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John Tyler/Bacigalupi Wines: Honoring the Legacy

The Bacigalupi family are Russian River Valley originals, with a history of farming dating back to 1956 when Charles and Helen Bacigalupi purchased the 121-acre Goddard Ranch on Westside Road. Through his dental practice, Charles got to know a local grape grower, Paul Heck, who along with Paul’s brother and Carl Wente had acquired Korbel Champagne Cellars in Guerneville. Charles was interested in expanding the limited wine grape plantings on his property and Paul advised him to plant Pinot and Chardonnay. In 1964, Charles obtained Pinot Noir and Chardonnay budwood from Karl Wente’s vineyard in Livermore and these plantings were among the earliest in the Russian River Valley.

On March 21, 2013, the Healdsburg Museum & Historical Society honored Charles and Helen Bacigalupi at the society’s 15th Annual Pioneer Award Dinner at Trentadue Winery.

Today, the Goddard Ranch has 120 vineyard acres and is the oldest ranch that the Bacigalupis farm. This property contains the Chardonnay planted to an old Wente clone that was one of the main sources (40%) for the legendary 1973 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay that won the 1976 Paris Tasting.

Charles son, John, was raised on the Goddard Ranch and after a lifetime of winegrowing experience, teamed with his spouse, Pam Heck Bacigalupi, and fourth-generation nephew and winemaker Tyler Heck to found John Tyler Wines. The Bacigalupi’s twin sister daughters, Nicole and Katey, are now the face of John Tyler Wines and were instrumental in the building of a tasting room on Westside Road to feature the wines.

John Tyler Wines first produced a Pinot Noir from estate grapes in 2002, with Tyler Heck as the winemaker. I have visited the family in the past, tasted every Pinot Noir release, and featured them in a previous article: I recently visited Katey and Pam at the tasting room to find out the latest scoop on the winery.

The original Chardonnay vineyard planting at Goddard Ranch, dating to 1964, is still untouched, but production is very limited. To preserve the legacy of the vineyard, the Bacigalupis have taken cuttings from the original vineyard, grafted them over to a new planting, and released the first Bacigalupi Chardonnay from the old Wente clones in the 2011 vintage. The new label is similar to the original Bacigalupi label that began as a collaboration between the Bacigalupi family and the neighboring Belvedere winery. The new label (see below) is reminiscent of the old one, but with an updated look and an elegant etched bottle.

To honor the legacy of winegrowing of the Bacigalupi family, the name of the winery is being transitioned from John Tyler Wines to Bacigalupi Wines. This transition will be completed for the winery’s Pinot Noirs beginning with the 2012 vintage. The winery’s lineup will include Bacigalupi Rosé, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Petite Sirah and Zinfandel. The winery’s Pinot Noir is known for its extended age ability.

Along with the name change, the winery has hired a new consulting winemaker, Ashley Hertzberg, who will be crafting the Bacigalupi line of wines. Ashley is another of many aspiring doctors who decided to pursue winemaking instead. She began her wine career as a laboratory technician at Owl Ridge Wine Services in Sebastopol, and developed her winemaking skills from producers such as Merry Edwards, Anthony Austin and Scott Covington. Ashley then became the assistant winemaker at Mauritson in Dry Creek Valley, and later a consulting winemaker for Saini Vineyards and Amista Vineyards.

John Tyler/Bacigalupi wines are available through the winery’s tasting room which is open daily and the online website store at Why buy these wines? These wines have a pedigree, a legacy and a distinctive stamp. The Bacigalupi family embraces the consumer’s interest and seeks to educate. This is a winery you can enjoy, with many happenings such as the Spring Release Party, Pinot & Paella, on Saturday, April 13, 2013.

2011 Bacigalupi Russian River Valley Chardonnay

$52. 86% malolactic fermentation. Unfined and unfiltered. · Light straw color in the glass. Classic and classy Chardonnay, featuring aromas of lemon, lime, tropical fruits, and banana with a savory hint. Slightly creamy on the palate with crisp apple, pear and citrus flavors finishing with a refreshing juiciness. Got lobster? Very good.

2009 John Tyler Bacigalupi Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

825 cases, $45. 1-year of bottle age. Release April 1, 2013. · Moderate reddish-purple color and clear in the glass. Very European in style with a savory nose of leaf, herbs, cherries and strawberries. Deep, lip-smacking cherry flavor with a spicy undertone. Impeccable balance and appealing elegance. This is a show-stopper from a superb vintage. Very good.

2007 John Tyler Bacigalupi Vineyard Wente Clone Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

14.4% alc., 418 cases, $45. · Medium reddish-purple hue and clear in the glass. Aromas of very ripe black cherries and berries with a floral accent. Intense flavors of black cherries, black currant and cassis with ripe, full tannins and a savory note in the background. From a bottle opened one day prior. Good.

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