2006 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
Pinot Noir •Floodgate & Maddie’s Vineyards
California: Sonoma County: Russian River Valley
What We Say
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Mission Codename: West of Eden
Operative: Agent Red
Objective: Infiltrate C. Donatiello and raid their supply of their outstanding Russian River Valley Pinot Noir.
Mission Status: Accomplished!
Current Winery: C. Donatiello
Wine Subject: 2006 Pinot Noir
Winemaker: Chris Donatiello
Backgrounder: The Russian River Valley in Sonoma is particularly well suited to producing exceptional Pinot Noir. This AVA was officially designated in 1983, but many of the wines in the region used the designation as early as the 1970s (early in California’s wine history) with the many of the vines having been first planted in the early 1900s. In today’s wine, C. Donateillo presents a delicious take on Russian River Valley Pinot Noir by delivering a wine of bold and balanced character. Read Agent Red’s mission report and tasting noted below for the full intel on this very exciting wine
Wine Spies Tasting Profile:
Look – Deep garnet in color with perfect clarity through its deeper and darkening heart. When swirled, the surface of the wine appears taught and springy. When the wine settles, it leaves behind a high ring of ultra tight-packed legs that are very chubby. The legs seem to take forever to emerge before they make their slow march down the inside of the glass
Smell – A initial bold rush of cherry leaps from the glass. Then, lush and deep aromatics show off a medium intensity with cranberry and spice. These sit atop an earthiness with soft forest floor, cigar box, dried violets, soft sassafras, minerals and the slightest hint of gray gunpowder
Feel – Smooth, soft and round, but only very initially. Soon after sipping, the wine reveals more character by introducing minerally tannins that take hold at the mid-palate, coating the mouth slightly and drying the tongue, lips and cheeks
Taste – Deep and integrated flavors of ripe red cherry, strawberry, dried rose petals, a hint of black tea, spice, minerals and the most subtle hint of green tomato
Finish – This wine goes very long, with fruit, softest spice and a clean minerality that lingers long after you sip
Conclusion – This is a delicious wine with a ton of Russian River Valley character. A very impressive offering, this Pinot Noir delivers bold and classic RRV fruit in a wine that has amazing aromatics and a really exciting mouthfeel. When I sample this wine at our covert tasting, I was able to taste it through a range of conditions, from cold to warmer (room temperature), and from freshly opened to well decanted. The wine was delicious and a real pleasure to drink under all of these conditions, but it was after it was decanted for a spell that it revealed its best character. After about 30 minutes, the wine softened and opened up, delivering appreciably better fruit and a more tender feel. Drinking beautifully now, I am certain that this wine will continue to improve over the next few years. Certainly grab a few bottles to enjoy now, but also lay a few down. The patient will be amply rewarded! If you love great Russian River Pinot Noir, this wine is a true delight that is certain to please you.
ALERT! Chris Donatiello, winemaker and proprietor, is AWOL and an All Points Bulletin has been issued. As soon as we locate Chris, we’ll debrief him and then publish a transcript of the interview here.
Wine Spies Vineyard Check:
The location of the gorgeous C. Donatiello Winery, vineyards and gardens can be seen in this satellite photo.
What the Winery Says
Awards & Accolades:
91 Points – Wine News – Feathered garnet hue. Attractive cherry and rose petal aromas with a hint of orange zest. Rather soft, creamy entry with plenty of cherry fruit; firm tannins and drying mineral notes surface in the finish.
90 Points – Burghoung.com – A really lovely red and blue pinot fruit nose trimmed in just a touch of wood is nuanced by subtle spice hints that continue onto the rich, seductive, round and velvety medium-bodied flavors that possess good depth and lovely texture on the solidly persistent finish. If there is a nit, this perhaps lacks a bit of delineation and there is a trace of warmth but overall, this is really quite good and worth a look. 2010+
Pinot File – A blend from the estate owned Floodgate Vineyard (clones 667, 777) on Trenton Hills Rd (not to be confused with the former Floodgate Vineyard in Anderson Valley), and estate owned Maddie’s Vineyard (Pommard clone), both in the Russian River Valley. Aged in 40% new French oak barrels. A moderately light wine with admirable finesse. Classic Pinot perfume of red fruits and savory herbs. On the palate there are red stone fruits veering toward raisin. The wine finishes with bracing acidity.
