Sunday, March 28, 2021

Theresa Heredia Crafts Captivating Chardonnays and Silky Pinots at Gary Farrell Winery

Walk through a city and you’ll notice distinct differences from one neighborhood to the next. In Manhattan, the creative energy of the Chelsea Gallery district is a different world from the soaring skyscrapers and hard-driving speed of the Financial District.

It’s the same in wine regions. The AVA of the Russian River Valley is a large expanse, and a stretch of several miles can make a big difference in vineyards – more ocean breeze, higher elevation, and distinctive soil variation. In fact the Russian River Valley has more soil types than France!

Theresa Heredia has been the winemaker at Gary Farrell winery since 2012. One of the aspects of Gary Farrell that attracted her is that the winery has no estate fruit but sources grapes from some of the best vineyards across the Russian River Valley.  She compares this to the role of “negociant” in Burgundy. Although Gary Farrell winery doesn’t own the vineyards, Theresa works closely with the vineyard managers, especially when it comes to picking decisions. She endeavors to have their fruit picked early to try to get good acidity and manage the alcohol.

She aspires for her wines to have Burgundian elegance and restraint while also showcasing the unique aspects of the Russian River Valley.  Theresa told us that she wants to make expressive wines that have a sense of place.  In a guided tasting for media, Theresa walked us through seven wines made from grapes sourced from various neighborhoods of the Russian River Valley. The distinct flavors and aromas of each wine was striking considering they all came from one AVA.

We started with three lively Chardonnays:

·         2017 Olivet Lane Vineyard Chardonnay – Santa Rosa Plains  /  Notes of ripe yellow apple dancing with vibrant lemons with a dash of minerality – a Chardonnay with bright flavors and good length  and refreshing acidity.

·         2017 Ritchie Vineyard Chardonnay – Laguna Ridge / Made from small bunches of grapes, this wine was very concentrated with lemon and floral aromas and a round mouthfeel with apple and pear – also with the lift of acidity.

·         2017 Rochioli Vineyard Chardonnay – Middle Reach  /  A lush Chardonnay with notes of caramel, baked apple and a dash of pineapple on the nose, on the palate more baked apple flavors along with a shot of acidity to lift the lushness.

Then we progressed to the silky Pinot Noirs:

·         2017 Bacigalupi Vineyard Pinot Noir – Middle Reach  / Classic Burgundian style Pinot with earthy notes along with the red fruit flavors – juicy yet complex wine. Theresa told us she does some whole cluster additions to this to add some tannin.

·         2017 Hallberg Vineyard Pinot Noir – Green Valley  / A tart cherry nose and black and red fruit on palate with white pepper on the black cherry midpalate and bright acid.

·         2017 McDonald Mountain Vineyard Pinot Noir – Sebastopol Hills  /  Rosemary and red fruit on the nose with bing cherries and baking spice on the palate. Theresa told us the cold temperatures in this vineyard produce lots of acidity in wines from here. She also noted that she does 40% whole cluster when fermenting this wine which adds some dusty tannins.

·         2017 Martaella Vineyard Pinot Noir – Santa Rosa Plains  / Black plum nose with loads of ripe cherry on the palate and refreshing acidity – this is a real crowd pleaser of a Pinot Noir.

Overall, I found the wines to be balanced with regard to alcohol, fruit, acidity, and tannin but fairly bursting with lively flavors.  Theresa Heredia is most assuredly a precise winemaker who brings a clear vision to the wines she creates.  We are all the better for it when we partake of her creations.