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Romililly Russian River Valley Pinot Noir 2015
In 2006, we had an opportunity to purchase several tons of Pinot Noir, our favorite varietal. It cost us our life savings, but the opportunity was too good to refuse. Using the facilities at August Briggs Winery, we produced a wine that was all our own—the first vintage of Romililly Pinot Noir. We made a lot of mistakes and learned a lot of things we probably should have known already[e1] [BH2] , but somehow we pulled through. Our little 200-case vintage got a lot of attention, earning a 93 rating from the Pinot Report. For the next five years, we kept at it, slowly increasing our production, but never making quite enough to satisfy demand.
Uncle Joe sold August Briggs Winery in 2010, and Romililly had to find a new home. Fortunately, we found Talisman Winery in Sonoma, a winery designed to produce high-end, small-lot Pinot Noirs run by some of the best people in the industry. Our first year on our own brought a lot of new challenges, but we became better winemakers for it. Now, we’re producing new wines in addition to our signature Pinot Noir, and we’ve partnered with several amazing vineyards to create our best vintages yet.
Romililly is all about family, learning by doing, taking on more than we can probably handle, and including wine in every part of our lives. Like Uncle Joe, we’re upstarts in the winemaking industry, not winemaking royalty, and our renegade approach influences the wine we make and keeps us hungry for success. Running our small, family winery is always an adventure—and we hope that you’ll make our wine a part of your own adventures.
A standout region for its decidedly Californian take on Burgundian varieties, the Russian River Valley is named for the eponymous river that flows through it. While there are warm pockets of the AVA, it is mostly a cool-climate growing region thanks to breezes and fog from the nearby Pacific Ocean.
Chardonnay and Pinot Noir reign supreme in Russian River, with the best examples demonstrating a unique combination of richness and restraint. The cool weather makes Russian River an ideal AVA for sparkling wine production, utilizing the aforementioned varieties. Zinfandel also performs exceptionally well here. Within the Russian River Valley lie the smaller appellations of Chalk Hill and Green Valley. The former, farther from the ocean, is relatively warm, with a focus on red and white Bordeaux varieties. The latter is the coolest, foggiest parcel of the Russian River Valley and is responsible for outstanding Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
One of the most difficult yet rewarding grapes to grow, Pinot Noir is commonly referred to by winemakers as the “heartbreak grape.” However, the greatest red wines of Burgundy prove that it is unquestionably worth the effort. More reflective than most varieties of the land on which it is grown, Pinot Noir prefers a cool climate, requires low yields to achieve high quality, and demands care in the vineyard and lots of attention in the winery. It is an important component of Champagne and the only variety permitted in red Burgundy. Pinot Noir enjoys immense popularity internationally, most notably in Oregon, California, and New Zealand.
In the Glass
Pinot Noir Is all about red fruit—strawberry, raspberry, and cherry. It is relatively pale in color with soft tannins and lively acidity. It ranges in body from very light to the heavier side of medium, typically landing somewhere in the middle—giving it extensive possibilities for food pairing. With age (of which the best examples can handle an astounding amount), it can develop hauntingly beautiful characteristics of fresh earth, autumn leaves, and truffles.
Pinot’s healthy acidity cuts through the oiliness of pink-fleshed fish like salmon, ocean trout, and tuna. Its mild mannered tannins don’t fight with spicy food, and give it enough structure to pair with all sorts of poultry—chicken, quail, and especially duck. As the namesake wine of Boeuf Bourguignon, it can even match with heavier fare. Pinot Noir is also very vegetarian-friendly—most notably with any dish that features mushrooms.
Pinot Noir is dangerously drinkable, highly addictive, and has a bad habit of emptying the wallet. Look for affordable but still delicious examples from Germany (as Spätburgunder), Italy (as Pinot Nero), Chile, New Zealand, and France’s Loire Valley and Alsace regions.