Single Vineyard Wines
Home to more soil types than the entire country of France, Russian River Valley is known for producing an abundance of single vineyard wines—mostly Pinot Noir—from vineyards farmed by multi-generational families. Single vineyard wines are remarkable. Small lots. Limited releases. Exclusive wines you can only find in person at the winery or through wine club membership.
But it’s not about pitting single vineyard wines against their blended counterparts. There’s a commitment to excellence that goes into the winemaking process whether the result is a single or blended variety. Often thought of as a soloist versus a symphony, both have a special place in a wine lover’s heart (and cellar). Single vineyard wines simply have a unique story to share.
Pinot Noir is globally known for being a site driven wine. “Pinot Noir expresses terroir and tells the story of the vineyard”, making it an ideal choice for single vineyard wines, says winemaker Christopher Donatiello. Chris sources nearly all his fruits from family owned vineyards, including fruits from friend John Bucher’s vineyards.
When working with family owned vineyards, the connection to the land is what makes single vineyard wines special. “The vineyard owners live on the property; their kids play on the property. They are really connected to what’s going on in a way I can’t be” and this commitment to the land, is expressed in the wines he produces.
“If you’re really trying to bring forth what comes out of the ground in a single year, than an individual site is the best way to express that.” Alex Kanzler
Winemaker Giovanni Balistreri of Russian River Vineyards loves producing single vineyard wines that showcase the diversity of the valley’s vineyards. Pinot Noir fruits sourced from his Estate and Appian Way vineyards are two miles away and completely opposite in flavor profiles. “One is elegant, silky, and romantic, and the other is robust, strong, and masculine” said Giovanni.
Alex Kanzler, of Kanzler Family Vineyards, says the single vineyard wine is “the wine I want you to love and buy year in and year out, with vintages in your cellar.” Quick to point out that wine is subjective, Alex goes on to say that “if you’re really trying to bring forth what comes out of the ground in a single year, than an individual site is the best way to express that.”
Wines crafted from small lots are typically more sought after due to scarcity, but there’s a deeper draw for many wine drinkers. Single vineyard wines exude a sense of individual place and time. There’s a story within each bottle that speaks to the vintage, unique flavor profile, and winemaker’s style.
Whether you’re just discovering Russian River wines or building your cellar collection, the exclusivity associated with single vineyard wines is enticing. Gary Farrell Vineyards and Winery produces 15,000+ cases of blended wines that are readily available to the public so people throughout the United States can enjoy a great bottle anytime. To gain access to the single vineyard wines, consumers join the wine club or visit the winery’s tasting room.
Amongst the Russian River Valley (RRV) winemaking community, there’s a mutual sense of admiration and solidarity regarding single vineyards. Single vineyard wines promote small family growers by showcasing a local family on the label. Spotlighting a family’s vineyard is a nod to the history of Russian River’s farming heritage.
Alex Kanzler’s family sold grapes exclusively from their 15 acre Pinot Noir vineyard until his parents experienced the amazing wines their colleagues made on purchased fruit. When his sister’s engagement spurred a “wedding wine experiment” that was a big hit, his parents decided to use some of their fruit to make their own private label wine. For Alex, this progression from grower to winemaker was very natural.
Kanzler Vineyards continues to sell fruit to other wineries who designate the vineyard on their label. Often a new customer is aware of Kanzler before they try the wine. This symbiotic relationship in which the vineyard markets the wines, and the wines market the vineyards is an evolution that John Bucher, of Bucher Wines understands.
Following a similar path, Bucher Wines sells 85% of the vineyard’s fruit to nearly a dozen RRV wineries including Williams Seylem, C. Donatiello, Merry Edwards, Holdridge Winery, and Ramey Wine Cellars. There’s a common thread on the vineyard site—specific characteristics and flavor profiles— but there are nuances that allow the winemaker to create their own interpretation. Crafting wines that express the essence of the site led to the launch of the Bucher label in 2013.
“…we’re getting grapes from the farmers we grew up with. For us it’s about showcasing what tremendous diversity you can have in Russian River within just a couple miles.” Dominic Foppoli
Fourth generation grape grower, Dominic Foppoli co-owns Christopher Creek Winery with his brother. His family has been growing grapes for over 100 years in the United States. Dominic literally grew up in a vineyard. Christopher Creek’s single vineyard Chardonnay comes from a vine that grew outside his childhood bedroom window.
Making wine is an expression of his family’s passion. The winemaking process is virtually the same for each wine, but the goal is for every vineyard to speak for itself. “What I love about our industry is the farmers and winemakers all grew up together….We’re getting grapes from the famers we grew up with. For us it’s about showcasing what tremendous diversity you can have in Russian River within just a couple miles” he shared.
Single vineyard wines are a special way to represent the land and history of generations of Russian River Valley farmers and winemakers. Store bought wines are consistent yet single vineyard wines can tell a different story each year. A story many wine lovers are eager to consume, year after year. One vineyard. One wine. One singular experience; available in-person, or by the bottle.