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Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

2016 was an “almost back to normal” growing season in the Russian River Valley, just a few percentage points off an average winter’s rainfall. Late winter weather was on the warm side, as has been the case the past four years. This got the vines off to an early start with budbreak, which in turn led to harvest starting in late August. The biggest change in 2016 was the return of once-typical Russian River Valley weather cycles featuring long periods of foggy weather with brief breaks of sun and heat, not seen since 2012. 2016’s healthy crop of Pinot Noir was much larger than the year before, but still below historical averages.

Freeman’s own Gloria Estate Vineyard contributed the largest percentage of fruit to the 2016 Russian River Pinot Noir blend. Gloria was planted nine years ago, and it is starting to show the characteristics of a mature vineyard. KR (formerly known as Keefer) Ranch and Pratt Vineyard are also well represented in this year’s Russian River blend, as they have often been over the years, since 2004 and 2005, respectively.

This year’s Russian River Valley Pinot includes two vineyard sources new to Freeman: Sweetwater Springs, from the northern reaches of the Russian River Valley on Westside Road, and Carricola Vineyard, which is right near the Freeman Winery, on Mill Station Road.

This wine is a beautiful illustration of the idea that a thoughtful appellation blend is often more than a simple sum of its parts. Right from the start, the aromas offer hints of the earthiness of Gloria and the black cherry fruit of KR Ranch. Sweetwater contributes notes from the riper side of Pinot, and Pratt brings a more typical, floral character. The palate is lush and round, lower in acidity than the Freeman vineyard designated wines, suggesting early drinkability. The 2016 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir should be at its best from late 2018 through 2025.

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Specs

Vineyards
  • 36% Gloria Estate
  • 23% Pratt
  • 17% KR Ranch
  • 15% Sweetwater Springs
  • 9% Carricola
Barrel Aging
10 months in French oak:
  • 26% new
  • 16% one-year-old
  • 23% two-year-old
  • 19% three-year-old
  • 16% four-year-old
Bottling
July 7, 2017
Fermentation
Five-day cold soak in open-top fermenters, hand-punched down one to three times per day, free run sent directly to barrel, press wine settled and barreled separately
Production
  • 750 ml: 980 cases
  • 1.5 L: 22 cases

Scores

91 points
92 points

Accolades

Last week, we met with Ken Freeman, proprietor with his wife Akiko of Freeman Vineyard & Winery, to taste through his new Chardonnay and Pinot Noir releases from the Russian River Valley and Sonoma Coast. Ken and Akiko launched the winery in 2001 and today produce some 6 thousand cases of first-class Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. The Freemans source grapes from their Gloria Estate Vineyard, Yuk-ki Estate Vineyard and top neighboring vineyards in Russian River Valley and the Sonoma Coast. Akiko serves as winemaker, having acquired her knowledge of viticulture and winemaking by apprenticing with veteran winemaker Ed Kurtzman who now serves as consulting winemaker.

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