Russian River and Santa Lucia Highlands wines made in San Francisco
Owned by winemaker Ed Kurtzman and vineyard-owning partners Howard Graham (Graham Family Vineyard in Russian River) and John Peterson (Peterson and Cortada Alta vineyards, SLH). The winery is located in San Francisco’s produce district. Ed prefers a style he likes to drink himself, making lighter, elegant and food-friendly wines from these two appellations.
Unique in California, the Chardonnays are always made with no new oak, native yeast and barrel-fermented in neutral oak at cooler temperatures over several months, then aged on lees much longer than most for up to 18 months, allowing clarity for unfiltered bottling. Rough, whole-cluster pressed to release tannins and enhance longevity, they are approachable in youth and ready to drink on release.
Pinot Noir Winemaking:
Appellation wines are tank-fermented at slightly warmer temperatures for some extraction, while Vineyard Designate wines are fermented in small t-bins at cooler temperatures for less tannin and extraction. All native-yeast fermented, using 20-33% new oak for single vineyards, while appellation wines usually have no new oak.
Graham is in the coolest, foggy Green Valley part of the Russian River on lightly rolling slopes of sandy Goldridge soil near the river. Sustainably and dry-farmed, Graham ripens in late September with low yields between 2.5-3.5 tons per acre.
Peterson: In the center of the SLH appellation, this very cool site produces fragrant, red-fruited, light colored and earthy wines with taut acidity. Farmed with organic principles on very well-drained sandy loam, yields are very low, from .75 – 3 tons/acre. Loring winery buys most fruit from Peterson, along with Mansfield Dunne and August West.
Cortada Alta: This highest elevation vineyard in the SLH has varying exposures above the fog up to 1650 feet. Warmer days and cooler nights, torture the vines with wide diurnal temperature shifts and well-drained, very steep soils. This results in smaller berries and clusters, thicker skins and tiny yields (1.5 – 2.5 tons/acre), giving more color, richness and grip. Windy Oaks, Wrath, Mansfield Dunne and Sandler also buy Cortada Alta fruit.
Chardonnay, Cortada Alta Vineyard 2017, Santa Lucia Highlands organically farmed
93 Points, Vinous: “Glimmering straw-yellow. Highly perfumed aromas of fresh orchard and citrus fruits and white flowers are complemented by suggestions of iodine and toasty lees. Palate-staining pear, tangerine and honeysuckle flavors show depth and energy. Finishes nervy and impressivelylong,deliveringresonatingfloralityandtightfocus.” OneoftheblocksatCortadasits1,650inelevation,thehighestfruitinthe whole appellation. Whole cluster pressed, barrel-fermented in neutral oak and aged 16 months before bottling. No new oak. 47 cases.
Pinot Noir, Santa Lucia Highlands 2018, Monterey County organically farmed
92 Points, Josh Raynolds:“Cherry cola on the energetic nose. Juicy and focused, offering raspberry and floral flavors and spiciness. Finishes with smooth, polished tannins and notes of bitter chocolate and allspice.” A complex blend of two contrasting vineyards both owned by August West Partner John Peterson: the cool-climate spicy red fruit notes of Peterson, and the concentrated, darker mountain-fruit of Cortada Alta. Typical SLH aromas of rhubarb, wet earth and Pinot spice, with riper fruits such as plum and blackberry. 20% new oak. 213 cases.
Pinot Noir, Russian River 2018, Sonoma County sustainably farmed
Vinous 92 Points, Josh Raynolds: “Bright garnet. Aromas of musky, spice-tinged red berries and cherry, freshly turned earth, licorice and cola nuances. Bitter cherry, red currant, floral pastille and succulent herb flavors. Solid grip on the persistent and sharply focused finish, which is shaped by dusty, slowly building tannins.” The finish is very long. Entirely from the Graham Family Vineyard, the chosen clones were picked a week later, blended from selected barrels, and fermented slightly warmer in tank than the vineyard designate release. 20% new French oak. 400 cases.
Pinot Noir, Graham Vineyard 2019, Russian River, Sonoma County sustainably farmed NEW Vintage
Winemaker Notes: With its rose petal-scented nose, to the ripe and extravagantly-textured palate with excellent acidity, it is a wine to be cellared for a few years to reach full maturity. It also drinks well today with decanting. Second consecutive year of ideal conditions. Fully destemmed, aged in 100% new French oak. Brian Loring, Kosta Brown, Bob Cabral and Testarossa also buy Graham vineyard fruit. 97 cases.
Pinot Noir, Peterson Vineyard 2018, Santa Lucia Highlands organically farmed Vinous NEW 94 Points, Josh Raynolds, Vinous: “Brilliant scarlet. A highly complex bouquet evokes fresh red and blue fruits, exotic spices and sandalwood. Densely packed yet lively, offering intense black raspberry, boysenberry, candied rose and spice-cake flavors. Finishes very long and smooth, with harmonious tannins framing lingering red berry preserve and floral pastille notes.” From the most ideal SLH vintage since 2012, it was picked in early October, 100% destemmed and aged 10 months in 30% new French oak. Only 47 cases made!
Pinot Noir, Cortada Alta Vineyard 2017, Santa Lucia Highlands organically farmed
93 Points, Vinous: “Limpid ruby-red. Highly fragrant nose – spice-accented cherry cola, black raspberry and potpourri. Sappy berry and cherry pie flavors show very good depth. Finishes very long and chewy, with sharp delineation, mounting tannins and repeating floral and spice notes.” Winemaker Notes: The darkest August West Pinot ever produced, it reflects the higher-elevation concentration of color and flavor typical of this mountain elevation vineyard. Yields up to 1.5 t/a. Fully destemmed, native-fermented and aged in 33% new French Oak. 68 cases made.