Gary Farrell

Signature wines from the Russian River’s “Grand Cru” vineyards

On trying the first wine Gary Farrell made (a 1978 Davis Bynum Pinot Noir) in a wine competition, the renowned Russian-born enologist, André Tchelistcheff was said to remarked, “whoever made it, he knows Pinot Noir.” Since that time Farrell went on not only to make excellent Pinot Noir, but to play a key role in the transformation of rural Russian River Valley into a world class producer of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Young and self-taught, Farrell served as winemaker for Bynum as well as Joe Rochioli and continued to receive Rochioli fruit on a handshake basis long after founding his own winery in 1982. Throughout the 80s and 90s, Farrell set a high bar for small-lot, Russian River Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Though he sold the winery in 2004 (and retired from the wine business in 2013), his legacy is alive and well at the Gary Farrell Winery. Owned by the Vincraft Group since 2012, the winery remains true to Gary’s belief in vineyard-designated Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from such “Grand Cru” properties as Rochioli, Allen, Westside Farms, and Hallberg. In recent years, the winery has added more storied, heritage vineyards to its portfolio, such as Ritchie, Bacigalupi and Martinelli in RRV, as well as the Durrell Vineyard in Sonoma Valley and the Bien Nacido Vineyard, in the Santa Maria Valley. Because of variations in soils, micro-climate, orientation, clones, and age, these vineyards offer the winery the opportunity to produce wines of place and unique character. Since 2012, the winemaker has been Theresa Heredia, a chemistry researcher-turned-winemaker who arrived with several years’ of experience in cool-climate winemaking at Freestone Winery, the Sonoma Coast operation owned by Joseph Phelps. She has evolved the Gary Farrell house style toward even greater elegance and balance with such “innovative” (actually old!) techniques as early picking, extended maceration, fermentation with whole clusters and native yeasts, aging in large-sized (500 L) puncheons and even some old-fashioned foot treading. Improvements at Gary Farrell have not gone unnoticed by the press. Food and Wine Magazine chose the 2015 Russian River Selection Pinot Noir as one of the PNs “to drink if you want to be an expert,” while Wine Enthusiast selected the 2015 Russian River Selection Chardonnay as its No. 1 of the Enthusiast Top 100 in 2017. 

Wine Maker

Theresa Heredia





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Wines from this Winery

2017 Gary Farrell Russian River Selection Chardonnay

Despite warmer weather in 2017, including an August heat wave, the RRV Selection Chardonnay brings intense aromatics, lively citrus, and mineral-driven texture – qualities one expects from a cool-climate wine. The secret to this wine may be the many premier vineyards in the blend. Even though Westside Farms, Bacigalupi, Olivet Lane, Rochioli, Allen, and Martinelli vineyards are located within the same AVA, they exemplify what’s special about the Russian River Valley: incredible diversity within a small geographical area. Each vineyard adds a special nuance whether borne of its particular micro-climate, soil type, clone or vine age. That each one of these vineyards is great enough to be used in high-end single-vineyard bottlings is a testament to the deep relationships Gary Farrell has forged with local growers over the years. Brie cheese, lobster salad, lemony risotto, or baked chicken with taragon are among the many dishes that would pair well with this crisp, invigorating Chardonnay. 

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2016 Gary Farrell Russian River Selection Pinot Noir

By sourcing Pinot Noir from eight vineyards around the Russian River AVA, the winemaker could work with grapes that matured in a range of summertime-in-Sonoma conditions, from cool but sunny, to foggy and cool to extremely foggy and cold. 2016 was an exceptional vintage in the Russian River Valley. Winter rains ended a multi-year drought and cooler than average afternoons allowed the fruit to ripen at a steady pace. The fruit developed excellent balance, structure, and complexity, and the wine shows great concentration, finesse and acidity. It's a classic expression of California Pinot Noir with bright red fruit and spicy aromas and generous flavors of red and dark berries, mushrooms and forest floor. This is a seductive wine with crisp acidity and layers of flavor that will accompany a wide range of fine meals - grilled quail, seared salmon or tuna or dishes that include cherries or figs come to mind.

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2015 Gary Farrell Olivet Lane Vineyard Chardonnay

Several kilometers west of bustling Santa Rosa, Olivet Lane looks untouched by the 21st century, a narrow road running between old vineyards planted on a gentle slope. Robert Pellegrini, whose family had long been involved in Sonoma County viticulture and winemaking, bought the property in 1973 and had the foresight to plant Chardonnay and Pinot Noir - long before those varieties became the powerhouses they are today. Located in a sweet spot where summer days start out cool and foggy but end warm and sunny, the Olivet Lane vineyard has long been acknowledged as an excellent source of Chardonnay. Indeed, Gary Farrell has produced an Olivet Lane bottling since the 1990s. According to the winery, this Chardonnay “is a pure expression of penetrating acidity moderated by layers of rich, velvety baking spices with crisp apple and citrus notes throughout.” 

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2015 Gary Farrell Hallberg Vineyard Pinot Noir

Hallberg is a 100-acre vineyard located in Green Valley, a sub-appellation of the Russian River Valley that locals proudly call the “coolest, foggiest region of the Russian River Valley.” According to the winery, the cool and damp summer mornings, as well as the low-vigor Goldridge Sandy Loam soil consistently “produces fruit with deep, dark color, great structure, silky tannins, dark fruit flavors and earthy characteristics.” Add superb winemaking to the excellent terroir and you get some awesome pinot! In 2015, conditions produced small clusters of berries with excellent acidity and flavor. Fragrances of red fruit, rose petals and chocolate-covered cherries and flavors wild berries, eucalyptus, black tea and spices are just part of the pleasure. There’s energy as well in the acidity, mineral freshness and tannins that suggest plenty of hedonistic pleasure for years to come!

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