Russian River Valley AVA in California makes up about 1/6 of Sonoma County. While producing a fairly large amount of wine, it is also among the most prestigious AVAs, and manages to attain a level of quality that is known the world around. Some are more expensive cult wines, but many are affordable while still being excellent wines. I am a big fan of Russian River Valley Pinot Noir, and the cool temperatures along the coastal region of this AVA and its fog make for nice whites too. The cool temperatures ensure a long ripening season. I just picked up a Paul Hobbs 2010 Pinot Noir which I will lay down for a while and keep for a special occasion. Dry Creek Valley AVA, where this winery is located, is part of the larger Russian River Valley region though technically not that AVA itself, which is its neighbor directly to its south. This caused me a good amount of confusion but I can understand the appeal of using the name Russian River Valley where possible due to its reputation. And to be fair the winery is just 5 miles north of the Russian River Valley AVA so the climate is about as close as you can get. Here the climate is the main factor, not the soil. So whereas in Burgundy or Bordeaux you might argue that the soil could be different enough to make a different wine, I don’t think that applies here.
And either way they have a lot to be proud of. The winery started in 1972 and was the first to be built in this valley after prohibition. They initiated the Dry Creek Valley AVA in 1983 and were the first to label a bottle with the new appelation. With their family’s passion for sailing, they have been connected to the sailing world since their beginning, including a special “Regatta” label in honor of sailor Brad Van Liew with some proceeds going to US Sailing. They also made a wine specifically for the 2000 America’s Cup in Auckland, New Zealand called “America’s Cup Reserve.”
This wine differs from a heavily oaked Napa Chardonnay in that while still having body, it had plenty of acidity. This wine was barrel-fermented in French oak on the lees for 9 months, which also explains its richness. It had the creamy, buttery and vanilla and smoke accents you expect in a California Chardonnay but without all the weight. Lush pineapple and tropical notes permeate the nose and the palate as well as wet soil and earth hints. While most might have drunk this already, it was given to me as a gift just this week and given the high acidity, oak aging and prominent fruit, I wasn’t too worried it would be bad.
As I mentioned earlier, this great Chardonnay is very affordable, at only $16. It got 88 points from both Wine Enthusiast and Wine Spectator and the vineyard has gotten nods from Robert Parker for its ‘elegant, classy efforts’. A great value. I paired it with a homemade Carbonara – it was a perfect pairing.
Visit them at http://www.drycreekvineyard.com/