Early on I was attracted to the fruit-forward wines of Sonoma County, especially the Chardonnays and Pinots grown in the area that would become Russian River Valley. In 1974, I met Joe Swan. He became a good friend and mentor. Joe frequently came to Mount Eden Vineyards in the Santa Cruz Mountains and just as often, I would visit him at his home here in Forestville. To this day, his memorable wines are still an inspiration to me.
As a result, I moved to Sonoma County in 1977 and became the winemaker for Matanzas Creek. I rented a house just down the road from what is now Meredith Estate. One of the finest Chardonnays I ever produced was made for that winery in 1979 from local Dutton-Rued grapes. My first-ever Sauvignon Blanc was a 1979 Matanzas Creek wine from Hopkins Ranch, also located in this Russian River Valley. I made my first Olivet Lane Pinot Noir here in 1986.
When I decided to purchase land, of course it had to be in Russian River Valley! All of the land and vineyards Ken and I now own or lease are here. I firmly believe this is the chosen place to produce Pinot Noir. There is no other growing region in the world where the diurnal variation is so dramatic. Large temperature swings of 40-50°F day to night trigger the generation of more phenolic material, both anthocyanins and tannins, in the maturing red grapes. Generous tannin helps to stabilize color and creates the rich mouthfeel so evident in the wines grown here.
Excellent drainage created by the sandy soils found in our valley allows optimization of the water-deficit method of irrigation. Holding back water until the vines deplete the root zone reservoir slows the vines' growth and focuses their attention on fruit production. This metabolic shift also causes an increase in the building blocks that make up the phenolic compounds so key to creating a rich style of wine.
Pinot Noirs from Russian River are renowned for their multifaceted aromas ― cherry, berry, plum, cola and chocolate are some of the classic descriptors. The cool climate conserves acidity so necessary for the brightness and longevity of all the wines grown here, including our Sauvignon Blanc. The success of our regional wines has been a surprise to some, but not to me, given my long love affair with our valley.