Williams Selyem Rochioli Riverblock Vineyard Pinot Noir 2017
Critical AcclaimAll Vintages
We tasted a lot of Russian River Valley pinot noir over the course of several days and this one stood out as classical. It’s a wine with both stamina and depths to its flavors, reverberating long after each sip, as if you’d been listening to digitized jazz for a while, then decided to play Stan Getz on vinyl and the sound filled the room in a completely different way. “Coming home to RRV,” I wrote. “This tastes like Rochioli in its richness and layered-soil verve.” It might surprise some rock-head terroirists that a wine grown in layers of sand washed off the river could offer so much distinction, and yet this is one of the most identifiable pinot noirs in California.
The 2017 Pinot Noir Rochioli Riverblock Vineyard has a pale to medium ruby-purple color and a nose of Bing cherry, black cherry, cranberry and rhubarb with cinnamon stick, autumn leaves, potpourri, perfumed earth and dust hints. The light to medium-bodied palate is softly grainy and lifted by juicy acidity, with spiced, bright red fruits accented by new oak touches, finishing very long. 766 cases produced.
Rich and powerful, with a plush texture to the richly spiced plum compote and cherry tart flavors. Dried beef accents show midpalate, leading to a finish filled with savory spice notes. Drink now through 2024.
Impressing with its sense of grace and finesse more than it does for boldness and big muscles, the 2017 Rochioli Riverblock bottling is a lithe, close-to-sleek Pinot that bends to prettiness rather than potency. It may not show quite the richness and reach of its fuller mates, but it is a lovely, fairly elegant effort all the same that will fill the bill nicely when the menu features lighter fare.
Williams Selyem Winery began as a simple dream of two friends, Ed Selyem and Burt Williams, who pursued weekend winemaking as a hobby in 1979 in a garage in Forestville, California, and made their first commercial vintage in 1981. In less than two decades, Burt and Ed created a cult-status winery of international acclaim. Together they set a new standard for Pinot Noir winemaking in the United States, aligning Sonoma County's Russian River Valley in the firmament of the best winegrowing regions of the world. Today John and Kathe Dyson, who purchased the winery from Burt and Ed in 1998, carry on the passion for Pinot Noir winemaking without compromise. As for the wines... they just keep getting better and better.
While the Russian River Valley is a large appellation with multiple climate zones and soil types, it is best known for cool-climate varieties, with Pinot Noir as the most celebrated. The grapes benefit from a reliable late afternoon flow of Pacific Ocean fog through the Petaluma Gap and along the Russian River Valley that ensures slow and steady ripening and the preservation of grape acidity. Today many of California’s most highly regarded Pinot Noir vineyards are in the Russian River Valley, along with its sub-appellation, Green Valley.
Historically Russian River Valley Pinot Noirs had bright red fruit and delicate earthy, mineral notes. But changes in viticultural and winemaking practices have led to stylistic changes in some of the region’s wines. Adjustments to canopy management, among other techniques, have resulted in riper fruit and bolder wines as well. These show flavors of black cherry, blackberry, cola, spice and darker, loamy earth tones, accenting traditional Pinot Noir notes of strawberry, raspberry and light cherry.