De Loach Vineyards
Founded in 1973 by former fireman Cecil De Loach and his wife, Christine, De Loach Vineyards has the distinction of being one of the earliest and most successful pioneers of pinot noir, chardonnay, and zinfandel in Sonoma’s Russian River Valley. After more than two decades of producing award-winning wines, the vineyard was bought in 2003 by the Boisset Collection — the U.S. outpost of the largest wine producer in Burgundy, whose American properties include Buena Vista Winery, Lyeth Estate, Lockwood Vineyard, and Raymond Vineyards — and under Boisset’s stewardship has continued to thrive.
Burgundy is the home of pinot noir, of course, and the Boissets brought not only their Old World winemaking techniques but also a passion for eco-friendly farming practices, such as organic farming and biodiversity, to their new land in Sonoma. In a bold move that left some of their fellow vintners gaping, the Boissets ripped up the vineyards that had just produced the much-lauded De Loach 30th Anniversary Cuvée Pinot Noir, and planted cover crops to enrich and revitalize the soil, thus ensuring both the health of the land and the long-term well-being of the carefully cultivated root stock.
Today, a visit to De Loach enables one to compare the flavor profiles of pinot noirs from the Boisset holdings in France to those from their holdings in the Russian River Valley, a valuable tutorial in regional differences and style. Failing a trip to Sonoma, try the following from De Loach’s truly impressive range of 15 pinot noirs and 10 chardonnays:
De Loach Russian River Valley Chardonnay 2013 ($20)
A fine wine at an affordable price, this easy-drinking chardonnay is light gold with a touch of green in the glass, with apple, a bit of pineapple, and vanilla-touched honeysuckle in the nose and on the palate, a moderately round mouth-feel, and a refreshing, lightly acidic, citrusy finish. This is a well-balanced, happy wine, a bit short on complexity but very drinkable indeed. It drinks well on its own, but also pairs nicely with food — for instance, warm goat cheese or baby crab cakes, sautéed rainbow trout, or scallops in beurre blanc.
De Loach Russian River Valley Pinot Noir 2013 ($25)
Opening with dark red fruit and soft notes of sandalwood in the nose, then cherry and savory notes emerging on the palate, this pretty garnet-colored wine is easy to drink and extremely food-friendly. Finely balanced with medium body and a dry tannin finish, it is a testament to the efficacy of some old-style techniques, such as fermentation in open top vats, punch-downs, and basket pressing. It would complement most pinot-friendly food, such as a good stew, a creamy mushroom risotto, or roasted root vegetables. An exceptionally nice wine for the money.
De Loach Green Valley Pinot Noir 2012 ($45)
This is a lovely wine, and everything a California pinot noir should be: fruit-forward, with raspberry and cherry predominating, and cocoa and baking spice in the nose and on the palate; elegantly structured with a lightly creamy mouthfeel; and showing a fine fruit/acid balance and a moderately long finish. I really liked this wine, and would happily serve it to showcase a perfectly roasted chicken or a whole grilled salmon. (Any fatty fish would work well with this wine; don’t be afraid to pair fins with reds!). An excellent value — it deserves a wider audience.
De Loach Estate Vineyard Olivet Bench Pinot Noir 2012 ($70)
This elegant wine from De Loach is a testament to the near-perfect growing conditions that ushered in the 2012 harvest in the Russian River Valley. Heady with dark berries and a touch of spice and pepper in the nose, this medium-bodied pinot has a round mouth-feel, and is juicy with raspberry and plum on the palate with stronger-than-expected tannins in the finish. Not surprisingly, it pairs well with pinot-friendly food, such as an herb-crusted roast pork or a white pizza with wild mushrooms. This wine needs to breathe, so open early and/or decant — it’s worth waiting for.