaluma.  The cool growing region helps develop concentrated flavors that aren’t overripe.  Some of my favorite northern California pinots are from here, like Humanitas and Stomping Girl.  In the Cellar Rat, I found sweet cherry cola, strawberries (Shana’s favorite!), white pepper, and nutmeg.  This tasted of rich dark red fruit.  Yum!

Finally, we had the finished product in the  2006 Wentzle Vineyard Pinot from Anderson Valley.  This is the pinot I tasted at the Crushpad party, and it was even better than I remembered.  This wine was held in a combination of barrels, most notably one new barrel, one zebra barrel, and two neutral barrels, and then blended to created the finished product.  Now if you don’t know what a zebra barrel is, it’s a mad coopers experiment in fermentation where you basically deconstruct one used and one new barrel, stick it back together with every other stave being from one or the other.  You know what I mean, one new french, one used, one new one used, etc.  This is one way to accomplish x% of new oak, without actually using separate barrels and is quite effective for the small winemaker.

This finished wine was lighter in style, and true to what I would expect in the Anderson valley, with black raspberries and earthy mushroom characteristics with just a touch of Dr. Pepper.  The nice thing bout this wine is that it has the bold flavors that I’ve come to love in a California pinot, but its’ very subtle and not overpowering by some of the Syr-Pinots or Pino-syrahs I’ve had from parts south.  The Pinot 2.0 was crushed wtih about 7% whole clusters remaining, and these whole clusters were fermented with native years.  The rest of the juice was inoculated with yeast, and when blended with the whole clusters and the combination of the different oak barrels, it makes for a truly stunning pinot.

If you can bribe Alan, I HIGHLY suggest you get your hands on some of this, because it’s AMAZING and the $42 price tag is worth every penny.  I have great hopes for the future Cellar Rat (or whatever he names it) projects to come, and can’t wait to taste the barrel samples along the way.

Thank Alan for having us up and check back for my notes on the Arista Pinot-Thon soon!

Samples were provided by Alan Baker of Cellar Rat.  No actual rats were harmed in the tasting of this wine.

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