Stewards of the Land

Uploaded by flowfilms on 20.01.2012

The Russian River has become the mother lode
of Pinot Noir. It's where
more great Pinot Noir
is made than any other place in America.
>>The Russian River is popular
for a reason which is that
the quality of the wines attract people.
>>The Russian River Valley, to me,
produce some of the most compelling
Pinot Noirs on the planet.
It has the finesse and balance
that we're really looking for
when we're pairing wines with food.
>>Everything on this table
came from within a 20-mile radius.
I'm looking at this wine and saying,
"Ah it was grown over there."
And all these ingredients are local, fresh,
and they're all in season and I think
that's when you get incredible flavor profiles.
>>No matter how special a region
if you don't have dedicated people
that not only understand the potential or
at least get a glimpse
of the potential and what can be done
with the raw materials,
it never would have happened.
>>The Russian River Valley
is about 60 miles north of downtown
San Francisco in northern Sonoma County.
The defining feature
of the Russian River Valley
is a three letter word: fog.
>>I like to call it
heaven's refrigeration unit;
keeping those vines nice and cool,
creating great acidity
during the cool hours of the morning and the night.
>>So we're looking at
the Petaluma Gap behind us here.
Eighty percent of the cool air
that comes in through the Petaluma Gap
goes up to the Russian River.
>>The fog rolls in in the evenings,
then during the early morning hours
the fog recedes
and completely disappears
when the sun is out
by noontime.
>>So you can see the climate
has a very important thing
but you kind of have to study it.
There are all sorts of microclimates.
>>165 square mile area,
relatively small,
but with more soil types than there are
in all of France
in this tiny little area.
You have volcanic soils,
you have sedimentary soils
that were ancient seabeds,
with layer upon layer
of fossilized ancient mollusk shells
and whale poop and all that stuff
turned on its side and now that's
rows in the vineyards.
>>You know there are
several different soil types here.
In fact, just down this row
might be three different soil types.
This is ideal soil right here.
You'll start seeing the vines start slowing down,
they're not as big. They like a little rock.
Rock doesn't bother them
as long as there's dirt in it.
Vines will grow just about anywhere.
We've been taking rocks out of here
for years and years, and when you disk it
they come right back,
like they're growing.
>>I think that Pinot Noir is
one of those varietals
that really does show the true expression of a vineyard site,
of the soil, of the climate,
of kind of the person growing those grapes,
the terroir if you will.
>>I think the story really begins
with the University of California
farm advisor in the 1960's
who thought that Pinot Noir and Chardonnay
were going to be the real legacy and real vocation
of Russian River
at a time when most of the Valley
was planted to Zinfandel.
>>I think about my
Italian ancestors and
them coming over to the Russian River Valley
in the late 1800's and planting
Zinfandel grapes there
because it was what they knew from Italy.
>>We're picking Zinfandel here,
started at 7.
This is what the Europeans were doing
when they first came over,
this is how they trained their vines,
just a single trunk and a spur-prune.
>>The people of the Russian River Valley
were fur trappers and traders
and they were picking wild porcini mushrooms
and they were shooting wild game
and coming back and enjoying them
all together.
I've got some rosemary here.
Rosemary's got this herbaceous,
crispy flavor that's going to go very well with
our Zinfandel.
I've got some bay leaves as well.
Very important.
I've got some black peppercorns here.
Everyone says that Zinfandel's are peppery
and we want to make sure we have some
peppery spices here in our dish as well.
For me, it's very important that the ingredients
come from the same place as the wine,
and when you do that you have a unity of flavors,
and it's something that Mother Nature does
that man can't replicate.
I'm going to start the sauce,
these are fantastic little Zinfandel grapes,
add my Zinfandel.
We're just going to let that Zinfandel sauce cook down
and reduce there.
My Italian ancestors very well
could have been eating a dish like this.
I would highly doubt
that they were cooking it
in copper pans like I did
and basting the venison,
but the idea and spirit of the dish is
really still alive there.
And that's what important is that
we're cooking with very simple ingredients here
and we're cooking with flavors
that were born together.
>>The Russian River area
has a lovely agricultural background.
Crops come and go,
We've had hops and string beans
and apples and pears.
>>This ranch was originally owned by
a guy from North Carolina
named Solomon Walters.
Hops was coming in,
It was kind of the thing to do in those days.
So most of this land down here on the bottom
was planted in hops and then
he went and built this hop kiln.
He started in 1902 and he finished in 1905.
In 1953 we quit raising hops,
the hops market went to pieces.
