I recently visited Gary Farrell Winery in the Russian River Valley. They’re a longtime producer best known for the site specific Pinot Noirs and Chardonnay they produce. While I have bellied up to the bar there a couple times in the past, they have several other intriguing tasting options that are available, mostly by appointment. These include a tour and tasting, fireside tasting (seasonal) and a terrace tasting.
The weather was really nice for a winter day and that gave my group the opportunity to taste on their terrace and see what that option was all about. After being seated by a friendly and gregarious staff member, we were poured our first wine, and told a bit about how the tasting would go. Our host, Ed, gave us some time to settle in and came back a few short minutes later. He brought a lovely cheese plate with him, which is always a pleasure when tasting wine. Along with it came recommendations for which wine they felt each cheese worked best with. The Terrace Tasting focuses on limited production single vineyard wines. These are offerings that go out to their wine club and are available in the tasting room; you won’t find most of these back home on a store shelf. All together we tasted about 10 or so wines that day. Here are a couple that stood out most to me.
2009 Carneros Selection Chardonnay ($32). This wine was made entirely from fruit sourced in the neighboring Carneros region. A mélange of tropical, citrus and orchard fruit aromas lead an impressive and welcoming nose. Golden Delicious apple flavors dominate the palate and they’re joined by bits of mango. Baker’s spices, lead the finish which has a bit of a honeyed edge and continued fruit flavors. Crispy acidity brings things to a refreshing close. It’s remarkable how much fresh, vibrant fruit is still in evidence on this wine, at four years old it isn’t showing a bit of age yet.
2011 Hallberg Vineyard, Dijon Clones Pinot Noir ($60). This is a super-focused Pinot Noir that showcases specific clones from a single vineyard. Cherry fruit and savory herb aromas emerge from the nose of this Pinot Noir. Black and red cherry flavors are in evidence throughout the palate along with hints of raspberry and plum. Bits of leather, cocoa and black pepper are present on the lengthy finish. This is an impressive and singular expression of Pinot Noir.
2011 Bradford Mountain Vineyard, Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel ($45). The fruit for this wine came from a single vineyard in Dry Creek Valley, which is essentially the home office of Zinfandel. Bramble and spice aromas are present on the nose here. Strawberry and raspberry flavors dominate the palate along with a hint of chocolate sauce. Pepper spice, continued berry fruit and a gentle hint of espresso are all part of the layered finish. This is a proportionate Zinfandel whose Dry Creek Valley origins are quite evident.
One of the hallmarks of the tasting at Gary Farrell was the peaceful pace. Throughout our time there I felt like I was relaxing on a friends terrace enjoying some wine, cheese and friendly conversation. Every staff member I ran across was helpful, friendly and knowledgeable. Ed, the fellow who helped my group was a remarkable source of knowledge not only about the specific wines and Gary Farrell Winery, but also the vineyards and the region as a whole. I observed him with some other folks outside of my group and he has the ability to tailor the conversation and flow of information to each visitor’s interests and knowledge level. While that may seem like a simple thing, it’s really not; as such I consider it a standout point that is worth mentioning and celebrating.
The bottom line for me is that the wines at Gary Farrell are as good as ever, which is to say quite good. The facility is beautiful, the staff is friendly, smart and welcoming, and the various experiences you can select allow plenty of choice. In short, if your travels take you to Sonoma County, Gary Farrell Vineyards & Winery should be on your short list of producers to visit. When you go, set aside a few hours and dig into the experience, you’ll be justly rewarded. The Terrace and Fireside Tastings are each $25 per person. Tour and tasting is $35 and if you want to bump up to the bar and taste it’s $15.