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De Loach Vineyards: Star Winery in Russian River Valley

Posted: Friday, 09 December 2016 12:16

 

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De Loach Vineyards: Star Winery in Russian River Valley

Dec 09: DeLoach Vineyards is a well-known winery in Santa Rosa in the Russian River Valley in Sonoma known for making quality Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, on the lines of Burgundy and has established itself for even better quality wines since 2003 after it was bought by the current owner, Boisset family from Burgundy, writes Subhash Arora who visited the Vineyards recently and tasted a full range of their wines

Click For Large ViewI came across DeLoach wines around 12 years ago when I had contacted Global Tax-Free for different wines to be served at the Delhi Wine Club dinners where the objective is to taste wines from different parts of the world, including the US. I was not convinced about the quality of these wines because it was owned by Jean Claude Boisset which was ostensibly selling only basic Burgundian wines till then. The distributor had neither a clue nor the knowledge about DeLoach being a premium family-owned winery in Russian River Valley, known for its Burgundian styled wines. One of the pioneers of producing the Burgundy style of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir thus did not get a fair chance to be sampled and was never selected for pouring at the Club dinners, nor was there any opportunity available to taste them.

Award winning winery

A visit to the winery can be an eye opener for anyone. To say that the Boisset family completely changed the estate after buying it from the previous owner and founder, the DeLoach family, might be a tad unfair. The estate vineyards had just produced Wine Enthusiast magazine’s 2004 wine of the year- DeLoach Vineyards’ 30th Anniversary Cuvée Pinot Noir, when the Boisset family bought it in the fall of 2003.

Founded by an ex-marine Cecile DeLoach and his wife Christine in 1969 with the first release of Zinfandel in 1975, it was sold to Jean Charles Boisset, son of Jean Claude Boisset, reportedly for $17.5 million after the De Loach family had filed for bankruptcy-Chapter 11, making it the first acquisition in the Sonoma-Napa belt. The original winery and around 17.5 acres of estate vineyards (the rest of the vineyards were retained by the family) were a part of the deal. It is through the dedication, right focus and efforts of the current owners though that the Wine & Spirits magazine awarded DeLoach Vineyards a Top 100 Winery for the twelfth time in the winery’s history, in 2012 and DeLoach has a respectable name in Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.

Click For Large ViewDuring an interview in Hong Kong in October 2015, Jean Charles had told delWine, 'we bought DeLoach in Russian River - very good quality vineyards and a very high quality wine in 2003. Started in 1969, it was one of the first wineries making Pinot Noir in Russian River. That’s why I approached them. I realised that the parents wanted to sell it so I approached them. They have spectacular Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Zinfandel. We carried on with the same philosophy after buying it eventually but we also changed it to organic farming. We also added a Grand Reserve wine which became a benchmark for Russian River wines. The cool weather for Pinot Noir made it like Burgundy. That was our first big entry into Sonoma.'

One of the things Boisset did was to cut down the number of grape varieties and the number of cases produced to less than half. DeLoach today focuses only on Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Zinfandel. There are four basic labels:

· DeLoach California Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Zinfandel
· DeLoach OFS Chardonnay, Pinot Noir
· DeLoach Russian River Chardonnay and Pinot Noir
· DeLoach Estate Chardonnay and Pinot Noir

Philosophy of Winemaking

The Estate wines are made exclusively from the grapes grown in the property at Olivet Road. The others produced from grapes cultivated in around 230 acres of vineyard across Russian River and other parts of California have different AVAs (American Viticultural Area). They also use different ageing processes and type of oak -including the blocks, as Brian Maloney, the Director of Winemaking both at DeLoach and the Buena Vista historic Winery owned by the Boisset family, explained during the tasting.

There is an interesting story about the OFS wines that Brian narrated while I tasted these wines in the winery early morning on December 1.  Cecile DeLoach, who was an ex marine, had found these wines so outstanding that he labelled the wines as OFS –giving the narration to the authorities as ‘OutFu***ngStanding!’ The label was apparently rejected with a noting on the file as NFW- No Fu***ng Way! 

