The Gary Farrell Winery is one of California’s preeminent producers of distinctive vineyard designated Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Beginning in the 1980s, Gary Farrell began identifying vineyards to produce distinctive single vineyard Pinot Noirs. In 1982 he sourced grapes from what would become the famous vineyards of Rochioli and Allen as well as other top quality vineyards. Although he sold the winery in 2004, the Gary Farrell winery continues to enjoy long-term relationships with its growers like the Bacigalupi family, Westside Farms, Hallberg, Martinelli and many others in the Russian River Valley. Outside the Russian River, it has developed relationships with Durell Vineyards and Gap’s Crown Vineyard in the Sonoma Valley, Bien Nacido Vineyard in the Santa Maria Valley, and others including growers of old vine Zinfandel. Winemaking is in the capable hands of the talented Theresa Heredia, who joined Gary Farrell in 2012.
The new releases reviewed here are primarily from the 2013 vintage, another excellent year for much of the Russian River Valley and the other growing areas from which Gary Farrell sources grapes. One anomaly: Chardonnay, which is usually picked after Pinot Noir, ripened quickly in 2013 and was harvested before the red varietals. This was a good decision in that the Chardonnays reveal intensity of flavor yet retain their acidity and overall freshness. These wines as a group should drink well through 2020. The Chardonnay Bacigalupi and the Rochioli-Allen Vineyards Oak Puncheon Fermented Chardonnay were among the finest Chardonnays of the vintage. The Pinot Noirs revealed good ripeness while retaining overall freshness and acidity. They are beautifully integrated with toasted oak and reveal enticing red berry nuances, especially the Gap’s Crown Vineyard-Clone 667, the Bien Nacido, the Hallberg, and the Rochioli. The Pinot Noirs should drink well beyond 2020. Two old vine Zinfandels are also included in the review with the Maffei Vineyard being the standout.
Many of the Gary Farrell wines reviewed below are available only from the winery, either by ordering on-line or by paying a visit to the winery, which offers a spectacular view of the sweeping Russian River Valley below. Visitors are strongly encouraged to make a tasting appointment. The Gary Farrell Russian River Selection Chardonnay and Pinot Noir can be found in fine dining and retail establishments around the country. Among the single vineyard wines, only the Olivet Lane Vineyard Chardonnay and Hallberg Vineyard Pinot Noir are in wholesale distribution in extremely limited quantities.
Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay
Gary Farrell 2014 Sauvignon Blanc Russian River Valley ($28) 91 This Sauvignon Blanc is crisp and focused, revealing a light viscosity on the attack with concentrated flavors of citrus and melon. It is beautifully balanced with bright acidity and a long lively finish. Sourced from the Ritchie Vineyard in the heart of the Russian River Valley. Gary Farrell 2013 Chardonnay Durell Vineyard Sonoma Valley ($55) 91 The Chardonnay Durell Vineyard is straw gold in color and displays ripe aromas of stone fruit with hints of wood spice. It is big and full on the palate with dense fruit flavors and excellent acid balance. Although the flavors are ripe, the wine overall is fresh and clean. Gary Farrell 2013 Chardonnay Olivet Lane Vineyard Russian River Valley ($45) 90 This beautiful wine is steely in character and nicely focused with a light smoky character. Restrained at this state of development, it reveals rich and elegant flavors with good intensity and a dry linear focus. It finishes very dry and medium long and may need time to evolve. Gary Farrell 2013 Chardonnay Rochioli Vineyard Russian River Valley ($55) 92 The Chardonnay Rochioli Vineyard offers aromas of ripe orchard and stone fruit with hints of slate, stone and toasted oak. Aged eight months in 40% new oak, it is lean and focused on the attack with a Chablis-like, mineral backbone, excellent balance and a persistent finish. Gary Farrell 2013 Chardonnay Rochioli-Allen Vineyards-Oak Puncheon Fermented Chardonnay Russian River Valley ($60) 92+ This Chardonnay is fermented and aged in 50% new puncheons, which give it honeyed oak aromas with a touch of underlying mango. It has a lovely creamy mouth feel and nice firmness in the back of the mouth. It’s richly flavored honeyed notes persist with an unctuous finish. A magnificent wine. Gary Farrell 2013 Chardonnay Rochioli-Allen Vineyards Russian River Valley ($55) 91 This Chardonnay is leaner , more mineral-like and crispier that the puncheon fermented Chardonnay. It displays lovely fruit although has somewhat less intensity of flavor, firmer tannins and a long finish. Gary Farrell 2013 Chardonnay Russian River Selection Russian River Valley ($35) 90 The Chardonnay Russian River Selections offers a medium straw color and aromas of stone fruit and melon on the nose. It has a pleasant mouth feel with hints of honeyed oak, smoke and ripe lemon extract. Barrel fermented and aged eight months in 40% new oak, it is medium weight with good acidity and freshness and has a persistent finish. Sourced from a selection of vineyards in Russian River Valley. Gary Farrell 2013 Chardonnay Skin Fermented Russian River Valley ($50) 88 This is a rather unusual Chardonnay made like a red wine, fermented with skins and seeds. Its flavor profile is like red apple and chamomile tea with very little sense of oak. Fermented in small open top tanks, divided and aged for different periods and then blended. It has hints of herbs with a rather dry finish. A worthy experiment in winemaking. Gary Farrell 2013 Chardonnay Westside Farms Russian River Valley ($50) 92 The Chardonnay Westside Farms is light gold and exhibits a delicate floral character with aromas of orchard fruit and light toast. It is refined with a clean, pure and perfumed character, excellent balance and a persistent finish.
