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Rossi Wallace Pinot Noir 2015
Critical AcclaimAll Vintages
This connection served her well when, decades later, Cheryl made the decision to jump back into the wine industry. For ten years - as the owner of a high-end fashion boutique in St. Helena, Cheryl had focused her energies on fashion merchandising and marketing. When she sold the business in 1989, she began doing administrative work for Colonna Farrell Design, then the most sought-after wine label design firm in the valley.
Although Cheryl was once again immersed in the business of wine, this new perspective on the industry led her to envision a way in which her two passions - agriculture and marketing - might merge. Over a Mother's Day lunch, Cheryl told her family that it was time to make something of her own, something personal. She left Colonna Farrell, bought 10 tons of Sauvignon Blanc grapes from her father, recruited her kids for labor and started her own label, Emmolo Wines.
Cheryl loved representing her Emmolo Sauvignon Blanc and Merlot wines, especially carrying on the Emmolo legacy for 20 years. On January 1st, 2014, Cheryl passed her dream onto the next generation; her daughter, Jenny Wagner Clark. Cheryl is very proud that Jenny is now carrying on the legacy which allows her more time to spend with Ric and Rossi-Wallace.
Ric's Napa Valley tenure began over 40 years ago in the vineyards and cellars of Stony Hill Winery, although most people recognize him as the man who helped put Sterling Vineyards on the map. Following his time there and at Newton Vineyard, Forman tacked on several consulting projects with esteemed wineries like Villa Mt. Eden, Inglenook, Charles Shaw and Kendall Jackson, but it was when he started his own label, Forman Vineyard, in 1983 that Forman's talent for cultivating steep, hillside slopes evidenced itself in his focused, racy Cabernets and elegant, Burgundian-style Chardonnays.
Ric is a UC Davis alum and has welcomed his technical knowledge of winemaking throughout his career, but his real roots lie in his early introduction to the traditional methods used in Europe. His philosophy is similar to those ancient Bordeaux vignerons: soil and climate and that unquantifiable "somewhereness" is the key to great wine; science merely serves as a supplement.
Ric learned to respect and honor the land's capabilities as a boy working in - and eating from - his mother's vegetable gardens. When it comes to making wine, he always lets the fruit speak for itself. In his view, complexity without overt obviousness is the key to elegantly intriguing wines. Forman's wines are always classic and leave a sense of style in one's impressions of his wines.
It was a few years after Ric and Cheryl married that the couple began talking about making wine together as well as separately. Neither wanted to relinquish their own labels, but the chance to make another wine, side by side? It was too tempting to resist.
There was almost no debate regarding the specifics. They would produce their favorite wine in their favorite style: a Burgundian-inspired Pinot Noir. And they would craft it the way their spirited, garden-loving mothers would have wanted: in small quantities that would express the brightness and freshness of the fruit without the complications of over-ripeness or excessive oak.
One of the world's most highly regarded regions for wine production as well as tourism, the Napa Valley was responsible for bringing worldwide recognition to California winemaking. In the 1960s, a few key wine families settled the area and hedged their bets on the valley's world-class winemaking potential—and they were right.
The Napa wine industry really took off in the 1980s, when producers scooped up vineyard lands and planted vines throughout the county. A number of wineries emerged, and today Napa is home to hundreds of producers ranging from boutique to corporate. Cabernet Sauvignon is definitely the grape of choice here, with many winemakers also focusing on Bordeaux blends. Napa whites are usually Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc.
Within the Napa Valley lie many smaller sub-AVAs that claim specific characteristics based on situation, slope and soil. Farthest south and coolest from the influence of the San Pablo Bay is Carneros, followed by Coombsville to its northeast and then Yountville, Oakville and Rutherford. Above those are the warm St. Helena and the valley's newest and hottest AVA, Calistoga. These areas follow the valley floor and are known generally for creating rich, dense, complex and smooth reds with good aging potential. The mountain sub appellations, nestled on the slopes overlooking the valley AVAs, include Stags Leap District, Atlas Peak, Chiles Valley (farther east), Howell Mountain, Mt. Veeder, Spring Mountain District and Diamond Mountain District. Wines from the mountain regions are often more structured and firm, benefiting from a lot of time in the bottle to evolve and soften.
One of the most finicky yet rewarding grapes to grow, Pinot Noir is a labor of love for many. However, the greatest red wines of Burgundy prove that it is unquestionably worth the effort. In fact, it is the only red variety permitted in Burgundy. Highly reflective of its terroir, Pinot Noir prefers calcareous soils and a cool climate, requires low yields to achieve high quality and demands a lot of attention in the vineyard and winery. It retains even more glory as an important component of Champagne as well as on its own in France’s Loire Valley and Alsace regions. This sensational grape enjoys immense international success, most notably growing in Oregon, California and New Zealand with smaller amounts in Chile, Germany (as Spätburgunder) and Italy (as Pinot Nero).
In the Glass
Pinot Noir is all about red fruit—strawberry, raspberry and cherry with some heftier styles delving into the red or purple plum and in the other direction, red or orange citrus. It is relatively pale in color with soft tannins and a lively acidity. With age (of which the best examples can handle an astounding amount) it can develop hauntingly alluring characteristics of fresh earth, savory spice, dried fruit and truffles.
Pinot’s healthy acidity cuts through the oiliness of pink-fleshed fish like salmon and tuna but its mild mannered tannins give it enough structure to pair with all sorts of poultry: chicken, quail and especially duck. As the namesake wine of Boeuf Bourguignon, Pinot noir has proven it isn’t afraid of beef. California examples work splendidly well with barbecue and Pinot Noir is also vegetarian-friendly—most notably with any dish that features mushrooms.
For administrative purposes, the region of Beaujolais is often included in Burgundy. But it is extremely different in terms of topography, soil and climate, and the important red grape here is ultimately Gamay. Truth be told, there is a tiny amount of Gamay sprinkled around the outlying parts of Burgundy (mainly in Maconnais) but it isn’t allowed with any great significance and certainly not in any Villages or Cru level wines.