Our day of exploring wineries of the Russian River was drawing to a close. We had just one more stop on our schedule and it was a good one: Russian River Vineyards!
The annual Taste of Route 116 was going well, with great tastings at Balletto Vineyards, Taft Street Winery, and Furthermore Wines so far. We had one more winery on our schedule that we were really looking forward to: Russian River vineyards. With the (somewhat) relaxed Covid protocols, every stop needed an advance reservation, so our day of tasting was a bit more regimented than normal, but we were able to make it work. The very large parking lot at RRV was much more full than expected and we were mildly worried about the crowds. We were thrilled to discover that the winery had expanded their outdoor tasting areas substantially since our last visit. The crowd was easily handled and there was plenty of room for everyone.
After a brief stop at the check in desk, we were led to a lovely table beneath a large, shady tree with a view of the upper patio area. As we settled in, wine guide Shannon popped up (we learned that this was her super-power, popping up every time she was needed) and welcomed us to Russian River Vineyards. She passed out wine glasses, wine menus, and a menu of snack plates. We had been tasting all afternoon, so after some discussion and comparison we selected several of the cheese and cured meat trays for the table. Shannon told us that the new tasting areas were the result of several years of work, driven by the growing ranks of Russian River Vineyards winetasting fans. The former tasting area, down the hill from the main building, just wasn’t enough to handle their popularity. The new layout was a party in every direction!
Shannon started us with their 2020 White Confluence a blend of 50% Viognier, 25% Sauvignon Blanc, and 25% Gewürztraminer. A crisp summer sipper, we enjoyed the dry mango and tropical fruit notes that went well with the cheeses that also arrived with the wine. Our next taste led off our “Take Home” list: their 2019 Chardonnay from the Bacigalupi Vineyard. The floral aromas and smooth fruit with faint butter made this wine earn the “highly drinkable” moniker. Our charcuterie plate was really taking a beating paired with this Chardonnay! Shannon then surprised us with an “off the list” taste, their 2020 Pinot Noir Rosé “Gianna May”. We learned that the wine was named after the winemaker’s daughter. We thought that the sentiment was really sweet, but were happy that the rosé was not! Shannon called this a “porch pounder” because one could sit on the porch on a nice afternoon and… well the meaning was clear.
We next tasted their 2017 Pinot Noir “Classic Cuvee” a blend of Pinot Noir juice from various Russian River vineyards. This wine featured assertive fruit, featuring bright cherry, with a pleasant finish with white pepper. This paired nicely with the flatbread on the cheese tray. Their 2017 Pinot Noir from Horseridge Vineyard showed a classic Pinot nose and lots of festive fruit layers finishing with notes of cola and anise. Our final taste (or so we thought) was their 2016 Charbono, from the Guido Venturi Vineyard. The charbono grape originated in eastern France, but is now enjoying growing popularity in Napa and Argentina. Shannon said that the Guido Ventui Vineyard had one acre of the 48 acres of charbono planted in the entire United States. We enjoyed the blackberry and chocolate aromas and the velvety fruit layers reminiscent of Pinot Noir around the edges. We put a bottle of this unique wine on our Take Home list. Although we thought that our tasting was complete, Shannon surprised us with their 2016 Red Confluence, a blend of 76% Merlot, 8% Charbono, 8% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 8% Petite Sirah. This food-friendly wine was fruity and balanced, with the accessibility of Merlot and the body of Charbono. A great ending to a great tasting!
About the Author: John grills a mean steak and is always in the market for another wine fridge. Believes that if a winery has more than 10 employees, it's probably too big. Buys wine faster than he drinks it, but who cares?