Russian River Valley

Hawk’s Roost Ranch Vineyard, Russian River Valley

Hawk's Roost Ranch - Russian River Valley

Hawk’s Roost Ranch – Russian River Valley

What began as a weed abatement program for Chuck and Gail Jones turned into one of our stellar vineyards. The couple first purchased a half-acre adjacent to what would become their nearly 8-acre property in West Sonoma County in 1968. “The place had an absentee owner. There were some unkempt zinfandel vines on that land but it appeared to be propagating more weeds and poison oak than wine vines,” Chuck recalls. Eventually building and living on their half acre, Gail grew weary of the eyesore next door. “I’m tired of looking at weeds. Let’s buy the place,” she declared in 1992.

They called the owner only to learn the property would be going on sale within days. They acted fast. Then, after denuding the vegetation, the couple began fulfilling a lifelong dream of farming, or rather, learning to farm. Their first plantings were pumpkins and cut flowers, followed by sheep. “Neither of us knew anything about farming grapes much less what rootstock was and what it should be for our particular growing area,” Chuck recalls.

Chuck Jones of Hawk's Roost

Chuck Jones of Hawk’s Roost

Since their “growing area was in the middle of the Russian River Valley winegrowing region, they soon sought and found seasoned practitioners, particularly in Jim Pratt, one of the area’s most respected vineyard managers. He analyzed the soil, finding it consisting of alluvial clay-loam with hardpan about 18 inches beneath the surface. Jim suggested a hearty rootstock and equally virulent clone, known for strength and boldness.

In 1998, more than 5,000 vines eventually were laid in east-west rows, calling for the sun-sides to flourish under protective leaf canopy while the shady side would require aggressive leaf plucking. “We’d go out and talk to each vine, treating them like each was a station of the cross,” Chuck recalls. “This is when we realized was kind of commitment this would take.”

The reward has been consistently meaty wines featuring notes of bacon fat, smoky, peppery, savory spice and Santa Rosa plum, making the mouth buzz with flavors.

AVA: Russian River Valley

Clones: Swiss Klevner Mariafeld (UCD-23)

Lorenzo Vineyards, Russian River Valley Chardonnay

Russian River epicenter

Russian River epicenter

Land speculation, bad luck, followed by neighborly assistance and blind luck created this premium Chardonnay vineyard located at the epicenter of the Russian River Valley appellation. Owned and farmed since 1974 by John and Phyllis Bazzano and named for John’s Italian grandfather, these 10 acres might have been a golf fairway instead of a now famous vineyard. “My father, a doctor, and some friends got wind that the Santa Rosa Golf and Country Club was considering expanding. So, being pretty shrewd, they purchased land that would be in the way of the expansion, hoping for a nice sale,” recalls John, a retired high school shop teacher. “Well, the expansion never came our way. We ended up with a bunch of oak trees and an old orchard.”
Phyllis joins the harvest

Phyllis joins the harvest

John and Phyllis took over the property in 1973, living part time in a trailer on the property and commuting to Novato, where they taught school. John acquired a beat up old tractor and they spent the year clearing the land, hoping to farm and eventually raise their two boys, John Jr. and Matt, and their daughter, Soo, in a house John would build himself. “We worked on a shoestring,” John says, adding that they tried various crops and even some livestock before recognizing what their neighbors already had realized: their ground possessed just the right amount of Russian River loamy clay to foster wine grapes. But which grapes? “We were clueless,” John says, chuckling to this day. “We thought Gewürztraminer sounded good. Let’s try that.” They located the varietal for sale at a nursery in Healdsburg and ordered 3,500 vines in May of 1974. John laid out the redwood marking stakes for the vines and waited for them to arrive. “May came and went; then June, and still no vines. In July we said: ‘We can’t wait any longer.’ ” A member of their newly formed potluck club located Chardonnay grapes of dubious quality, but they were for sale and there were plenty available. “Wente clones,” John says. “I had no idea what they were. But what I had instead was blind luck.” Planted in 1974-75, Lorenzo Vineyards not only features some of the oldest Chardonnay vines in the appellation, it has consistently turned out wines known for their expansiveness, their minerality, and profound acidity. “Lemon, peach, liquid slate” are some of the key descriptors accompanying the wines from this site, along with critics’ scores ranging consistently well into the 90s. Premium labels Marcassin, Turley, Landmark, Chasseur, Goldfield, Souverain, and La Follette have also processed Lorenzo grapes in their vineyard designate labels. “Sold out,” is also another term commonly associated with Lorenzo on the label. Greg La Follette has worked with John and Phyllis Bazzano for more than 10 years. “I admire the care John puts into his vineyard with his pruning and leafing practices, channeling dappled sunlight into each vine,” he says. “He’s a natural. You can always count on his meticulousness.”
The fruit of John's labor

The fruit of John’s labor

Alquimista is proud to count Lorenzo Vineyards among our growing portfolio of premium vineyards. We are working with the Bazzano family to produce a very limited 2015 chardonnay harvest that promises to live up to all the expectations the vineyard has rewarded over the years. Clones are Wente, and Unspecified AVA: Russian River Valley

Mes Filles Vineyard, Russian River Valley Pinot Noir and Chardonnay

Mes Filles Vineyard, Russian River Valley Pinot Noir and Chardonnay

Mes Filles vineyard morning

Greg began working with growers Rick and Diane DuNah in 1998, supervising viticulture to his own specifications on their 10-acre site planted above the fog line on a crown of a hill above southwest Sebastopol. The vines are hosted in Goldridge soil, a fine sandy loam left from an inland sea that flowed into the Pacific more than 2 million years ago. Goldridge soil is prized for its excellent drainage and lack of challenging fertility. The sloping vineyards enjoy long hours of sunlight and cool coastal evening temperatures borne by marine air rushing through the Petaluma Gap.
Greg LaFollette and David Gensler

Greg LaFollette and David Gensler

With the vineyard’s new owner David Gensler, as with the DuNahs, Greg monitors the health of the vines, guiding them to produce small clusters and low, but distinctly flavorful yields manifesting the essence of cool climate Pinot noir. Pinot clones are Dijon 115 and Pommard Chardonnay clones are Dijon 95 and Robert Young AVA: Russian River Valley
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