Thursday, November 3, 2011

Cool Autumn Days at Pellegrini Family Vineyard – Santa Rosa, California

Harvest was about 99% complete but there were still some zinfandels hanging here and there and the leaves are all turning red, yellow and golden brown. But, with pending strong winds and more rain these would surely be gone soon. This is a very interesting time of year to visit the wine country as fruit flies are everywhere and it can be a bit challenging to find photogenic vines. Soon, all that will be left will be dead brown leaves followed by barren canes on the vine.

After visiting Harvest Moon Winery I headed just down the road to the Pellegrini Family Vineyard, a family-run wine with an Italian immigrant heritage as it represents four generations of wine making under the Olivet Lane, Cloverdale Ranch and Pelegrini labels.

The family traces its heritage in winemaking to the early 1900s when brothers Nello and Gino Pellegrini arrived in New York City from Tuscany, Italy. They then relocated the West Coast and in 1925 became Sonoma County grape merchants, shipping grapes throughout the country for home winemaking.

In 1933, after repeal of Prohibition, the brothers established the original Pellegrini Wine Company, shipping grapes from Sonoma County and producing quality wines for many of San Francisco’s finest shops and restaurants.

In the early 1950’s Nello’s son Vincent took over direction of the winery and expanded into wholesale distribution of imported and domestic wines and spirits.

Then in 1973, Vincent and his wife Ida purchased a 70-acre apple and plum orchard on West Olivet Road in Santa Rosa and converted the land to a vineyard, planting Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

In the late 1970s, Robert Pellegrini named his first wine “Olivet Lane” Chardonnay, and then in the mid 1980’s, Vincent’s children - Robert, Richard and Jeanne – increased the estate vineyards by purchasing the Cloverdale Ranch in the Alexander Valley of Sonoma County. Today, Cloverdale Ranch’s 55 acres are planted with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot vines.

When Vincent Pellegrini passed away in 1989, Robert, Richard and Jeanne assumed leadership of the wine business and two years later in 2001 they built a state-of-the-art winemaking facility on the Olivet Lane Estate.

In 2003, the eight children of Robert, Richard and Jeanne - the “eight cousins” - purchased a 12-acre parcel of old-clone Zinfandel alongside the Olivet Lane Estate, launching the fourth generation of the Pellegrini family into the wine business.

Together, the family continues to produce some of Sonoma County’s finest wines, and is committed to continuing the legacy of distinction and quality, now and for future generations.

The tasting room is located insight the barrel room which is kept at cellar room temperature (around 58 degrees), so regardless of what time of year you visit you may want to bring a jacket or sweater. They offer two tasting flights of 5 wines for $10, but I sampled both and there were a few off-the-menu wines open so the host graciously allowed me to taste them as well. But keep in mind, although the following may seem like a lot of wines (especially after just visiting Harvest Moon) I am wine tasting, not drinking, and so I spit all my pours into a cup.

My first was the 2009 Pellegrini Sauvignon Blanc from the Leveroni Vineyards in Lake County. Having spent a couple days in the region over the 4th of July weekend I’ve come to really appreciate Sauvignon Blancs from the area. Fermented in all stainless steel tanks, this wine exhibits fresh cut hay, lemon grass, and grapefruit and acidity on the palate and a long chalky minerality on the finish. I’ve had many like this for $5- $10 more a bottle so this is a great value at only $15 a bottle, so I took one home.

My second white wine was the 2009 Pellegrini Chardonnay – Russian River Valley. Pale hay in color, this all estate wine is fermented in stainless steel tanks. On the nose I picked up granny smith apples, dried apricots, peaches and a hint of lemon on the tail end. On the palate this wine is crisp and clean with refreshing acidity. A nice wine for only $18 a bottle.

My third white wine was the 2008 Olivet Lane Chardonnay - Russian River Valley. This Chardonnay is a different style than the previous one, barrel fermented on the lees this is a big rich full bodied wine with a mouth full of butterscotch, baked apples, and caramel followed by a hint of toast and a touch of mineral on the prolonged finish. A really nice wine, I’ve tasted many like it that cost $10-$15 more so this a great buy at only $22 a bottle.

My first red wine was the 2009 Pellegrini Pinot Noir – Russian River Valley. All summer long I’ve been looking for a quality Pinot for around $20 or less, and this is it! This is a fruit forward wine with fresh strawberries, berry pie, dried roses and lightly spiced on the nose. It won’t compete with the $35-$60 crowd, but it will definitely scratch your Pinot itch without breaking your bank account.

My next wine was the 2007 Reserve Olivet Lane Pinot Noir – Russian River Valley. An earthier wine than the previous, a lot more complexity with more depth and sophistication.  This is a  big rich wine with layers of bright cherries, raspberries, red currants, licorice, with a hint of sandalwood on the tail end. On the palate this wine sharp and focused and it delivers a full-mouth feel of plums, black cherries and dried cinnamon stick and a slight nuttiness on the return. The quality of this wine matches its $45 price point.

My third red wine was the 2007 Cloverdale Ranch Merlot - Alexander Valley. This wine seemed rather green to me with bell peppers, eucalyptus and mint followed by forest floor and cherries.  I didn’t care for it at $22 a bottle.

My fourth red wine was the 2009 Cloverdale Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon. Black currant, black cherries, a waft of tobacco leaf and the tannins have a firm grip on the gums. I think it could definitely use a couple more years before it can be judged accurately as it is still rather young. This wine sells for $24 a bottle.

My final two wines were the 2005 and the 2007 Pellegrini Milestone tasted side by side. Both are a Meritage, the 2005 is a blend of 54% Merlot, 23% Cabernet Sauvignon, 13% Petit Verdot, 7% Cabernet Franc and 3% Malbec. The blend of the 2007 is a little different at 60% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Petit Verdot, 7% Cabernet Franc and 5% Malbec. On the ’05 I picked up damp earth, milk chocolate, vanilla bean, black cherry, tea leaves and tobacco. On the ’07 I picked up black and red currant preserves, black cherries, Bing cherries with mocha on the finish and just a touch of vanilla. The ’07 is more fruit forward and pleasing on the front end but the ’05 has a better mid palate and rounded out finish. If I could combine the two, I’d want the initial attack of the wine to be like the ’07 but the mid palate and finish to be like the ’05. Both are spectacular wines at only $35 a bottle. It was tough to choose between the two, but I brought a bottle of the ’07 home.

To see more pictures of Pellegrini Family Vineyard, check out Erik Wait’s Wine Country Photography at:

For More information or to visit:

Pellegrini Family Vineyard

4055 West Olivet Road

Santa Rosa, CA 95401