A Wine Journey along the Russian River

A Wine Journey along the Russian River

STEVE HEIMOFF
Copyright Date: 2005
Edition: 1
Pages: 296
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1525/j.ctt7zw49v
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  • Book Info
    A Wine Journey along the Russian River
    Book Description:

    Steve Heimoff takes readers on an intimate and enlightening tour of one of California's most diverse and accomplished wine areas as he travels along the Russian River and talks with growers and vintners from the Cabernet country of the Alexander Valley to the Pinot Noir producers of the Sonoma coast. This first comprehensive look at the natural history and winemaking practices of the region by one of America's most respected wine critics brings the Russian into the exalted company of the great wine rivers of the world-the Loire, the Rhône, the Rhine, the Mosel, and the Douro. Part wine guidebook, part history and geology, and part travelogue of the author's adventures in wine country,A Wine Journey along the Russian Riveris essential reading for wine lovers-both those fortunate enough to be familiar with the region and those who have never been there.Heimoff guides readers along the length of the scenic river, from its warm, northern border with Mendocino out to foggy Jenner. He discusses the history and progress of Alexander Valley Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon, Russian River Valley and Sonoma coast Pinot Noir, Sonoma County's Rhône-oriented wines, old-style field blends, and other interesting wines. In the process, he introduces readers to many of the growers and vintners who have made Sonoma County famous: Dick Arrowood, the Rochiolis, the Seghesios, Tom Jordon, Bob Cabral of Williams Selyem, Jess Jackson of Kendall-Jackson, Merry Edwards, and many others. Describing how the river's formation and evolution, both products of the planet's fiery tectonic past, as well as the region's complex climate, have created the potential for unparalleled viticultural enclaves, and recounting how a variety of people realized that potential, Heimoff provides a fascinating explanation of why the Russian River's reputation as a premium winegrowing region continues to grow.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-93056-8
    Subjects: Environmental Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. xi-xii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-8)

    The world possesses many great wine rivers that have writ their legends large in the epochal story of wine and the vine: the Loire, the Rhine and Mosel, the Rhône, the Dordogne and Garonne, the Saône, the Douro.

    Among this exalted company, the Russian River deserves a place.

    Though its known history is briefer than that of the ancient waterways of old Europe, it has now begun to write its own wine saga—and the wines are great. Just a mention of the varied appellations through which the river flows and the great wineries, vineyards, and winemakers to be found...

  5. 1 Out of the Pangaean Mists a River Is Born
    (pp. 9-26)

    When I set out to write this book, I decided that a part of it had to be devoted to an account of how the Russian River was born.

    It proved to be no easy task. I searched for some account that would describe the geologic processes that led up to the great moment (or so I imagined it) when the first few droplets of water gathered into a trickle, the trickle into a brook, the brook into a mighty stream….

    But there was no such book. So instead I set out in search of scientists who could help me...

  6. 2 Cyrus Alexander Finds a Valley
    (pp. 27-50)

    In southern Mendocino and northern Sonoma counties, they still tell an old tale concerning the massive stone plinth, hundreds of feet high, called Squaw Rock, a towering mound of basalt that hulks over Highway 101 beside the Russian River like the shattered ruins of some medieval battlement.

    Everyone has a different version of how Squaw Rock got its name. Here’s the one I heard from Pete Seghesio Sr., patriarch of Sonoma’s Seghesio wine clan. “There was an Indian squaw, and, supposedly, she lost her lover to another woman,” he says, his eighty-four-year-old eyes twinkling brightly. “So, despondent and lonely, she...

  7. 3 Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
    (pp. 51-73)

    Dueling cultures still pervade the upper and lower valleys today. The northern culture, at Geyserville and Cloverdale and points in between, is, much as we saw with Frank Pastori, stubbornly old-fashioned.

