Susan bought some fresh whole wheat linguine at a new local market. It was flavored with garlic and basil. While normally I don't go in for flavored stuff, I thought it might work well with a mushroom cream sauce, which it absolutely did. A nice porterhouse was on sale at the store, and then, oh yeah, the big question. What do you pull out to drink? It's the usual Sunday dilemma: no house wine, nothing but the good stuff. What'cha gonna do?
I found a 1999 Rochioli Russian River Pinot Noir and said, 'what the hell!' Beautiful spicy black cherries with dark 'pinot' perfumes. Nice. Juicy at first but the texture grew velvety as the wine opened up. Perky acidity kept the wine alive as primary fruits gave way to dried fruits on the long finish. The color was deep,dark, transparent ruby with hints of brick just starting to show on the edges. The wine was a fabulous match with the mushroom sauce and the earthy pasta.
It's always fun to taste wines with some age. Being in the wine biz, I am continually exposed to new vintages and young wines, but am always speculating with customers on drinking windows. This wine was right in its wheelhouse showing both primary fresh fruit flavors of a young wine transitioning into the secondary dried fruits of an older wine.
I did research the wines several days later. Both The Wine Spectator and Robert Parker scored the wine 90-91 points with the drinking window ending in 2007 and 2005 respectively. But the Rochioli was far from gone. The Spectator's tasting notes were still spot on for the wine even in its 10th year. Which goes to show that well made wines from great growing sites make great wines!
And speaking of great growing sites, Rochioli is one the great growers of California Pinot Noir. After years of working in vineyards, the family began acquiring Russian River property in the 50's. The oldest vines currently are Sauvignon Blanc planted in 1959 and Pinot Noir vines planted in 1968 and 1969. Wines produced first by Williams Selyem and then Gary Farrell helped spread the fame of Rochioli fruit and the family started producing their own wines, mainly Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. The wines are sold mainly through their mailing list and restaurants with minimal retail exposure.
I find I can't write these blogs just off the top of my head. I have to learn more and feel the need to verify what I think I know. So I go digging for information and photographs because the wines I tend to like are often just tips of the icebergs which are the stories of the people who make the wine and the people who grow the grapes and the soils where they are grown. And I find treasures:
Williams Selyem Interview with Joe Rochioli
My digging led me to this interview with Joe Rochioli, Jr. on Williams Selyem's website. They have video interviews with a number of their growers, but here Joe tells the story of grape growing in the Russian River Valley, going from grapes to hops to green beans and back to grapes. The Rochioli's have grown them all. I found the experience to to be magic. Primary history. The download is slow, so be patient. When it stalls, just go back and listen again while it loads, you'll learn more that way. Look at his hands as he handles a leaf stem at the end of the interview, the gnarled hands of a farmer. He says, "I guess I had something to do with that Pinot Noir thing..." Yeah, I guess he did.