Click For Large ViewOf course OFS- ‘Our Finest Selection’ was accepted and is still a part of the portfolio. I was also quite impressed with the Vineyard Designate Pinot Noir Marin 2013, made with grapes bought from select vineyards in Marin County, next to San Francisco. We enjoyed the wine with a delicious dinner at a local Steak and Seafood Restaurant Stark’s in Santa Rosa with Leigh Ann Reed, the International Manager. It was a smooth, fruity and yet elegant and perfumed wine with silky tannins, which was versatile enough to pair well with the steak and barbequed shrimp we ordered after the crab cake as the starter.  Undoubtedly, Pinot Noir is the specialty of DeLoach and Jean Charles Boisset, who looks after all the Californian wines in his portfolio extensively, is continuously raising the bar.

Brian explains the philosophy of winemaking while we taste the full range. He says, ‘At DeLoach Vineyards, we focus on small-lot winemaking, giving exceptional attention to our Russian River Valley, O.F.S. and Vineyard Designate wines. Our passion is Pinot Noir which demands a delicate, labour-intensive process to showcase the exceptional terroir and complexity of the Russian River Valley and beyond.’

‘Open-top wood fermentors have been used in France for centuries and are a testament to our Burgundian heritage. California winemakers have traditionally abandoned them in favour of stainless-steel tanks, which make fermentation easier to control and results more predictable,’ he says, adding that they love to experiment continuously.

Sustainable Farming

Carrying on with organic farming, DeLoach was awarded the organic certification by the CCOF (California Certified Organic Farmers) in 2008. Committed to the application of biodynamics, the 17.5 acres of estate vineyards was then converted from sustainable to biodynamic farming methods. This involved the use of cover crops, the application of biodynamic specific preparations and composts, and the maintenance of biodiversity within the estate. In December 2009, Demeter granted DeLoach the biodynamic certification for the estate vineyards at Olivet Road and also a 1-acre garden that adorns the space around the guest house. The biodynamic calendar is followed to the T for different aspects of winemaking.

Guest House and JCB Lounge

DeLoach has a guest house with a swimming pool, big party/dining room and caters to parties and banquets for the wine club members and corporate clients. There was an event planned for 80 persons in the evening of my visit, to be followed by another party for around 250 people the next day. Weddings are also arranged frequently. The fresh pollution-free air (people in Delhi might have even forgotten what it breathes like) and beautiful natural surroundings beckon wine and nature lovers to this winery regularly (warning- please do not attempt the trip without a GPS).

Like other newer wineries in California (Raymond Vineyards and Buena Vista Winery) DeLoach also has the famous JCB Lounge which doubles up as a wine tasting room for the super deluxe wines christened as Boisset Collection and which are available for tasting at some other locations as well, including the Atelier by JCB in Yountville and at the Ritz Carlton in downtown San Francisco.

DeLoach in India

Click For Large ViewDeLoach California Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Zinfandel- the three basic variants are being re-introduced in India next month when Jean-Charles will visit India along with Leigh Ann Reed, to attend the annual event being organised by Fratelli Vineyards in Delhi where the three labels will be launched. The addition of Californian wines to Fratelli’s portfolio appears to be a logical addition with Chablis from J Moreau, Fortant in South of France and Maison Bonpas (Cotes du Rhone) already being a part of their imported wine portfolio.

Confirming the visit and the Launch of DeLoach at their event in January, Kapil Sekhri says, ‘We are excited to be bringing in DeLoach and so far initial response talking to Trade is very positive.’

Pinot Noir ought to be snapped up by connoisseurs on a limited budget, followed by Chardonnay. Zinfandel will find a ready market with those who are looking for a decent red with spicy Indian food which is known to embrace Zinfandel from California quite well.

Above all, one can look forward to this man from Burgundy who likes to be known as Agent 069- I refer to him as James C Bond. He is trying to create a little Burgundy in California-especially in Russian River Valley where Pinot Noir has been doing wonders.

For more details about the Award winning winery and its wines, please visit www.deloachvineyards.com

Subhash Arora

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Tags: DeLoach Vineyards, Santa Rosa, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, Boisset family, Burgundy, DeLoach, Jean Claude Boisset, Wine Enthusiast, Jean Charles Boisset, Russian River wines, Brian Maloney, San Francisco, Stark’s, CCOF (California Certified Organic Farmers), Olivet Road, Lounge, Fratelli Vineyards

       

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