    The southern culture is both centered around and symbolized by Healdsburg. This gentrified town has become Sonoma County’s most chichi destination, its version of glitzy St. Helena. “No one goes to [the town of] Sonoma anymore. It’s all about Healdsburg,” sniffs Iron Horse’s Forrest Tancer, whose family long owned the T-bar-T ranch and vineyard in the mountains high above the Alexander Valley, property they sold only in early 2003....

  8. 4 Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon
    (pp. 74-111)

    From out of the blue one day, Terry Wright emailed, asking me to join him for a canoe trip south from Cloverdale.

    We’d paddled the river before, but never along that particular stretch. I was eager for the opportunity to leisurely study the terrain of the mountains from the vantage point of the river and to observe the pattern of the new hillside vineyards.

    It was early June; summer had finally come, after the never-ending 2003 late winter and early spring rains that had lasted well into May. In the High Sierra, record snows had piled up, leading to huge...

  9. 5 Healdsburg: The Crucial Turn West
    (pp. 112-128)

    One day in Sonoma County, a few hundred thousand years ago, it began to rain. The sky darkened, the clouds thickened, and the first drops pelted the ground, staining the soil. Then it poured.

    It was a good-sized storm, not necessarily a century event, but it might have dumped three or four inches of rain before it blew eastward into the Central Valley. Its after-effects, however, were extraordinary. For that storm, according to one theory, triggered a mudslide that changed the course of the Russian River, blocking it off from the southerly course it had followed to San Pablo Bay...

  10. 6 The Russian River Valley
    (pp. 129-160)

    The first time I ever visited the Russian River Valley was in the early 1990s, when my friend Joel Butler, one of the first two American Masters of Wine, invited me to drive up with him to the Rochioli place.

    I’d been going to the Napa, Sonoma, and Livermore valleys for years to taste wine. But I had never been to this wild-sounding place, which conjured up images of tree-shaded riverbanks and scimitar-waving Tartars riding wild steeds. I found myself looking forward mightily to my inaugural visit.

    Joel knew more about wine than anyone else I’d ever met. On the...

  11. 7 Pinot Noir Comes to Westside Road
    (pp. 161-195)

    Rochioli’s vineyard was indeed hallowed ground for Pinot Noir. The vineyard is located in the heart of a stretch of the Russian River Valley known locally as the Middle Reach, a term used by the mining companies not to indicate the river’s geographic midpoint but to indicate the section that contained the richest deposits of gravel. It is also the most famous part of the appellation for the quality of its Pinot Noir. But if the Middle Reach is California’s emerging Côte de Nuits, it was a long time coming.

    For years, the “experts” had derided Pinot Noir, claiming that...

  12. 8 Clones, AVAs, and Storms: A Divertissement
    (pp. 196-221)

    I was struck by all the pioneers who had schlepped down to Wente Brothers for Pinot Noir. Getting to the bottom of that story raised the interesting subject of clones and selections.

    Of all the classic grape varieties, Pinot Noir has the greatest number of clones, thus offering the greatest number of promises beyond “what is.” The reason Pinot Noir is so clonally promiscuous (my term), explains Professor Carole Meredith, the famous grape DNA researcher, who retired in 2003 after teaching at the University of California at Davis for twenty-three years, is that the older a varietal is, the more...

  13. 9 Into the Fog, and Above It: The Sonoma Coast
    (pp. 222-252)

    Beyond Guerneville, grape growing enters a real no-man’s-land. The distance from Guerneville to the coast is only about a dozen miles as the crow flies, but it’s light years away in almost every other respect. Guerneville, with its cafés and souvenir shops, is San Francisco in the redwoods. Fort Ross, as Don Jorge and the Russians discovered, is more like a remote outpost in the Aleutians.

    “It cannot be practically farmed,” declared J. P. Munro-Fraser, author of theHistory of Sonoma County, concerning the coast, “and the mountains … afford only timber.” But what timber it was, and in what...

  14. Recommended Wines and Producers
    (pp. 253-258)
  15. REFERENCES AND SUGGESTED READING
    (pp. 259-262)
  16. INDEX
    (pp. 263-285)