So, was 2015 a big year for me? That is truly an understatement. The ultimate experience last year was the birth of our son, Lucas. Add to that the various 90+ rated reviews from Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate, Antonio Galloni’s Vinous, Doug Wilder’s Purely Domestic Wine Report, and The Wine Spectator. On top of this, the San Francisco Chronicle selected me as “winemaker of the year.”
This is all such an honor.
“What does it mean to name someone the winemaker of the year?” wrote Esther Mobley of the San Francisco Chronicle.
The Chronicle article (link) continued: “Bibiana González Rave… exemplifies this modern vintner. She is an accomplished winemaker, crafting outstanding wines that speak of their place, firmly rooted in the lessons she learned in French cellars while reveling in the wild freedom that California affords… Cattleya Pinot Noirs… are elegant, refined and relentlessly floral… they have more finesse than power. Her Cattleya Syrah is meaty and angular, a California Cote-Rotie.”
I’m ready to share the fruits of my labor – and my love of my endeavors — in my first releases for 2016. Both are born of the Russian River Valley: Pratt Vineyard Chardonnay 2014 and my new Pinot Noir called Cuvée Number One. To you, my friends and supporters, I offer my wines in their very limited quantities and share here with you my love and insights on this amazing place where I live and work. So, prepare for a love letter… and please enjoy my creations, as they are in limited quantities.
The Russian River AVA
Beyond the unquestionable allure and beauty of Sonoma County lies the amazing number of microclimates, soil conditions and distinct geographies conducive to growing and making wonderful wines. This amazing diversity has resulted in over 16 designated wine regions in this county alone. For me, living here, just being suffused in such visual beauty is a rare gift. Truth be told, I really do have a soft spot for the Russian River Valley American Viticultural Area (AVA).
As a distinct region, it was created millions of years ago by volcanic eruptions and resulting deposits of ash over eroded bedrock. End result: sandy-loam soil known as “Goldridge soil,” ideal for vineyards of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Parts of the region are less than 10 miles from the Pacific Ocean, which sweeps in cool morning fog that burns off later in the day. I love that visual and visceral weather change as it transpires throughout the year. Even during the summer, the heat is tempered by the soft fog which extends the ripening time for Cattleya’s grapes (except for last year… but that’s another story).
In this fascinating place, extending between Sebastopol and Santa Rosa to the south, and Forestville and Healdsburg to the north, I enjoy participating in generous harvests of the most excellent fruit. With such treasure, I am then able to focus on making my handcrafted, unique wines, produced in very small lots. Lucky me!
And the people I work with are the other treasure of this AVA. I have been farming and working with great farmers in the Russian River region since my early interning years beginning in 2005. Then, after becoming a winemaker for a small winery in 2009, I was given further wonderful opportunities to work with stellar vineyards such as Ritchie, Jenkins, Donum, Hallberg, Lakeview and others.
The Russian River Valley has some designated areas that winemakers and growers have recognized as having even more unique and special characteristics. In my dream to create my own label, Cattleya, my love of this area fueled my desire to procure top fruit from these various subset areas of the Russian River AVA. This was a must!
Here’s where my Russian River story gets a little more interesting and intense. Within this AVA are other subregions. These include Middle Reach, Laguna Ridge, Santa Rosa Plain, Green Valley and Sebastopol Hills. The pieces of this puzzle lie within the boundaries of Sonoma County and around its largest city, Santa Rosa, where thousands of acres of truly astounding vineyards surround thousands of people living nearby and going about their everyday lives.
My 2014 Chardonnay
With the third release of my first wine from the Russian River, Pratt Vineyard Chardonnay, our excitement is over the top, even while sharing the fantastic vintage of 2014. Great acidity, beautiful texture, enticing aromatics – it’s ready to enjoy now or cellar for future enjoyment.
I’ve been seduced once again by the Green Valley AVA, as I’ve been since my first vintage in California in 2004. The Green Valley, as noted wine writer Virginie Boone described in her 2015 article for The Wine Enthusiast “… is not a story about new appellations. Nor is it a story about hard and fast lines on a map. It’s about clarifying a set of historically understood subregions with the Russian River Valley. It’s about helping those who love the region’s Pinot Noir to dive deeper into its nuances and sensory points of delineation.”
Minute in size, like the precious acre I have access to within it, Green Valley is one of the smallest appellations in Sonoma County. It is also the most consistent appellation in soil, climate and distinctive flavors.
Green Valley is all about the fog and the Goldridge soil mentioned earlier. These most desirous elements have allowed a distinctive and remarkable thread of continuity in Green Valley Pinots. Asked to provide a short description of the Green Valley Pinot Noir flavor profile, tasters offered:
Bright quite (cherry and cranberry); great clarity of fruit; sweet spice character (allspice, cinnamon, clove); distinguishing underlying, rich earthiness (red clay); tea and floral notes; complex; nuanced; lively acidity; subtle oak; soft tannins; supple texture; long palate evolution; beautiful structure; definite sense of class.
So, perhaps you are beginning to understand my love affair with what I am so privileged to have: an acre, two Pinot Noir clones and further, the freedom to adapt farming practices. The seduction is complete: I wholeheartedly dove into crafting my wine from Green Valley vineyards.
And now I share my love affair with you by announcing a new Russian River Valley wine being released this spring with the single cuvée from the Green Valley’s Lakeview Vineyard. Cuvée Number One, my first Russian River Pinot Noir, sprang to life after the fabulous and very approachable 2014 vintage harvest. Unique to this wine is its texture and more subtle oak component, making it a more casual wine than our Carneros Pinot Noir. For more info about this Cuvée, see my previous blog about my blending process for this wine.
The 2014 Vintage
It’s quite fascinating; the 2014 vintage was one of the earliest budbreaks we’ve ever had in Sonoma County. It was also a great and slow growing season that allowed fruit to come to ideal maturity, bringing bright acidity with amazing velvety tannins. The aromatics on the wines are all intense, concentrated and complex, while the mouthfeel is soft, generous and ample.
One is white, the other is red. Experience the Russian River Valley AVA in your glass. These small lots mirror the small vineyards I treasure. Don’t miss the journey.
To view our wine offer, please click here.