When the history of the storied pinot noir grape in California comes to be written, I would put money on the Olivet Lane Vineyard getting a mention. I was uniquely privileged recently when a member of the family that owns it, Alexia Pellegrini, invited me to a tasting of the family’s own wines from the vineyard. The label is Olivet Lane Estate. The family also makes a line of wines from non-estate fruit under the Pellegrini label. Both labels are worthy of your attention, but my focus here is on two estate offerings.
As they relate on their website, in 1973 the Pellegrini family purchased a 70-acre plum and apple orchard on West Olivet Road in Santa Rosa. They bet the future was in grapes and converted it to a vineyard in 1975. That set the compass for a vineyard that would be a leader in Russian River Valley pinot noir and turned out pretty good chardonnays as well.
These are the wines I tasted with Pellegrini:
Olivet Lane Vineyard Estate-Bottled Russian River Valley Chardonnay 2013 ($45)
The grapes for this chardonnay are hand-picked and then hand-sorted prior to a barrel fermentation with full malolactic fermentation and lees stirring. The product is aged in French oak for 16 months. The result is a wine with a nose of citrus, pear, and caramel. Effusive flavors on the palate are composed of those fruits and additionally crème brûlée and honey. The finish lingers long and handsomely on the tongue.
Olivet Lane Vineyardb Estate-Bottled Russian River Valley Pinot Noir 2013 ($65)
A representative of the Russian River style of pinot noir that makes a strong case that this part of California deserves a seat at the pinot noir League of Appellations every bit as much as Burgundy. The nose overflows with bright, expressive red fruit (cherries and raspberries), and there are notes of herbs and wood from the aging. On the palate, the fruit explodes and wraps the tongue. The flavors are complex and best appreciated through very slow sipping.
California delivers better and better pinot noir every year, but as the competition heats up, Olivet Lane Vineyard continues to place in the top tier.