Gary Farrell's New Wines: Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from Russian River

Early high-end wine efforts in Napa focused on Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay while Sonoma experimented with Chardonnay and Zinfandel. Around 1970 a few visionaries planted Pinot Noir in Russian River's cooler regions. Gary Farrell was one of them. Many assumed great Pinot Noir couldn't be produced in California, but Farrell and others delivered wines to change minds.

While early pinot plant choices (clones) were limited, newer variants were introduced which, combined with improved viticultural techniques, allowed California Pinot to become more distinctly “California” — more intense and extracted. Given these new options, many winemakers faced their fruit forward and foremost, turning away from Pinot's Burgundian nature, and found a following for their new world approach. Farrell preferred a course of balance and finesse, and he built his eponymous brand around that ethos.

As all things new bring a yearning for the past, eventually the trend towards intensity, extraction, and ultimately the alcohol that's comes with those elements created a desire for a return to balance — in this case, Burgundy. This is a return to an ethic Farrell never abandoned but did evolve from.

In his new wine, Alysian (new as of 2007 anyway – Gary sold his eponymous brand in 2004), Farrell has found balance between Burgundy and California.

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