J. Rochioli Vineyards & Winery: The Wines
Annual production varies because some older vines with typically lower yields are replaced periodically.
There has been an attempt to improve pruning practices developed in the famous vineyards in Burgundy to
ensure the restoration and preservation of the historic vines at Rochioli, allowing them to live a long life, potentially
up to 50 years. Most recently, a few acres of vines have had to be removed due to red blotch infestation.
An Estate Pinot Noir has been produced every year since 1982. It is a blend of most or all of the single-block
vineyards except for Three Corner. The average annual production of the Estate Pinot Noir is targeted for 4,800 to
5,500 cases, but that number has not been reached since 2020. The 2022 vintage was about 25% lighter overall. Tom expects full production to return in 2024/2025.
Tom told me the Estate Pinot Noir is put together once he creates the blends of Sweetwater, Little Hill and Big
Hill. He blends various lots on the property and anything that does not quite make the cut is bulked out. Since
the red blotch-infected vines have been removed, all the lots have been perfectly acceptable.
The sizable production of the Estate Pinot Noir and its wide distribution by fine wine marketer Terlato Wines
International mean it is sold by many retail sources in the US such as Total Wine & More and is also offered for
sale on the winery’s website and at the winery’s tasting room.
The Estate blends of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Sauvignon Blanc are bottled under the Rochioli name, while
the single-block vineyard-designated Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays are labeled as J. Rochioli Vineyards &
Winery. The classy labels have remained essentially the same through the years. Beginning with the 2018
vintage, the back label of the Estate wines stated “Single Vineyard Blend” to more accurately reflect the wines
as blends of several single-block vineyards. The labels for Rochioli Estate Pinot Noir and J. Rochioli West
Block Pinot Noir:
There is a story behind Rochioli’s block-designated Pinot Noirs.Tom had visited Domaine Romanée-Conti
(DRC) in Burgundy (Joe never went to Burgundy) in 1990 and was struck by the differences in the wines from
the winery’s seven climats. Tom has remarked, “Here are these blocks of vines together in a small area on a
slope that looks fairly uniform, yet the wine from each plot is unique and different.” Tom had noted differences
in barrels from different blocks on the Rochioli estate despite the fact that a majority of the vine material
originated from West Block cuttings, the cultivation was identical throughout the estate, and the vinification was
the same. He realized that like DRC, Rochioli vineyards had distinct blocks that produced wines reflecting
differences in terroir due to subtle disparities in soil and microclimate.
In 1992, the first of the block designates debuted with the West Block and Three Corner Block Pinot Noirs. East
Block was released separately in 1993 1994, and then yearly from 1997 to 2008. Little Hill Block and River
Block debuted in 1999, and the Sweetwater Vineyard Block was first offered in 2007. The five original single-block
Pinot Noirs: East Block, West Block, Three Corner, Little Hill and River Block were first offered together in
A map of the 140 planted acres at Rochioli Vineyard detailing the blocks is available on the winery’s website.
The vinification of Rochioli Pinot Noir involves primarily whole berry fermentation with proprietary yeasts in
stainless steel open-top tanks. Up to 20% whole cluster may be included depending on the vintage, vineyard
block, and ripeness of the stems. This adds a spice cabinet flavor to the finished wines. Hand punch-downs of
the cap are employed. The wines are sent to barrel without extended maceration. Aging extends for 15 months
in about 30% new French oak for the Estate wines and 40%-50% new French oak for the single block wines.
The wines are held in bottles until the early part of the subsequent year in the case of the Estate Pinot Noir
wines and the later part of the subsequent year for the block-designated Pinot Noir wines.
The Rochioli Pinot Noirs are not bashful wines, instead offering a ripe, rich, succulent fruit core with cola and
spice features. That said, the wines are never overblown, too big or oaky and retain an appealing freshness.
Many wine writers have raved about the Pinot Noir wines, calling them, “A liquid portrait of the Russian River
Valley.” Regarding age ability, the best window for the Estate Pinot Noir is 3 to 5 years and for the block-designated
Pinot Noirs 6 to 10 years. That said, there are no strict guidelines. Tom simply says, “As the vines
get older, and as I get older, the wines get better.”
The vineyard block-designated Pinot Noir and Chardonnay wines are allocated through a mailing list at
www.rochioliwinery.com. There is quite a wait to receive an allocation and those wishing to receive an
allotment need to purchase the Estate wines regularly or risk falling off the list. The demand for the block-designated
wines far outstrip the approximate 3,000 cases a year of production. The winery could easily sell twice
the amount of wine production but the emphasis is on improving quality not expanding sales. The winery is in an
enviable position since the lack of need for promotion relieves the winery of those expenses and allows it to
concentrate on farming and wine production.
The 2020 Rochioli Estate Russian River Valley Pinot Noir (currently sold on the winery’s website) and
Chardonnay have been released. Don’t ignore the winery’s outstanding Estate Sauvignon Blanc!
2019 Rochioli Estate Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., 3,198 cases, $60-$90 depending on
source. Released January 2020. 53% Little Hill, 15% Big Hill, 14% West Block, 6% East Block, and 12%
Sweetwater. Hand punch downs, aged 15 months in 3-year and 4-year air-dried Francois Fréres French oak
barrels, 30% new.
Moderately light garnet color in the glass. Enticing aromas of cherry vanilla, strawberry, cola,
and spice lead to a mid-weight styled palate with flavors of Bing cherry, spice, edible flower, and cola framed by
suede tannins. Easygoing and forward, picking up interest and intensity when re-tasted the following day from
a previously opened bottle. Still captivating two days after opening.
2020 Rochioli Estate Russian River Valley Chardonnay
14.5% alc., 1,740 cases, $60-$62. 59% River
Block, 31% Mid 40, and 10% Little Hill. Whole cluster pressed to barrel with no skin contact. 100% malolactic
Mild golden yellow color in the glass. Richly aromatic with scents of lemon, warm nuts and oak
spice with a hint of slate. Slightly creamy on the palate, offering citrus-inspired goodness with notes of pear and
judicious oak in the background. Clean acidity with a touch of warmth on the finish.
For all reviews of Rochioli Pinot Noirs, visit www.princeofpinot.com/article/2238/.
One final interesting side note. In July 2005 I hosted a vertical tasting of 1992-2002 J. Rochioli West Block
Pinot Noirs. It was a spirited evening marked by celestial Pinot Noir attended by members of my wine club, Le
Grand Crew. The event was attended by a number of luminaries including Art “Deep” Fries, Steve “Slide Rule
Dember, Mike “Cash & Carry” Cohen, Ed “Big Boy” Buckley, John “Dookey” Maggiano, and Rene “Master
Somm” Chazottes. These were vinous treasures that made a lasting impression on the attendees. All the wines
had aged beautifully with no sign of oxidation. The wines offered fresh fruit aromas, an impressive mid-palate
attack of luscious and deeply concentrated Pinot Noir fruit, soft textures, appealing charm, and impressive
balance. Tasting notes of all block designated Rochioli Pinot Noirs through 2006 are also included at