Thomas George Estates
2007 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
California: Russian River Valley (Sonoma)
What we say
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Mission Codename: The Beat Goes On
Operative: Agent Red
Objective: Infiltrate Thomas George Estates, a winery that now sits on the site of the fabled Davis Bynum Winery. Covertly review their wines and, if they prove to be exceptional, secure a fantastic Pinot Noir for our demanding Operatives.
Mission Status: Accomplished!
Current Winery: Thomas George Estates
Wine Subject: 2007 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
Winemaker: Chris Russi
The Russian River Valley, in Sonoma County, produces Pinot Noir of remarkable distinction. The cooler meritime conditions of the region make the RRV ideal for growing Pinot Noir. Today’s wine comes, in part, from Thomas George’s Estate vineyards – which are the same vineyards that were planted by RRV Pinot pioneer, Davis Bynum, more than 20 years ago. Read Agent Red’s mission report and tasting noted below for the full intel on this exciting wine
Wine Spies Tasting Profile:
Look – Beautiful ruby red with a very slight haze that portends a slightly Burgundian character (we’ll see what we find on the nose and palate!). The wine shows off a springy character when swirled. When the wine settles, it leaves behind tightly-packed color-stained tears that start high up on the glass – and then take forever to crawl downward.
Smell – Complex and warm, with lush aromatics that leap out of the glass. Present, up front, are cherry, ripe raspberry, strawberry and dark plum, with aromatic sweetwoods, brown spice and dusting chocolate.
Feel – Soft and smooth on the attack, then quickly drying with flint and slate minerals that give the wine an overall medium-bodied feel. With fine medium tannins and medium-bright acidity, the wine leaves a lingering tang and touches of black pepper and cinnamon.
Taste – Dark and delicious, with balanced flavors that remind me of both the Russian River Valley and Burgundy. Leading with flinty cherry, unsweetened strawberry preserves, blackberry bramble and soft spice or black pepper and cinnamon. These mingle with hints of gunpowder, soft oak and chocolate dust.
Finish – Mouthcoating at first, then more clean, this wine goes long with earthy flavors of dark cherry, zesty blackberry, black pepper (adding a minerality) and soft sweetwoods. After a while an interesting round feeling appears, giving the impression that butter might give on the palate, but without any sort of oily feeling. Unique!
Conclusion – The more time we spent with this wine, the more we enjoyed it. And, no, that’s not because we were getting tipsy. We sip and spit responsibly when we need to! The more we swirled and inhaled and played with the wine, the more we came to appreciate the complexity and character – and sense of place that the wine conveyed. This Russian River Pinot reveals the best of the region, and demonstrates the winemaking skills of Thomas George winemaker, Chris Russi. With bold flavors, an evolving mouthfeel and a long and unique finish, this balanced wine gets our hearty recommendation.
WINEMAKER INTEL BRIEFING DOSSIER
SUBJECT: Chris Russi
WINEMAKING PHILOSOPHY: New world winemaking is the goal. I treat the grapes very gently on the front end to create more elegant, fruit-forward wines with a shorter aging time.
FIRST COMMERCIAL WINE RELEASE: For Thomas George, March of 2009
AGENT RED: Greetings, Chris. We are thrilled to be showing your 2007 Russian River Pinot Noir today. Thanks so much for taking some time to answer questions for our Operatives today.
CHRIS RUSSI: Hey, Agent Red!
RED: Was there a specific experience in your life that inspired your love of wine?
CHRIS: Wine has been a part of my life since I was young. I was drinking wine mixed with water at the dinner table as far back as I can remember. The specific experience probably came when I made wine with my grandfather in the early 90’s.
RED: What wine or winemaker has most influenced your winemaking style?
CHRIS: Daryl Groom, Mick Shroeter, Matt Gant.
RED: Who do you make wine for?
CHRIS: Everyone…21 and older.
RED: In your opinion, what makes the Russian River Valley so special?
CHRIS: Soil and Climate. We have some of the most diverse soils in the world, for example, on our Baker Ridge Vineyard we have five different soil types across 24 acres. The climate is also ideal for growing Pinot and Chard…cool, fog laden mornings with warm to mildly hot afternoons.
