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Barrel tasting spotlight: Russian River Valley

Occidental Road Cellars
Melissa Vogt

At Occidental Road Cellars in Russian River Valley, viticulturalist and winemaker Richard Prather, was barrel tasting four varietals: 2013 Reserve Chardonnay, 2012 Pinot Noir, 2012 Zinfandel, and 2012 Syrah. The 2013 Reserve Chardonnay from the Horseshoe Bend Vineyard was already crisp on the palate with subtle notes of pineapple, kiwi, and grass; these flavors are due to the partial neutral barreling process (as opposed to new oak barreling). The 2010 vintage of this same Chardonnay was poured alongside this barrel tasting, giving visitors the ability to taste where the 2013 vintage is going. The 2013 vintage proved to be right on target, as the 2010 bottled vintage has kiwi flavors, full body, and a nice crisp finish.

Similarly, the 2012 Pinot Noir from the barrel also seemed to be right on track with its prior vintages, showing subtle notes of pepper behind bright strawberry and plum flavors—indicating a good future balance between fruit and spice. This balance is easily detected in the 2007 bottled vintage from the same vineyard. The bottled 2007 vintage has strong pepper and cinnamon on the nose, nice tannins, and bright strawberry, plum, and cranberry flavors alongside a powerful earthiness that is full of spice. This vintage is a truly intricate wine with just the right balance between fruit, spice, and earth—a good sign of things to come for the 2012 vintage.

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