Pinot Noir Pioneer of the Russian River Valley

When it comes to Russian River Pinot Noir, Rochioli Vineyards is an iconic name. After all, Rochioli supplied the fruit in wines made by Williams-Selyem and Davis Bynum that won awards and established the Russian River Valley as a great region for the “notoriously fickle” Pinot Noir. When Rochioli decided to release a wine under their own label, in 1985, it was named “best Pinot Noir in America” by the Wine Spectator. Today, Rochioli Vineyards and Winery is owned and operated by Joe Rochioli Jr. and his son, Tom, who farm over 50 hectares of vineyards southwest of Healdsburg. In this region with diverse soils and a moderate climate, they produce sought-after Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Sauvignon blanc in vineyard-designated and estate bottlings. 

Yet the history of Rochioli Vineyards is also an iconic story in the history of Sonoma County agriculture. Unlike the Napa Valley, which had always featured fancy estates and close ties to San Francisco and European high society, Sonoma was all about poor immigrant families who were farmers first and winemakers on the side. Joe’s father (Joe Sr.) immigrated from Italy to a life of hardscrabble farm work on the land he would eventually purchase one parcel at a time. Joe Jr. was born in Sebastopol and worked in the fields with crops that supported the family: hops, prunes, string beans as well as a few acres of grapes used in “jug” wines produced by the likes of Gallo. Only gradually (but before most other farmers in the area) did the Rochiolis shift toward planting vineyards for varietal wines, beginning with Sauvignon Blanc in the late 1950s and moving into Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in the early 1970s. Joe Jr. had an instinct for viticulture, for he pioneered such techniques as seeking out and planting diverse clones, crop thinning to limit yields, and leaf pulling to better manage sunlight on grape bunches. In 1985, the Rochiolis built a winery, and since then have made wine under their own label as well as continuing to supply fruit to other top wineries in the area. Winemaker Tom Rochioli follows such Burgundian methods as using natural yeasts, fermenting vineyard blocks separately, aging on fine lees, assembling the blends after time in barrel, and avoiding fining or filtering. 

It should be said that Rochioli does not make wine in the vibrant, low alcohol style of the “In Pursuit of Balance” group of winemakers. On the other hand, dedication to viticulture and “hands off” winemaking methods lead Rochioli to make wines that express the terroir of the Russian River Valley, which they describe as “silky-smooth, fruit-forward Pinot Noirs; rich, opulent Chardonnays; and tangy, food-friendly Sauvignon Blancs.”

Wine Maker

Tom Rochioli





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Wines from this Winery

ROCHIOLI Sauvignon Blanc Estate Russian River Valley

In 1959, Joe Rochioli Sr. planted one of the first Sauvignon Blanc vineyards in California. Today, these 60-year-old vines are still healthy enough to have provided 64% of the fruit in this wine. 23% is from a vineyard block planted to the rare 376 clone of Sauvignon Blanc that was developed in France and requires licensing to plant. The rest grew in the family’s 36-year-old hillside vineyard. Cool weather in 2023 challenged Sonoma winemakers but produced standout wines. Rochioli’s ’23 Sauvignon Blanc offers an early taste of this special vintage. Fermented and aged entirely in stainless steel, this wine is crisp, clean, and rich. Intense aromas of grapefruit, lime zest, and freshly cut grass tease the nose before tart green apple, and passionfruit expand on the palate. Share this wine with friends and watch how it might stop - or dominate - the conversation!

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¥9,570 (incl. tax)
ROCHIOLI Chardonnay Estate Russian River Valley

Rich yet fresh and bright, this is classic Russian River Chardonnay, an aromatic delight with great purity of flavor. Three estate vineyards planted decades ago on distinct soils are the secret to this highly coveted Chardonnay (specifically 67% from the Mid-40, 23% from the River Block, 10% Little Hill, and 4% from Sweetwater). Balancing rich apple flavors with crisp acidity, the wine is also understated enough that time in the glass is required to release its charms. The nose exhibits notes of hazelnut and chamomile along with apple, apricot, and toasty brioche. A sip lands with tart lemon citrus, rich apple, and almonds leading to a balanced finish. Those who can manage to cellar a few bottles will be rewarded. Recommended pairings include grilled chicken, lobster, crab cakes, and linguine with white clam sauce. 

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¥14,740 (incl. tax)
ROCHIOLI Pinot Noir Estate Russian River Valley

Demand is so high for Rochioli’s vineyard-designated wines that you have to jump through hoops to buy them. On the other hand, the highly-rated and carefully crafted estate Pinot Noir is available and affordable. A blend of the winery’s esteemed vineyards (67% Little Hill, 9% West Block, 9% East Block, and 4% East Block), the wine’s identity as a Rochioli from the Russian River Valley is never in doubt. It’s an elegant, full-bodied wine that delights with cherry tones, light vanilla, and a cleansing palate of light, cherry notes that linger long in the finish. Still young and a bit tight; decanting is recommended.  

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¥16,500 (incl. tax)
ROCHIOLI Pinot Noir Little Hill

Rochioli’s single vineyard wines such as Little Hill are made in small quantities and are in high demand by collectors and the winery’s super fans. The winery has this to say about the wine: “The Little Hill rises just above the valley floor and the diverse soils are limited and rocky which impart a unique quality to this wine yielding only 2.6 tons per acre.  Rich concentrated aromas of black cherry and cinnamon, with a touch of mineral that is unique to this vineyard. This wine is a blend of Rochioli West Block selection, Pommard and a touch of our RC selection. Its full flavors and firm structure make this wine a great one for your cellar.” This is a versatile food-friendly wine that would pair well with salmon, tuna and other oily fish, mild sausages, duck, quail, pork, and lamb.

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¥27,170 (incl. tax)
ROCHIOLI Pinot Noir Sweetwater

A great opportunity to get one of Sonoma County’s most coveted Pinot Noirs! For a chance to buy a bottle, one normally must first get on “The List,” which can take years! We have been able to obtain a few bottles… But they won’t be available for long!! The Sweetwater Vineyard is located at the highest elevation of the estate. The vineyard expresses the classic Rochioli character, one of powerful aromas of ripe cherry, vanilla, and whiffs of savory, cola, spice and oak. You can expect a layered and luscious mouthfeel with silky tannins and well-balanced acidity.

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¥27,170 (incl. tax)