2016 Gary Farrell Russian River Selection Chardonnay


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. 


While Gary Farrell Winery remains largely focused on vineyard-designated wines, the RRV Selection allows the winemaker to fashion an expression of the entire appellation from such premier resources as Westside Farms, Bacigalupi Vineyard– Goddard Ranch, Olivet Lane Vineyard, Rochioli Vineyard, Allen Vineyard, Lazy W Vineyard, Martinelli Vineyard– Parnell Ranch, and Pratt’s Cornerstone Vineyard. 2016 was an exceptional vintage. Winter rains nursed stressed vines back to health after some years of drought; excellent summer and fall weather allowed grapes to develop balance, structure and complexity. The many vineyards contributed to produce a wine with excellent acidity and structure and a dizzying array of zesty citrus, herbal and spice aromas and flavors. 


The fruit was picked at 20-23° Brix. The must was fermented and aged (but not racked) in 35% new and 65% one to three-year-old neutral French Oak Barrels for 9 months. A small portion was also fermented and aged in a concrete egg for increased lees contact.

Tasting notes

90 points – Jeb Dunnock.   Aromas of lime citrus, lemongrass and passion fruit combine with hints of thyme. The palate opens up with ripe grapefruit, Meyer lemon, a small tad of butter and a hint of gooseberry are balanced by lovely, refreshing acidity. Subtle hints of slate and salinity balance the fruit, adding a layer of complexity to the crisp structure. 


Russian River Valley (Sonoma)