Gary Farrell 2013 Pinot Noir Toboni Vineyard Russian River Valley ($55) 89+ The Pinot Noir Toboni Vineyard exhibits a fresh and fruity red cherry nose. It has intense red cherry lozenge-like flavors up front with moderate intensity on the mid-palate and a somewhat spicy herbal finish. Gary Farrell 2013 Pinot Noir Bacigalupi Vineyard Russian River Valley ($60) 90 Beautiful wine with good density of flavor, nicely balanced with soft round tannins and a long persistent finish. A beautiful wine. Gary Farrell 2013 Pinot Noir Bien Nacido Vineyard Santa Maria Valley ($65) 93 One of the finest bottlings in this line up, the Pinot Noir Bien Nacido displays a rather ethereal nose, light and perfumed, with cherry blossom notes. On the palate it is intensely flavored with huge ripe extract and depth, excellent balance, and a rich long finish. Excellent. Gary Farrell 2013 Pinot Noir Gap’s Crown Vineyard Sonoma Coast ($70) 92 The Pinot Noir Gap’s Crown Vineyard offers delicious and refined flavors of dark red berry fruit, pomegranate and plum. On the palate it is beautifully balanced with ripe layered flavors and good acidity. Gary Farrell 2013 Pinot Noir Gap’s Crown Vineyard-Clone 667-Three Barrel Selection Sonoma Coast ($75) 95 A wine of great elegance and refinement, it is dark ruby in color and offers aromas and flavors of ripe cherry, raspberry and licorice with a hint of spices. It has a silky texture, good density of flavor, beautiful balance, soft round tannins and a persistent finish. Heavenly. Fermented and aged 14 months in 40% new French oak Gary Farrell 2013 Pinot Noir Martaella Vineyard Russian River Valley ($60) 92 The Pinot Noir Martaella Vineyard offers pleasant but rather shy red berry notes. On the palate it is thick with an almost viscous mouth feel. It has delicious, intense flavors with a touch of bitterness in the back of the mouth. Gary Farrell 2013 Pinot Noir Rochioli Vineyard Russian River Valley ($70) 93 The Pinot Noir Rochioli Vineyard displays a very spicy nose with notes of strawberry, plum, cherry and toasted oak. It is spicy and densely flavored on the attack, too, with a full mouth feel, densely flavors and a silky feel. Finishes fairly dry but with good length. Gary Farrell 2013 Pinot Noir Rochioli-Allen Vineyards Russian River Valley ($70) 92 This medium-ruby Pinot Noir from the Rochioli-Allen Vineyard offers savory hints of red plum, herbs and cherry skin. On the palate it quite earthy with layered fruit flavors, excellent acidity, a rich mouth feel and a long finish. Gary Farrell 2013 Russian River Selection Pinot Noir Russian River Valley ($45) 91 This is a very attractive blend of grapes from seven Russian River vineyards. It has a very attractive nose of red berry fruit and spice. It is firm and focused on the palate with medium weight and is fairly tannic on the finish. Gary Farrell 2014 Russian River Selection Rosé of Pinot Noir Russian River Valley ($28) 88 The Russian River Selection Rosé of Pinot Noir displays a lovely salmon pink color with a hint of red apple, red berries and raspberries on the nose. It has a slightly spritzy attack with notes of sour cherries, raspberries and an herbs on the palate. It is clean and crisp with a hint of earth on a medium long finish. Gary Farrell 2013 Pinot Noir Hallberg Vineyard Dijon Clones ($60) 92 The Hallberg Vineyard Pinot Noir reveals fresh dark cherry with a pure red cherry liqueur like note. The dark cherry is complemented by loam and spice on a delicious, full palate. Finishes long with lingering dark cherry extract. Gary Farrell 2013 Pinot Noir Hallberg Vineyard Russian River Valley ($55) 92+ Red fruit, a hint of earth and savory notes show on the nose. This wine is full in the mouth with a quite refined palate of dark cherry, earth and a hint of balsamic. The finish is outstanding—very long and thick, goes on and on.
Gary Farrell 2013 Zinfandel Maffei Vineyard Russian River Valley ($50) 93 Dark red. This old vine Zinfandel opens with an exotic, spicy perfume of spice, dark red fruit, and a hint of cassis liqueur. This is a big, densely flavored wine that fills the mouth. It has a smooth, layered texture, rich red and black fruit flavors, and polished tannins. Made from 80+ year old, head trained vines originally planted by Umberto and Maria Maffei. The Maffei Vineyard is registered by the Historic Vineyard society. Gary Farrell 2013 Zinfandel Grist Vineyard Russian River Valley ($50) 91 Brilliant, medium dark red. Showing an intriguing bouquet of garrigue and a mix of red and black berries, the Grist Vineyard Zin has a silky, soft attack. It reveals a medium plus weighted palate of fresh ripe red and black raspberries with hints of dried herbs and cinnamon stick. With bright acidity and fine honed tannins, this is a youthful wine that has the capacity to age, if one can resist drinking it now. The fruit comes from a 30 acre block on Bradford Mountain planted in 1974 at 1000’ altitude.