Grapelive: Wine of the Day January 5, 2022

2016 J. Rochioli, Pinot Noir, West Block, Estate Grown, Russian River Valley.
Sometimes, you pull a special bottle out of the cellar, just because, and the experience takes on a life of its own, taking an unremarkable Tuesday evening in early January to almost unimaginable heights and this West Block with its sensual palate and hedonistic fruit density did just that. The 2016s are turning out to be epic here at Rochioli and the West Block is a luxurious example of the vintage in its best form with an outrageous deep color, powerful fruit concentration and structure, but with layer upon layer of silky flavors that include classic Russian River black cherry, along with crushed raspberry, sweet plum and some blueberry fruits that are wonderfully accented by wilted rose petal, a hint of loamy earth, sandalwood, cola bean and shaved vanilla. This wine really engages the senses with its opulent richness and complexity, it easily overcomes the influence of the toast sweet oak that provides the framework to show off the gorgeous fruit here and it impresses for its textural pleasure and length. Sometimes it is different to put into exact words just how good a wine is, and this is the case here, with this 2016 West Block, it brings a massive amount of quiet joy that is hard to explain, but thrilling to endure, this Pinot is simply spectacular from start to finish with energy and impact, it is not a copy of anything else, it is a singular wine that couldn’t be confused for anything but a Rochioli. Of course this is not news for those that are on Rochioli’s mailing list, they are the lucky ones when they open their bottles and I wish I could afford and be allocated cases of this stuff, these wines has a long life span and I am always amazed by just how great they are when allowed to mature properly, and while this 2016 is a tad early to open, it was almost absolutely perfect, though I would say it will go easily another ten to fifteen years more. This bottling is one of the wines that truly put California on the map during the 1990s and it lives up to its glorious reputation, it is still one of the state’s benchmarks and most prized.

I’ve always been a fan of Rochioli’s West Block, sourced from vines originally planted back in 1969 and with a newer section parcel that saw a more recent re-planting in 2008, with it’s heritage selection of clones, it always delivers an incredible dark ruby/garnet hue in the glass and intense full bodied depth, making it one of the California’s great wines. Originally known as Fenton Acres, the Rochioli names came into being in 1983 as Tom took over the winemaking here and in 1987 they released the first estate wine, the 1985 Rochioli Pinot Noir and the rest they say is history, going on to be one of America’s greatest estates, know primarily for these Pinots, but also with fabulous Chardonnays, an old vine Sauvignon Blanc and even still producing a Valdeguié (once known as Napa Gamay). As noted before, Joe and son Tom Rochioli are second and third generation Italian farmers and pioneers of Russian River Pinots, they have always believed it was the grapes and individual sites that make the best and most intriguing wines here on their historic estate that sits on sloping hillsides on the bench lands above the near by Russian River, which sucks in the cool Pacific Ocean air, not far from Healdsburg on the famous Westside Road. Because of, the winery notes, the diverse terroir across their 140 acres under vine, Tom, now at the helm here, and his winemaking team ferment each block separately in traditional fashion using a mainly hands off approach, they firmly believe the wine is made in the vineyard and it should not be messed with in the cellar. While this is a common practice in Burgundy, and in California in modern times, Rochioli was one of the first premium Pinot Noir house to employ this a micro-batch hand crafted method. Tom, like his dad, believes that the unique differences between the diverse soils and clonal diversity can be tasted in every terroir here and adds to the regal distinction in each cuvee in the collection and sets their the Russian River estate apart. The original West Block selection clone, which is now regarded as a California heritage clone, known by some as the Rochioli clone, was most likely the old Martini clone, which was mainly replaced by modern Dijon selections in the mid to late 90s, but has proven to be truly special, as witnessed here in this amazing wine!
($125-185 Est.) 98 Points, grapelive