San Francisco Chronicle – Cherry, ripe strawberry, a bit of sandalwood and plenty of oak spice on the nose give way to buoyant, tart berry fruit with exotic citrus highlights; underlying mineral grip, nice structure and increased acidity on the finish
About This Wine:
Seamless, balanced, and imbued with a sense of place, our 2006 Russian River Pinot Noir marries the warmth of ripe, sunny fruit to the powerful viticulture born from the Russian River valley’s ideal climate. Featuring notes of spicy black pepper, dried cranberries, mocha, and cherry, it comes on strong and finishes clean.
Nose: Spicy black pepper, dried cranberries, cola, mocha and cherry.
Palate: A classic Russian River Pinot Noir. Bright and clean, with deeply layered favors of raspberry, and rhubarb which give way to favors of cinnamon and chocolate. The finish is clean and long with balanced tannins, acidity and oak.
Vintage Notes: 2006 was a challenging year weather-wise, and a great deal of time was spent in the vineyard working and watching the crop. A cool, wet spring delayed bud break, fowering and fruit set. In June, it looked like the harvest would be three to four weeks later than average—later even than 2005—which was considered a late year. Cool weather continued into July, which turned out to be a good thing when temperatures rose above 100 degrees for a few days. Often heat spikes will result in elevated sugar levels, and it can be a struggle to obtain the “hang time” necessary for full favors. The cool weather created the opposite effect, with favors developing ahead of sugars. Warm weather in August and September allowed for full ripening with excellent retention of acidity and minerality.
Pinot Noir from the 2006 vintage is showing expressive personality with pronounced minerality, concentrated favors and fne grained tannins as a result of naturally low crop levels and the cool growing season.
Vineyard Insights: In creating our Russian River Pinot Noir, we source from a number of vineyard sites including our own Floodgate and Maddie’s Vineyards. Each site represents a unique expression of Russian River Valley terroir. We chose these vineyards to create a wine that exemplifes the classic character of Russian River Pinot Noir: big, luscious and velvety.
In addition to the Martini clone Old Vines blocks, Floodgate Vineyard includes just under 12 acres of hillside vines, which are predominantly Dijon clones 777 and 667. At just 10 years old, these relatively young are just beginning to reveal their full potential. These earlier ripening vines, which are perfect for cool climate areas, produce more structured and tannic wines than their more mature siblings.
Tiny by today’s standards, Maddie’s Vineyard contains just 3.5 acres of Pommard clone Pinot Noir. Late pruning, green harvesting and cluster selection, severely limit crop yields. Despite its very small size, the vineyard is picked three times to ensure optimum ripeness.
About The Winery:
Between our privileged location and our impassioned winemakers, C. Donatiello is perfectly positioned to create the kind of powerful, graceful wines the Russian River Valley is famous for. Our wines reveal a distinct sense of terroir mingled with intense fruit. They are elegantly structured, immeasurably captivating, and uniquely
Chris Donatiello: Chris spent many years in New York on the marketing side of wine and spirits, working with well known luxury brands. Eager to combine his business expertise, entrepreneurial spirit, and love of wine, Chris headed west to create a boutique winery in the Russian River Valley.
Chris likes to be challenged and moved. In his personal life, he chases after adventure by hitting the rugby pitch and rock climbing. In wine, he enjoys the challenge of working with classic varietals to evoke a powerful sense of place. His goal with C. Donatiello Pinot Noir and Chardonnay is to deliver an experience that is vivid, individualistic, and memorable. In doing so, he’s creating wine that exemplifies both the Russian River Valley, and the man behind its name.
Webster Marquez: Webster is a dyed-in-the-wool East Coaster who ended up in Northern California chasing after wine knowledge and experience. After two years of training as an Assistant Winemaker in the fairly unforgiving grape-growing climate of Virginia, he moved to Sonoma County and joined Williams Selyem.
At C. Donatiello, Webster helps craft wines that are representative of their terroir and are fun to drink. He does this by spending long hours in the vineyards and treating the grapes with care and respect in the winery. He especially loves making Russian River Valley wines because of the way they express their climate, vintage, and vineyard. In addition to his work at C. Donatiello, he co-owns a small label called Anthill Farms.
HARVEST DATE: 09-07 through 10-01-2006
BARREL AGING: 10 Months
BARREL COMPOSITION: 100% French Oak; 40% New
BOTTLED: July 25, 2007
CASE PRODUCTION: 2,750
TA: 6.1 g/L