Harvest 2009 Tour: Savoy’s Deer Meadow Ranch Vineyard by Jennifer
115 clone pinot noir on the vine at Deer Meadow Ranch vineyard

115 clone pinot noir on the vine at Deer Meadow Ranch vineyard

As we often have written, we are fans of all sorts of pinot noir, from New World to Old World. There are many variations just within the state of California, and our portfolio of vineyard-designate wines celebrates this diversity of flavor.

From the romantic getaways passing through the valley to the geek-out technical conferences at the pinot noir festivals at the Boonville Fairgrounds, Anderson Valley, though, has always tugged at our heart.

Because of our great love for Anderson Valley, this year we decided to expand our offering of wines from that region. Brian started putting out feelers when he was at the Anderson Valley Pinot Noir Festival in May and as harvest drew near, we had leads on a number of amazing vineyards with fruit to spare.

In mid-September we traveled up to Anderson Valley to take a look at a few of our vineyard options for the 2009 vintage and were quite pleased with our options. One of our first stops was Rich Savoy’s Deer Meadow Ranch Vineyard. It sits at 1600 feet above Boonville and it was quite an adventure getting there. We traversed a winding dirt road and were treated to commanding views of Anderson Valley along the way.

Rich Savoy has made quite a name for himself in the wine world and his grapes have gone into many highly regarded wines. He has two vineyards: Savoy (in the benchlands off Highway 128 in Boonville) and the Deer Meadow Ranch Vineyard high in the hills above Anderson Valley. Coincidentally, on the day of our visit Rich had just received a copy of the brand-new Wine Spectator, featuring their top ranked California Pinot Noirs for the year. There on the cover was a Savoy Vineyard Pinot Noir made by Roessler.

Before embarking on his wine career, Rich started out in the book business and was the owner of Green Apple Books in San Francisco, which he founded in 1967.  Being fans of neighborhood bookstores (and Green Apple customers), we were happy to learn about this connection.

Rich Savoy prunes the vines as harvest approaches at Deer Meadow Ranch

Rich Savoy prunes the vines as harvest approaches at Deer Meadow Ranch

Rich toured us around his vineyards and it was clear that he’s meticulous about his grapes.  They are farmed organically and planted in a northwest orientation (approximately 22 or 23 degrees off north) in 12 blocks that make up about 9.3 acres total. We then retired to Rich’s kitchen to snack on apples and discuss the details. We were impressed with both the vineyard and Rich’s attention to detail in tending to his vineyards, so we were honored to purchase some of his fruit.

We prefer to use lighter, more floral clones like 115 as the base for our wines, giving us the option to add punch, structure and lift in the blending process. In making the decision to get grapes from Rich’s Deer Meadow Ranch vineyard, we went for a mix of 115 and Wadenswil. Wadenswil is a Swiss clone that was imported from the town of the same name in the 1950s. The clone has a little more tannin than 115, which will add structure to the wine, and according to John Haeger’s North American Pinot Noir, “is prized mostly for brilliant, high-toned berry fruit and impressive perfume.”

With our big decision behind us, we awaited the amazing fruit and on September 24th it was delivered and we hand-sorted both clones. We placed them in the same bin to go into a nice 5-day cold soak and to co-ferment to a temperature not to exceed 86 degrees Fahrenheit (so as not to over-extract the fruit.) The fermentation needed a little coaxing, so we inoculated with RC212 yeast, a yeast that we have used selectively with other wines with great results.

Pinot noir fruit Savoy's Deer Meadow Ranch vineyard at sorting

Pinot noir fruit from Savoy's Deer Meadow Ranch vineyard at sorting

After fermentation, we pressed the wine on October 5th and it has excellent promise. The first taste of free run juice that ran through the press was tart, showing a lot of acid. After pressing through to 1.2 bars, the wine smoothed out, showing amazing structure, creamy raspberry aromas and cocoa notes. All of these important components will integrate as the wine rests quietly in neutral and new (Cadus tight grain, medium toast) barrels. We’re excited to pay this wine a visit in a few months and see how it is progressing.

It was a great experience for us to venture out and shop around for new fruit sources and trust our own judgement (and the reputation of great wines as well) in expanding our portfolio of pinot noirs. We can’t wait to deliver our customers the results of this journey.