RED: What is occupying your time at the winery these days?
CHRIS: Just finished a bottling last week…5800 cases, 18 different wines, 4 days. Lots of vineyard designate wines.
RED: How would you recommend people approach your wines and wine in general?
CHRIS: Drink wine in moderation…frequently
RED: Thank you so much for your time. We learned a lot about you – and your wine. Keep up the great work, we are big fans!
Wine Spies Vineyard Check:
The Thomas George Estate winery, in the Russian River Valley region, can be seen in this satellite photo.
What the winery says
About The Wine:
Shows a very expressive true Russian River Valley aromatic nose, bursting with floral cherry, dark plum, ripe strawberry, integrated with hints of leather, cinnamon and cocoa wood. The mid-palate is full, with bright acidity filling-out the backend. With its alluring classic Russian River characteristics this pinot noir is enticing and most approachable.
The climate and soils of the Russian River Appellation make it a world renowned growing region for Burgundian grape varieties. After the long hot dry summer days particular to northern California, night time fog from the Pacific Ocean can drop temperatures 35-40 degrees from their daytime highs. This cooling allows the grapes to develop full maturity over an extended growing season. A combination of ancient bedrock and eroded volcanic material, the drainage potential and soil chemistry make the appellation’s soil excellent for growing premium quality Pinot Noir.
Our 2007 Russian River Pinot Noir comes from three different vineyards within the appellation, all harvested between Sept. 24 – Oct.2 2007. Destemmed into open top tanks, the berries were cold soaked for 2-4 days before inoculation. The wine was barreled down and allowed to age for 10 months in French oak barrels.
About the Winery:
Thomas George Estates is the manifestation of the passion and commitment of the Baker Family to continue the tradition of growing great grapes and making great wines in the unique and magnificent Russian River Valley.
The natural beauty, vineyards and wine making potential of Northern California’s Russian River Valley is immense. One of the first to recognize this potential was Davis Bynum, who came to the dog-legged bend of the Russian River determined to succeed at crafting world class pinot noir and chardonnay. And succeed, he did!
In 1972, Davis purchased the property on Westside Road where the Thomas George Estates Winery and Baker Ridge Vineyard are now located. In 1973, he turned two former hop kilns into a winery, the first to be established on Westside Road, and in 1990 planted 9 acres of pinot noir in the hill-top pasture lands above the winery, marking the beginning of the vineyard which is now the Baker Ridge Vineyard, planted exclusively to pinot noir and chardonnay. Davis was soon joined by his son, Hampton, his daughter, Susie, and by winemaker Gary Farrell. Together they made wonderful wines at this winery both from grapes grown at their vineyard, and from grapes purchased from Russian River Valley neighbors such as Joe Rochioli. They made the first Russian River Valley vineyard designate pinot noir from Rochioli grapes, just one of their many significant contributions to the evolution of the wine business in the Russian River Valley. The Davis Bynum legacy is an integral part of the wine business in the Russian River Valley, and it is from this legacy that Thomas George Estates takes both its roots and its inspiration.
The Bakers are wine lovers, and like most lovers of wine, dreamed of making wine that would add value to the wine experience for themselves and for other wine enthusiasts. When Jeremy Baker visited the Davis Bynum property on Westside Road in 2007, a way of turning that dream into reality presented itself. Jeremy had moved from operating several successful restaurants in Toronto, including a great wine bar, to selling and marketing some of the finest of wines the world has to offer. When he visited the Davis Bynum property he knew that somehow, some way he would be moving next to making wine. At Thomas George Estates he has. And, Jeremy is certain that, though he is only 34, this is his last move!
