Gary Farrell could easily be given the title of Father of Russian River Valley Pinot Noir. After making his first wines for Davis Bynum, Farrell launched his own label in 1982. That year, he crafted the first Pinot Noir for the newly launched Rochioli Vineyard and Winery label, and released his first Gary Farrell Pinot Noir consisted of 50 cases of a blend of Rochioli West Block and the North Hill of Allen Vineyard. It sold for $80 a case. His Pinot Noirs offered elegance, yet intense and nuanced flavors, reasonably low alcohol levels, and generous acidity, and became among the most popular from California. By 1999, Farrell had outgrown the Davis Bynum winery where he had been making his wines, partnered with Bill Hambrecht, and built a hilltop winery on Westside Road.
Farrell was to sell his eponymous label and Westside Road winery to Allied Domecq in 2004. The winery and label were subsequently sold to Beam Wine Estates and then acquired by Ascentia Wine Estates. Farrell, now 57 years old, had difficulty working under corporate ownership of his winery and was unable to remain connected to all phases of winemaking. He left the winery in 2006 to return to his roots as a micro-producer of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. His new label, in partnership with Hambrecht once again, Alysian Wines (“ah-liss-ee-uhn”), will be housed in a new winery being built at the Floodgate Vineyard along Trenton-Healdsburg Road in Forestville.
The first three 2007 wines were released in September 2009 including a Russian River Valley and a Floodgate Vineyard Pinot Noir. Releases to follow in early 2010 are vineyard-designated Pinot Noirs from Rochioli Vineyard, Starr Ridge Vineyard East Terrace, and Hallberg Vineyard Crossroads. Total production in 2007 is 3,000 cases. The wines will be highly allocated through a mailing list at www.alysianwine.com.
Farrell is media-shy and not much is known about him personally. Despite that, he has a faithful following, and the Alysian label is sure to attain cult stardom in California.
2007 Alysian Floodgate Vineyard West Block Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.3% alc., 444 cases, $55. Very heavy bottle incorporating a large punt and sporting a classy label. Perfumed with violets, Bing cherries and sandalwood. Opulent and layered, ephemeral yet gutsy. Flavors of cherries jubilee with touches of raspberries, vanilla and citrus. Impeccably balance t n’ a for age ability. An endless echo of scent and fruit on the finish. This wine is a heart throb.