So then we started raising string beans down here
in these fields and
one year we had 400 tons of string beans.
I couldn't imagine
there were enough people in the whole world
to eat that many beans
and we were just one small grower.
>>It's very interesting to talk to the original pioneers,
people like Bacigalupi,
who, as far as I can tell,
was the first planter of Pinot Noir in Russian River,
who claims that he didn't even know
the name of the variety
when it was first mentioned to him
and he had to write it down to keep from forgetting it!
>>It turned out that Bob Sisson
was the Sonoma County Agricultural Commissioner
at the time and
he happened to be a patient
of my husband, for his dental work.
So we asked him, 'What do you think
we should plant in this area?"
and he said,
"I think you should plant Pinot Noir and Chardonnay,
it would be perfect for that.”
>>I tried to tell my Dad, I said, you know what,
"We ought to plant some varietals."
And all the old-timers said,
"Oh, don't plant those
darn varietals.
They don't produce and you can't sell them."
There were no little wineries around.
>>Rochioli was a subsistence farm,
they were growing green beans
so moving from French Colombard
to Pinot Noir
was a significant step
but it involved a whole new orientation of mind.
The had to think
differently about how they would farm
and differently about
how they would
react to their site and its potential.
>>In France,
they're limited to how many tons per acre
they can grow to get the best quality
and I said, "That's what we need to do here."
So I looked for a French
clone of Pinot Noir.
Well, my Dad said, Early Burgundy.
So we planted that in the early 1960's.
My dad died in 1966
and in 1967 I jerked them all out
and I put my Pinot Noir in,
in 1968, first vineyard.
>>Joe Rochioli ended up having to sell
most of his first few crops to Gallo
and it went into Hearty Burgundy
because nobody would buy it.
There was no market for Pinot when he did it.
>>There weren't a lot of good California Pinot Noirs.
Every once and awhile there
would be one out but there weren't
very many repeaters.
It would be like, "Kind of like, well that was a good one.
What happened next year?"
We thought about making really good Pinot Noir.
We knew we had sources where we could buy
great grapes,
so if could make really good Pinot Noir
and do it year in and year out,
we would be establishing
something that nobody else had done.
>>The Williams-Selyem wines
starting in the early 1980's really
redefined what could be accomplished with
wines of great elegance, finesse, and delicacy.
The fact that Burt Williams made the wines
I think surprised everybody
but it proved it could be done.
>>Here was this little winery
in a garage. [Laughter]
Original garagiste!
The work was hard but it was very rewarding
and we were doing it
in the very old traditional ways
and it wasn't that
we wouldn't have liked to do it
a little easier but we did't
have a lot of money.
We had to do it
in those old traditional ways,
and we found out,
in doing that,
these were really the best ways to do it.
There were 2,000 wines entered
and over 400 wineries I think
at the State Fair,
and we won the sweepstakes,
and we were
no one!
>> Burt Williams is a very very talented guy
but just like a great chef
if you don't have good quality ingredients
you can't make great food.
>>Our Gravenstein apples are
grown in the same soil
that this lovely Pinot Noir
and Chardonnay is grown in.
The apples experience the same morning fog that rolls in
through the coastal gap in the mountains.
And the dish is going to be
a Gravenstein apple risotto.
If you smell this wine
you can pick up the smell of
apples and
wild thyme and it's got a lot of that
herbaceousness and minerality.
>> The wines that are produced
from Chardonnay
are distinct in the thread of minerality,
the peach or citrus
type flavors.
>>And it's got that
fruit-forward flavor profile that is really going to
match very well with the apples.
I'm going to add some of our Chardonnay
right to the pan.
And at the same time
it's got a lot of that creaminess
and that unctuous flavor
which is exactly the flavor profile of risotto.
And we're pairing duck
with this risotto today because
the Russian River Valley
has this really long history of,
you know, wild men out there
killing ducks.
What we're going to do is
take these apples
and fold them in there raw.
And what that's going to give us is
a good amount of acidity
which is going to
cut through a lot of the richness
of that duck confit
and it's going to play
just perfectly with the Chardonnay
because if you taste this Chardonnay from
Russian River Valley
you'll see it's got a good amount of richness,
it's soft and supple,
like I'm picturing my risotto to be right now.
As I'm plating this risotto
I smell the thyme
and the fruitiness of the apples
and at the same time I smell the richness
of the Parmesan cheese.
I feel as though if I had not made a risotto
and I had just sat over here and ate an apple
and a piece of Parmesan cheese
and had some thyme on my shoulder
while I was doing it
I could taste the wine and
identify each of those ingredients
in the character profile of the wine.
