The SOMM Journal

June / July 2017

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Page 57 of 124

{ } 57 A s St. Francis's iconic Marinelli bell rings out from the visitor's center over the vineyards, it not only marks the hour of day but also serves as the heartbeat of the Sonoma Valley winery. Indeed, Sonoma credits its first Merlot vines to St. Francis Winery & Vineyards. What started in 1971 as an estate of 82 acres of Chardonnay and Merlot planted by founder Joe Martin, now farms in excess of 400 Certified Sustainable acres. Over the course of its 40-plus-year his - tory, St. Francis Winery & Vineyards has never been one to rest on its laurels. The last five years have ushered in a new era both in winegrowing and in winemaking at the winery, one exemplified by the intro - duction of the St. Francis Reserve wines, a tier of small-lot varietals launched in 2015. Focused on ever-increasing sustainable practices, the St. Francis winemaking team of Katie Madigan and Chris Louton, who divvy up winemaking by varietal, have recently been joined by Vineyard Manager Jake Terrell. All three are committed to advancing wine quality, honing wine style and farming the estate to gain the optimal expression from its terroir. Rethinking Terroir The estate's original Merlot vineyard, the Behler Vineyard, is being replanted by Vineyard Manager Jake Terrell who joined the winery in 2014. Terrell, a recognized leader in green viticulture techniques, is committed to sustainable winegrowing and ensures that the estate vineyards follow the Code of Sustainable Winegrowing Practices. "We're closing in on a two-year process that has involved rethinking the architecture of the vineyard," Terrell says. "The original vineyard was planted in the early '70s. Now, 40 years later our approach to our terroir has evolved; we are planting based on the water-holding capacity of the soils and adapting clonal material and rootstocks to our various soil types." That approach necessitated planning irrigation by sub-block sections and the use of French drains for the heavier clay soils in the sections of the property along Sonoma Creek. The drains lead to a pump that redirects excess water to the winery's The St. Francis Reserve Tier of small-lot varietals launched in 2015. The current vintage of these wines—2014—shows them to be among the best examples of these varietals coming from Sonoma County. I recently tasted through the lineup and came away very impressed. Here are my notes. —Anthony Dias Blue St. Francis 2014 Merlot Reserve, Sonoma Valley (SRP $39.99) Dark and rich with velvety tex - ture and warm, lush fla vors of plum, blackberry and vanilla; long, balanced and rich. 93 St. Francis 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve, Alexander Valley (SRP $39.99) Luscious, rich Alexander Valley style with dense, mellow tones of plum, spice and vanilla. 92 St. Francis 2014 Zinfandel Reserve, Dry Creek Valley (SRP $39.99) Rich aromatics on the nose and intense, concentrated, mouthfilling flavors showcas - ing lovely oak and vanilla. 93 THE ST. FRANCIS RESERVE TIER Vineyard Manager Jake Terrell, who joined the winery in 2014; Winemaker Katie Madigan, who is in charge of the winery's Zinfandel, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay programs; and Winemaker Chris Louton, who focuses on red and white Bordeaux varietals.

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