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Mueller Winery: Quintessential RRV Middle Reach

Owner Bob Mueller has had a distinguished winemaking career. After receiving a bachelor’s degree in biology at the University of California at Santa Cruz, he worked at Paul Masson Champagne Cellars in Saratoga as a chemist where he made the decision to become a winemaker. After earning his masters degree in food science and enology at University of California at Davis, he became the winemaker at both Foppiano Winery and Charles Krug Winery, and was later hired as senior winemaker at Pirelli-Minetti Winery in Delano, California where he directed three winemakers in the crushing of more than 25 million gallons of table wine, sparkling wine and brandy annually. After a stint as winemaker at Souverain Winery in Geyserville, Bob (pictured below) left to start his own consulting business and designed and established a large custom crush facility in Geyserville.

In 1991, he established Robert Mueller Cellars in Healdsburg. His first Pinot Noir, “Emily’s Cuvée,” debuted in 1994. Ten years later, he built a winery on Starr Road in Windsor and gradually ramped up production to its current 4,000 to 5,000 case level. The winery is largely a one-man operation, with Bob handling all the cellar and production duties, while his wife, Lori, handles sales, accounting and compliance work.

Mueller is best known for Pinot Noir, but also produces Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Old Vine Zinfandel and Syrah, all sourced from the Russian River Valley. The 2008 vintage of Mueller Pinot Noir has been highly lauded and all six of the wines received high scores from the Wine Spectator. Several of the wines reviewed below have already sold out.

Pinot Noir is sourced from Vino Farms vineyards located near the banks of the Russian River Valley off of Eastside Road.

Tasting is available in the Mueller winery cellar Friday through Sunday from 11:00 to 4:00 at 6301 Starr Road. The wines are also sold through the website store ( The Russian River Valley and Emily’s Cuvée Pinot Noirs are in limited retail distribution.

The Mueller Pinot Noirs are flashy, lush, extravagantly fruity wines showing the bright cherry and cola flavors and moderately high alcohols that are the hallmarks of warmer Russian River Valley vineyard sites. That said, the fruit is never over ripe or jammy and there is enough acidity in the wines to keep them juicy. Grapes are picked at about 25.0 Brix at harvest, 100% de-stemmed, fermented in 2-ton custom fermenting tanks using both indigenous and inoculated yeast, and subjected to punch downs by hand several times a day. The wines are racked to barrel and aged in 30% to 40% new French oak.

2008 Mueller Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

14.9% alc., 510 cases, $29 (sold out - 2010 vintage to be released in December 2011). Dijon clones grown near the banks of the Russian River. · Moderately light reddish-purple color in the glass. Bright and fresh in the glass with vibrant aromas of Bing cherries and baking spice. Discreetly concentrated core of sweet dark cherry fruit with some mild oak-driven flavors of biscuit and smoke. Leaves a satisfying cherry memory on the crisp finish. Much better the next day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle. A cherry jubilee. Very good.

2008 Mueller August Recher Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

14.9% alc., pH 3.60, 223 cases, $39 (sold out; available as part of the “Pinot Quartet”). Dijon clones 667 and 777. · Medium reddish-purple color in the glass. Amazingly fragrant with a perfume of cherry essence and complimentary oak spice. A delicious cherry bombast coats the tongue accompanied by accents of cola, Asian 5-spice and dark chocolate-covered cherries. The tannins are very supple and there is enough acidity to bring the fruit into focus and retain a refreshing tone. Amazingly persistent on the finish. In the words of sportscaster Keith Jackson...”Whoa, Nellie.”

2008 Mueller Cuvée X Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

14.9% alc., pH 3.60, 207 cases, $39. From a selected vineyard block of Martini 15 clone located at Saralee’s Vineyard on Slusser Road. · Moderately light reddish-purple hue in the glass. Brooding aromas of black cherries and exotic spice. Moderately rich core of sweet black cherry fruit with undertones of cola and oak vanillin. Seamless, silky and elegant in the mouth with pillowy tannins. The wine shows a slight tarry note that is presumably from oak and dissipates in the glass over time. Showing more aromatic interest the following day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle indicating the wine needs a year or two in the cellar. Very good.

2008 Mueller Eastside Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

14.9% alc., pH 3.60, 217 cases, $39. Dijon clones 667 and 115 and Wädenswil 2A. · Moderate reddish-purple color in the glass. Reserved aromas of spiced dark red cherries and berries, woodshed and forest floor. Crisp and juicy, flush with red cherry flavor that is accented with notes of sandalwood and spice, offering bright acidity, fine-grain tannins and a seductive elegance. Easy to drink now and like Drew Barrymore - very successful at a young age.

2008 Mueller Tempi Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

14.9% alc., pH 3.60, $39. From a select vineyard block of Dijon 777 clone at a well-drained, gravely site that is part of Vino Farms. · Moderately light reddish-purple color in the glass. Very reserved aromatics offering demure aromas of confected cherries and oak. Impressive array of very ripe dark red stone fruit and strawberry flavors with a prominent cola presence on the mid palate, finishing with a slight leafy quality and a rush of fine-grain tannins. Better aromatics the following day from a previously opened and re-corked bottle showing noticeable spice and more vibrant fruit. Needs time to integrate the tannins. Good (+).

2008 Mueller Emily’s Cuvée Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

14.9% alc., 772 cases, $44. From a vineyard site farmed by Jim Ledbetter (Vino Farms) one mile from the Russian River and directly across the river from Rochioli and Allen vineyards in the Middle Reach of the appellation. · Moderate reddish-purple color in the glass. Aromas of black cherries and toasty oak building in intensity in the glass over time. Generous core of ripe black raspberry and black cherry fruit with a hint of herbs, and a subtle citrus underpinning. Wellmannered soft tannins create a smooth ride, leading to a moderately intense fruit-driven finish that leaves a little heat in its wake. Good (+).

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