>> Last year the vineyard had more fruit.
They were picking sometimes 25 buckets
per hour
even up to 50 buckets per hour.
>>A large amount of commercial wine that you purchase in
the market is produced
in a mechanized environment.
In contrast, the artisan producers
of the Russian River Valley
are hands-on,
using old traditional methods of winemaking.
>>We bring all the fruit in hand-picked
into quarter-ton picking bins.
What the ladies are looking for or
anybody that's doing the sorting
is, as the fruit's going past you,
my rule of thumb is that, if you don't want to eat it ,
I don't want to make wine out of it.
So you'll even see people
eating fruit on bunches
that are translucent, not quite purple.
If they get a sour taste to it,
they'll throw that whole bunch out.
We can sort through somewhere in the neighborhood
about 3 tons an hour.
What we would call
this is our fermentation pad
and these are old dairy milk tanks
that we use to do the fermentations in.
>>In the initial stages of wine production
you want to keep the grapes cold.
This allows the grapes to retain acidity
and flavor nuances.
And one way of doing that is by
adding dry ice into the vat of grapes.
>>The reason
we like these dairy milk tanks
is that there's a very high skin to juice ratio
meaning that during the fermentation,
the skins tend to float to the top
and what we have to do
is push those skins and
reintroduce those skins back into the juice
every 6 hours.
After we gravity feed into the barrels
on the next level down,
then what's left are basically
are skins, seeds, and a little bit of juice.
And what we want to do
is gently squeeze that out.
So we move this little press right up against the tanks
and then somebody
gets in to the tank, with a pair of waders on,
a pair of fishing waders,
and then we bucket it into the tank.
It takes about 45 minutes to actually load the press
and then another 45 minutes
to do the pressing itself.
>>Smells good.
>>The vineyards of Joe Rochioli
and Allen Vineyard and then
that little area right there
produce Pinot Noir wines that
if rubies had a taste
or a flavor,
that's what they would taste like.
>>What really made it a success for me was
having Joe as a partner and a neighbor.
We agree on sacrificing yield
for quality, which is really
the essence of a good Pinot.
>>I've been doing it all my life.
I can look at a vine and
I can tell you how many grapes can be put on it
and I've got my men trained now too.
You can overcrop a vine and
you can undercrop it.
It takes a balance.
>>You've got two guys that have been
really good stewards of the land
they haven't tried to manipulate it
into something that it's not.
>>The thing that I like best about the region
is that there's an elegance
yet a generosity to the wines
but the generosity never descends into vulgarity.
It always remains elegant.
There is a lush aspect but
it remains elegant, balanced, and again,
it's a gifted hand of man working with
gifted raw materials.
>>We're not talking black,
inky , "stain the glass,"
almost Syrah-like Pinot Noir.
We're talking ultra-elegance, finesse
but with lots of complexity and power.
>> Quality will always be the answer to something
being sustained.
I think that is our hope
for the future
is to keep the quality up.
And I think
this area will hold up,
because I know it can be done,
producing wines that are outstanding
not only outstanding for American wines,
but for the world.
>>I'm proud just like my Dad was.
I live like I did in the past, my God
I still don't do nothing.
I still work 10 hours a day,
6 days a week.
I know I got a lot of money in the bank,
but that doesn't mean anything to me.
I tell my wife, if you want to go on vacation then go.
She says, "Not without you."
>> It's almost as though you should
trust what Mother Nature is doing
and just start cooking from here
instead of cooking from here.
If you go into the vineyards and
you see the apple trees growing next to the vineyards
and you see the deer
running through the vineyard and you see
the ducks flying overhead in the vineyard,
hey man, you don't have to be a rocket scientist
to figure out that
there's something happening here.
There's a greater scheme than us chefs
can dream up in our heads
that's happening all around us.
>>If you pay attention
and you really know the land,
you get the right grapes and clones going,
obviously it works,
but it doesn't work for everybody.
>>There is a character
in all my vineyards
that I don't find in a lot of Pinot Noirs
that I don't find in other vineyards, the nose.
It's got a nice nose
and some don't have that nose.
I don't know what it is.
>> That's part of
what makes terroir.
It's not just the soil or the climate
it has to do with the surroundings.
One time we were at the winery,
there were a couple of customers there,
one was from New York with his wife,
we we having a glass of wine,
we were under the trees just enjoying the area.
They were smelling the air
and they looked at me and said,
"Does it always smell like this.
It smells like perfume here."
And I smelled it ,and I said,
"Yep, it always smells like this."