Tasting Notes, 2009: Rochioli Vineyards & Winery, Russian River Valley


With friends coming into town this week, it’s safe to say that I’ll be knee-deep in the Napa Valley food-and-wine experience for the next couple of days. I’ve got a calendar full of tasting appointments on the horizon, including visits to Paradigm, Nickel & Nickel, Cardinale, and Revana. When I woke up this morning, I decided that I might as well go “all in” for the week, so I made an impromptu visit to Rochioli Vineyards in Sonoma this afternoon.

Perched atop 162 acres of prime Russian River Valley real estate, the Rochioli tasting room overlooks many of the winery’s most famous Pinot Noir vineyards, including its East Block and West Block holdings. In planning a visit to Rochioli, timing is everything, since many of their wines sell out in just a few months. In fact, the East Block and West Block bottlings are allocated to a mailing list, so these two wines never even have the chance to hit the open market (the mailing list for these wines currently requires a six-year wait). Fortunately, Rochioli does also produce some larger bottlings of Pinot Noir.

During my last visit to the winery, which was in October, Rochioli offered just two wines in its flight: its 2007 Estate Chardonnay and its 2007 Special Cuvée Pinot Noir (I have actually visited Rochioli when their tasting was comprised of just one single Chardonnay). Today, the winery offered three wines: the 2007 Chardonnay was still in the flight, alongside the 2008 Estate Sauvignon Blanc and the 2007 Estate Pinot Noir. For those of us who are not on the exclusive Rochioli Vineyards mailing list, the latter wine is the best alternative to an East Block or West Block bottling.

To my tastes, the 2007 Estate Pinot Noir, which was bottled six weeks ago and released just two weeks ago, is another Rochioli triumph. The wine features a generous dose of Rochioli’s trademark Russian River fruit, which rides to a nice long finish. Honestly, this wine has no business tasting so good, so soon. In December, I enjoyed a bottle of the 2006 Rochioli Estate Pinot Noir during a holiday dinner. To be sure, the 2006 Rochioli was a great bottle, but the 2007 vintage has already seemed to match it.

The 2008 Rochioli Estate Sauvignon Blanc was also delicious, although not nearly as captivating as the Pinot Noir. Still, the Sauvignon Blanc presented some great lemon characteristics, without any unpleasant tartness. The Chardonnay was also well-crafted, although I didn’t purchase any Chardonnay today. Simply put, when Rochioli offers Pinot Noir, I buy Pinot Noir.

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