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Tasting at Ten Acre Winery

I recently wrote a glowing feature on Ten Acres Winery Ritchie Vineyard Chardonnay ( article/2077/) so I was intrigued enough to meet winemaker Michael Zardo in person in early August and taste his current releases. A sunny morning 15-minute drive north along West Dry Creek Road from Westside Road to Bella Vineyards & Wine Caves in Dry Creek Valley, the home of Ten Acre Winery, is quite a bucolic experience, although dodging bikers is a bit of a challenge. There isn’t a more picturesque wine road in Sonoma County other than Westside Road.

Michael told me he grew up in Salinas, California and went to high school with Mark and Jeff Pisoni. All three attended Fresno State at the same time. Michael had intended to major in computer science, but the Pisoni brothers talked him into taking an enology class and he never looked back.

Michael now has 18 vintages under his belt and knows what he is doing. For Pinot Noir, he employs native fermentations with small amounts of whole cluster inclusion depending on the vintage and vineyard. A 5 to 7- day cold soak precedes fermentation and there is no post-fermentation maceration. 30% new oak is employed in the Sonoma Coast bottling and 40%-45% in the other Pinot Noir wines. The style is robust and full-bodied, but not heavy or compote-like. The 2016 Pinot Noirs are still quite young and have not shed their compliment of oak as yet.

The Chardonnays are native yeast and barrel fermented with lees stirring during primary fermentation and once a week during secondary fermentation. 100% malolactic fermentation. The wines all receive approximately the same modest new oak exposure (40% new) and are bottled unfined and unfiltered.

Ten Acre has offered wines since 2008 and Michael Zardo has been the winemaker since 2010. All grapes for the winery’s Pinot Noir are sourced from Russian River Valley, Sonoma Coast and Santa Lucia Highlands vineyards, including Stephens, Cummings, Jenkins and Soberanes. The founders of the winery are the husband-and-wife team of Scott and Lynn Adams, who became winegrowers more than 15 years ago. They acquired their first estate vineyard in 1995, and four years later established Bella Vineyards and Wine Caves in Dry Creek Valley, a winery devoted to producing Zinfandel and Rhone-style wines.

The Adams have sold Pinot Noir and Chardonnay fruit from their ten-acre vineyard located a mere two miles from Rochioli vineyards. In 2008, with a growing passion for Burgundian varietals, they established Ten Acre Winery to focus on tiny lots of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. They named the winery “Ten Acre” after their home property.

Ten Acre wines are available for tasting at Bella Vineyards and Wine Caves. For more information, visit

2016 Ten Acre Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

14.1% alc., 250 cases, $35. · Moderately light garnet color in the glass. Enticing aromas of black cherry, cocoa, and floral spices holding up in the glass over time. Flavorful darker fruits are blessed with integrated oak in a forward drinking mid weight style with some finishing length. Score: 89-90

2016 Ten Acre Jenkins Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

14.1% alc.. Release planned for fall 2018 or spring 2019. Vineyard planted by noted grower Charlie Chenoweth. Clones 115 and 667. 15% whole cluster. · Moderately dark garnet color in the glass. Leading off are aromas of black cherry, pomegranate and chocolate. Darker, sappy fruits are featured in a bold style with a touch of spice. Still young, but showing nicely integrated tannins and acidity, predicting potential greatness ahead. Score: 92-93

2016 Ten Acre Earl Stephens Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

14.2% alc., 150 cases. Unreleased. Vineyard is located south of Forestville on a steep hillside. Clones are Pommard, 115 and 777. Some whole cluster inclusion. · Moderate garnet color in the glass. Exuberant black cherry aroma with accompanying oak-driven notes of caramel and cocoa. The wine’s luscious black cherry fruit fills the mouth with goodness. The fruit is well-ripened but not over ripened. The tannins are well managed and their is noticeable supportive oak to go along with the sexy texture. I took the opened bottle with me after the tasting and sampled it 4 days later after it had traveled inside my car over several miles, and the wine held up beautifully, even showing much better than when first opened. Score: 94-95

2016 Ten Acre Soberanes Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir

14.6% alc., 175 cases. Unreleased. Aged in French oak barrels, 33% new. · Moderate garnet color in the glass. Aromas of dark red fruits and underbrush. Very silky on the palate, with vivacious mid weight flavors of cherry and raspberry. There is no sense of oak in this wine. Approachable now with commendable balance. Score: 92-93

2016 Ten Acre Three Perch Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., 175 cases. Unreleased. The 8- acre vineyard is located just outside Occidental. Very small clusters, low yields, producing an intense wine. Always the last vineyard harvested at Ten Acre. Clones are Pommard and 777 and a Calera selection. · Moderately dark garnet color in the glass. Penetrating aromas of blueberry-pomegranate fruit along with underbrush. Full-bodied and boldly sappy, featuring purple and black fruits. A fruit-laden, big boy with a long, fruity finish. Nicely composed and not overly heavy with integrated tannins. Score: 91-92

2016 Ten Acre Russian River Valley Chardonnay

14.3% alc., 300-400 cases, $30. · A solid entry offering with aromas and flavors of pear, lemon and green apple. Crisp, bright and clean with an arrow of acidity. Score: 89

2016 Ten Acre Boots Block Russian River Valley Chardonnay

14.4% alc., 200 cases, $38. A blend of Ritchie Vineyard young vines and Big River Ranch Vineyard fruit. · Subdued, but pleasing aromas of citrus, white stone fruits, and a “mineral” character. The flavors echo the aromas with a backbone of virile acidity and a quenching finish of some length. Score: 90

2016 Ten Acre Green Acres Vineyard Sonoma Coast Chardonnay

14.2% alc., 135 cases, $48. Old Wente clone grapes from a Sangiacomo Vineyard in Carneros. · Very bright aromas of citrus and wet gravel. Flavors of lemon, kiwi and peach are forward and powerful. Spirited acidity adds freshness and a clean finish. Score: 92

2016 Ten Acre Ritchie Vineyard Russian River Valley Chardonnay

14.4% alc., $55. September 2018 release. · Sourced from an old vine block previously used by Mark Aubert along with a young vines block. There are probably Ritchie, Hyde and Muscat clones in the vineyard. The aromas of citrus, stone fruits and brioche leap from the glass - Wow! Perfectly balanced and sleek in style, with dreamy flavors of lemon and white peach. One doesn’t think of oak when sampling this beauty. Score: 96

2014 Ten Acre Ritchie Vineyard Russian River Valley Chardonnay

14.4% alc., $48. The inaugural Chardonnay from Ritchie Vineyard for Ten Acre. A combination of 40-year-old and young vines. · Amazing aromas of exotic stone and tropical fruits with an edgy, stony guise. A beautiful combination of richness from the old vines and aromas and acidity from the young vines. Plenty of viscosity and weight to satisfy, with a sleep texture and appealing harmony. A flat-out exceptional mildly aged wine. Score: 97

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