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2002 Holdredge Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, CA

There is a whole class of wines in Napa and Sonoma that represent dreams in the process of being realized. These small efforts are usually what I like to call “estateless” wineries. Such wineries are the work usually of one or two individuals (surprisingly often a husband and wife team) who have made tentative but substantial steps towards a goal of becoming winemakers. Often, these people are doing this work in addition to their day jobs — sourcing fruit after hours and on the weekends, taking classes in winemaking in the evenings, requesting a couple of extra days off work during harvest and crush.

Because of their smallness, because of their optimism, energy, and sometimes because of their unschooled talent, these wines are often very exciting for me. They exist as tiny amounts of often excellent fruit, a few thousand bottles, with a unique name and label, some hard work, and not much else, but they are the new kids on the block –strangers that just came to town — and they are precious because of it.

Holdredge Wines may have a slightly larger footprint than some of these wineries, as they pour their wines consistently in a tasting room on Front Street in Healdsburg, and because they actually have a family-owned vineyard in the Russian River Valley, but they are still a perfect example of what I’m talking about. John Holdredge is a lawyer by day, winemaker by night along with his wife Carri. Their 1000 case total production doesn’t make them enough money for John to quit his day job, but eventually, if they keep making wines at the quality level they are currently, I predict it will happen.

The Holdredges, like lots of these small winemakers, founded their label in 2001 with a passion for Pinot Noir. Most of the wines they produce are small Pinot Noir lots in quantities of a couple hundred cases blended from vineyard sites around Sonoma County. The couple also produce a small amount of Zinfandel and Syrah.

Interestingly, as I searched my way around the web trying to dig up information on this wine (not easy!) I learned that the family vineyard (known as the “Lover’s Lane Vineyard”) has about half an acre planted with the grape Schioppettino, which is an indigenous varietal for the northernmost part of Fruili in Northeastern Italy. Also known as Ribolla Nera or Pocalza, this varietal figures into some Slovenian wines, and Holdredge apparently blends it occasionally into his Syrah in small quantities.

This wine is the family’s flagship, and represents the majority of their production, even at the miniscule amount of 500 cases. It is made from grapes from several sites in the Russian River Valley. Unfortunately I don’t know much about the winemaking or winegrowing for the wine.

Tasting Notes:
This wine is a slightly cloudy cinnabar in color with a lively nose of caramel, cinnamon, pomegranate and raspberry aromas. In the mouth it is rich and smooth with flavors of tart nearly-ripe plum, raspberries, and very light tannins that support a delicate and very pretty structure through to a reasonably long finish.

Food Pairing:
This was a gorgeous match for a roasted salmon with warm lentils that Ruth made the other night. A bit like this recipe.

Overall Score: 9

How Much?: $30

This wine is available in limited quantities online.

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