On March 5, 2008, the Bakers purchased the Davis Bynum Winery and Vineyard on Westside Road. As the Baker family set to work on the process of reinvigorating the winemaking facilities and vineyard, their Russian River Valley neighbors very graciously extended encouragement, support and guidance. The contributions of the Bynum family have ensured that we are able to take their traditions and legacy forward. Bruce and Steve Cousins of Armida Winery in the Dry Creek Valley have steadfastly guided us in the completion of the purchase and reinvigoration of these properties, and as a result, most of the new winemaking facilities were in place for the 2008 harvest. The second phase of this project is underway, which includes completion of a new crush pad facility in time for the 2009 harvest and completion before the end of 2009 of a 7,000 square foot cave for barrel storage and hospitality. Russian River Valley winemaker Guy Davis of Davis Family Vineyards, has been a constant presence and friend upon whose support and encouragement we have relied in the pursuit of our dream.
In 2008, Ulises Valdez, a talented and successful viticulturist who farms many of the best vineyards in the Russian River Valley, redeveloped and expanded the pinot noir and chardonnay plantings in the Baker Ridge Vineyard and planted a one acre viognier vineyard on the winery property. Ulises will continue to farm all of the vineyards of Thomas George Estates.
Great grapes are essential to the making of great wine but someone must coax and nurture the process from harvest to bottle. That someone is Chris Russi, our winemaker. Chris joined us in August 2008 after extensive experience with Geyser Peak Winery and Peter Lehmann Winery in the Barossa Valley of South Australia, as a graduate of the viticulture and enology program at UC Davis, and after eight years as an award winning winemaker at another Russian River Valley winery. Early tasting of the 2008 wines which Chris has made for Thomas George Estates demonstrates that Chris is definitely the right “someone”!
Although our Baker Ridge Vineyard now has seven acres producing pinot noir, and will produce much more pinot noir and chardonnay from the additional twenty acres planted in 2008,we decided that we needed additional sources of estate grapes. So, in late 2008, Thomas George Estates purchased two award winning Russian River Valley vineyards from Gary and Debbie Farrell, Cresta Ridge and Starr Ridge. Our three Estate Vineyards, Baker Ridge, Cresta Ridge and Starr Ridge comprise more than sixty-two acres of great pinot noir and chardonnay, and assure that we will have a secure and continuing source of great pinot noir and chardonnay for the wines of Thomas George Estates.
Our logo of a cluster of red and of white grapes, with three leaves in different stages of life, symbolizes our passion and commitment to continuing with renewed vigor the tradition of making world class pinot noir and chardonnay in the Russian River Valley from grapes grown in our three vineyards.We invite you to share in our dream, passion and commitment. ~The Baker Family
About the Winemaker:
Chris Russi, Winemaker – Chris Russi has always had an affinity for science and the outdoors. Born and raised in northern California, Chris began making wine at a young age with his grandfather and family. After graduating in 1991 from Santa Clara University with a BA in Combined Sciences, Chris spent a year at the Hastings Reservation in Carmel Valley studying Scrub Jays for the UC Berkeley ornithological dept.
In 1992, Chris was offered a position in Healdsburg where he became Vineyard/Ranch Manager at Orsi/Kuimelis Vineyards in Dry Creek. He spent three years planting and maintaining thirty acres of vineyards. Here, his science knowledge and farming led him to Geyser Peak Winery, where he began to hone his cellar skills and lab technique.
With time at Geyser Peak under his belt and a harvest at Peter Lehmann Wines in Barossa Valley, South Australia, Chris enrolled in the highly regarded viticulture and enology program at UC Davis. Having already fulfilled much of the prerequisite science courses as an undergraduate, Chris was able to graduate in two years and soon after became winemaker at Christopher Creek Winery in the Russian River Valley, Healdsburg.
During his eight years at Christopher Creek, Chris enhanced his palate and mastered his craft, successfully garnering numerous medals and awards for the Winery while gaining the invaluable experience necessary to craft the elegant, artisan wines he now makes at Thomas George Estates.
A professional wine judge for four years, Chris has traveled much of the world evaluating different winemaking regions and the wines their vineyards produce. Proud owner of a small, 90 year-old, head trained zinfandel/carignane vineyard which he maintains himself, Chris claims he will never leave Sonoma County, which he considers one of the most diverse growing regions in the world.
Winemaker: Chris Russi
TA: 5.44 g/L
Case Production: 950 Cases
Barrels: 100% French oak, 1/3 new