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by Fred McMillin
Winery of the Week
Farrell Winery sketch.
So, we were tasting eight Farrell wines. How good were they? Well, the average score was 91, which means the wine is excellent. In the prior four tastings, the average was 83, which means the wine is good.
While Gary is a master of Pinot, we also had other varietals in the tasting, Chardonnay, Zinfandel and his Bordeaux-grape red blend called Encounter. How did they do against the Pinots? Here are the results, with the best wine listed last.
8th—This wine whipped 19 competitors in an earlier tasting, reported in the May 10, 2000 WineDay titled, "Classy". It's a rousing blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc...the 1996 Encounter. $42.
7th—This one is so popular that Gary has had to limit sales to six bottles. It's the Sonoma County '98 Pinot Noir. $30.
6th—Critic Bob Thompson has said the Howard Allen Vineyard in the Russian River Valley can "deliver Pinot Noir tasting closer to an original from Burgundy than any other California region can produce." The tasters gave an excellent to the '97 Gary Farrell Allen Vineyard Pinot Noir. $40.
We've lost two Pinots and no Zinfandels yet. Suprising.
5th—This is Gary's second Pine Mountain (elevation 2,200 feet) Meritage blend. The first vintage (listed 8th, above) won golds in five major competitions, including two Best of Class awards. My panel predicts an even rosier future for this 1997 Encounter. $60
4th—The Rochioli family planted its first grapes in the Russian River Valley in 1938. Today it is one of California's most respected vineyards. Hence, it's hardly a shock that here is one of the very best Chardonnays we've sipped this year: Gary Farrell Rochioli Vineyard Chardonnay, Russian River Valley, 1998, $30. My panel's comments: Excellent balance, lush fruit, very complex. $30.
3rd—In my tastings, the more intense Zinfandels are scoring higher and higher. Here's a very serious one, Gary Farrell Bradford Mountain Zinfandel, Dry Creek Valley, 1997, $28. This panel was mostly professionals and the consensus was that this was a superior Zin.
2nd—The best Zinfandel we've had this year...'97 Gary Farrell Maple Vineyard Zin, Dry Creek Valley, $30. Panel: "Beautiful," "Rich," "Classic."
1st—All the bottles were carefully wrapped by my associate, Edgar Vogt, so the wines were unknown to all. I say that, because the winner was what would be expected...a Pinot Noir from the Rochioli Vineyard, 1997, $50. Great gift. Remarkable wine. Our best Pinot this year.
Aussie author James Halliday put it this way:
Gary Farrell's near perfect winemaking techniques have produced a superb portfolio of California wines.
'Way to go, Gary!
Phone (707) 433-6616, FAX (707) 433-9060
About the Writer
Fred McMillin, a veteran wine writer, has taught wine history for 30 years on three continents. In 1995, the Academy of Wine Communications honored Fred with one of only 22 Certificates of Commendation awarded to American wine writers. For information about the wine courses he teaches every month at either San Francisco State University or San Francisco City College (Fort Mason Division), please fax him at (415) 567-4468.
This page created September 2000