Gary Farrell Vineyards & Winery
10701 Westside Road
Healdsburg, Calif. 95448
Hours: Open Daily 10:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m.
Tasting Fees: $55 Exploration Tour & Tasting, including five vineyard designate wines
Wines Offered: 2014 Rochioli Allen Vineyards Chardonnay, 2014 Westside Farms Chardonnay, 2014 McDonald Mountain Vineyard Pinot Noir, 2014 Gaps Crown Vineyard Pinot Noir. (Wines rotate to reflect release cycles.)
Reservations: Required. Book online or call (707) 473-2909. For groups of 6 or more, call (707) 473-2909.
Did You Know? Founder Gary Farrell is a California icon when it comes to crafting two single, varietal wines—Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. He released his first wine under his own name in 1982—50 cases of Rochioli Vineyard Pinot Noir—and built the winery into one of the most acclaimed producers of small-lot Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs in the Russian River Valley.
Perched on the top of a hill in the Russian River Valley, Gary Farrell Vineyards & Winery offers an intimate wine tasting experience. The winery opened its new tasting room last summer after seven months of renovation and construction. The salon offers indoor-outdoor seated tastings in a modern, relaxed atmosphere where you can sink into the experience, learn about the fine art of winemaking and enjoy panoramic views of the forested valley below.
The key to understanding founder Gary Farrell’s wines is to know his passion and visionary, pioneering spirit and philosophy for producing elegant, small-lot wines that capture the unique character of the Russian River Valley. “Westside Road is the miracle mile of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir,” says Nancy Bailey, general manager. The region is to the winemaker, she says, what a fresh palette is to an artist.
Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are the main focus, and the process begins with starting with the finest fruit from the valley and its surrounding countryside. The key is the appellation’s climate—cool breezes and fog from the Pacific Ocean blanket the area most mornings and evenings during the growing season—which tempers the summer’s heat and ensures a long, even growing season. Fruit is picked on the early end of the ripeness spectrum, and then work begins for the winemaking team. “We’re guiding the wines into expression to produce something transcendent,” says Bailey. One of the secrets is its exclusive use of light toast French oak barrels. The tighter grain of the wood frames the delicate flavors and aromatics that are signature of Gary Farrell wines.
Farrell began his winemaking career in the late 1970s, working with influential vintners such as Davis Bynum and Joe Rochioli to showcase the Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays of the Russian River Valley, which was just evolving at the time. Today, the winery is owned by Bill Price, managing partner of Kistler Vineyard and owner of Three Sticks, Lutum and the famed Durell and Gap’s Crown Vineyard, and a group of investors, which include Pete Scott and Walt Klenz, formerly of Beringer Wine Estates. Today, the owners continue to foster the legacy of Farrell.
What’s unique about the winery is its elevated approach to tastings where you can immerse yourself into the refined art of winemaking. The Exploration Tour & Tasting is a 90-minute experience, which begins with a guided tour of the winery and cellar and entails a lively discussion of the process from grapevine to the glass. “We make the experience approachable and demystify the art of winemaking,” says Bailey. “We want to share our passion for what we do.” After the tour, guests gather around a communal table, where they sip and learn about Gary Farrell wines, while enjoying a selection of artisan cheese and nuts. As with all experiences at the winery, Gary Farrell hosts adapt the level of information and amount of interaction to the preference of guests.
Though Farrell has retired from the business, Theresa Heredia brings extensive experience with small-lot, single-vineyard wines to her position as winemaker. She has also achieved critical acclaim, including “Winemaker to Watch” in the San Francisco Chronicle. “My approach is about preserving the great legacy of Gary Farrell Winery, and producing wines of great elegance and balance,” she says.
We begin with the 2014 Rochioli-Allen Vineyard Chardonnay. Fruit is the dominant flavor with fresh, vibrant aromas of lime zest and preserved lemon, which beautifully unfolds to an intense minerality and layers of honeysuckle and brioche. Next we try the 2014 Westside Farms Chardonnay, which offers lush aromas of white peach, apricot and freshly baked pear with floral notes of honeysuckle and jasmine. Aged in French oak, it has a distinct, yet subtle hint of toasted oak.
We move to the reds, beginning with the 2014 McDonald Mountain Vineyard Pinot Noir. This wine is fragrant and spicy with aromas of white pepper, green tea and fresh thyme, and vibrant red berry. And finally, we taste the 2014 Gaps Crown Vineyard Pinot Noir. This Pinot offers an elegant blend of ground cloves, allspice and dry herbs, followed by complex layers vanilla, blood orange, cranberry and cherry flavors, an exquisite end to the Exploration Tour & Tasting.
Like so many wineries, the wildfires impacted business last autumn, but business was good during February, and Bailey has high hopes for the 2017 vintage. Says Bailey, “We anticipate phenomenal wines in the Gary Farrell style.”
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