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Gary Farrell Strikes Out On His Own Again

Gary Farrell wines of the mid 1980s were fine early examples of Russian River Valley Pinot Noir. After making his first wines at Rochioli Vineyards and Davis Bynum, Farrell started his own label in 1982. His first Pinot Noir was 50 cases of a blend of Rochioli West Block and Allen Vineyard and sold for $80 a case! His 1985 Pinot Noirs, which offered elegance yet intense flavors, really spurred my enthusiasm for the potential of California Pinot Noir. I was saddened to hear that he sold his winery to spirits giant Allied Domecq in 2004. The current owner is Beam Wine Estates. One of his early labels is pictured below.

Farrell is now 54 years old and has decided to partner with Bill Hambrecht and build a new high-end Pinot Noir winery in Forestville, just a short distance from his present winery on Westside Road. He had difficulty working under corporate ownership of his winery. Beam Wine Estates, which will retain the Gary Farrell name for their winery, is fully understanding of Farrell’s drive to be independent once again. Farrell will be retained for a period as a consulting winemaker.

The new winery is expected to be finished in 2009 and produce about 6,000 cases from long-term vineyard contracts that Farrell has accumulated over the years. The initial wines will be made at Hambrecht’s Belvedere Winery near Healdsburg while the new winery is built.

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