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C. Donatiello Winery

Christopher Donatiello, a former New York based wine and spirits distributor, has teamed with investment banker Bill Hambrecht to totally transform the site of the former Belvedere Winery on Westside Road in Healdsburg. Belvedere Winery was acquired by Bill Hambrecht in 1989. The new spectacular 14.5-acre estate has an organically farmed vineyard, a contemporary wood and glass hospitality center and tasting room designed by noted winery architect and landscaper, Ken Munson, and an organic garden that introduces visitors to flora that have a natural affinity for the aromas found in the Burgundian varietals. The existing winery facility is being upgraded and outfitted with the latest in winemaking technology. A soft launch of the label occurred in April, with the official Grand Opening celebration taking place on June 21, 2008.

The focus of C. Donatiello Winery is small lot Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays from the organic estate vineyard and specially chosen vineyards in the Russian River Valley. Two very talented winemakers are on board. Winemaker Troy McEnery (photo below on left, Chris on right) has years of experience at Gallo Sonoma and Belvedere, and Associate Winemaker Webster Marquez developed his skills at Williams Selyem and now is partnered with two other winemakers at Anthill Farms. The entire operation is very classy with considerable thought given to a distinguished image and tasteful presentation of the wines.

I was recently invited to sit down with Chris Donatiello and briefly taste the current inaugural lineup of wines. This winery will be a serious player among the already crowded Middle Reach winery region.

2007 C. Donatiello Russian River Valley Sauvignon Blanc

14.2% alc., 230 cases, $24. From the Crinola Vineyard in Santa Rosa. · A very fruity version of Sauvignon Blanc without the grassiness that can creep in to this varietal. Interesting green apple, pear and mineral notes with acidity nicely corralled. I am not a big Sauvignon Blanc fan, but I enjoyed this wine immensely and thought it compared favorably to Merry Edwards’ version which is my favorite.

2007 C. Donatiello Christie Vineyard Russian River Valley Chardonnay

14.5% alc., 210 cases, $38. · Raised in neutral oak. Austere and steely, with lively acidity. Styled after Chablis. Bring on the oysters.

2006 C. Donatiello Russian River Valley Chardonnay

14.4% alc., 3,400 cases, $28. A blend of several vineyards, primarily Orsi Vineyard. Slight oak influence. · This is fruitier than the above Chardonnay with an understated fullness and richness. Subtle spice, butter and citrus notes.

2006 C. Donatiello Orsi Vineyard Russian River Valley Chardonnay

14.4% alc., 225 cases, $38. The best barrels. Orsi Vineyard is a 30 year-old dry-farmed vineyard on Eastside Road. 50% new oak. · This is a penetrating, full-bodied wine. Brioche, lemon peel, stone fruits, and smoke are profiled. Excellent density and enough acidity to predict a long life ahead.

2006 C. Donatiello Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

14.2% alc., 2,750 cases, $48. A blend from the estate owned Floodgate Vineyard (clones 667, 777) on Trenton Hills Rd (not to be confused with the former Floodgate Vineyard in Anderson Valley), and estate owned Maddie’s Vineyard (Pommard clone), both in the Russian River Valley. Aged in 40% new French oak barrels. · A moderately light wine with admirable finesse. Classic Pinot perfume of red fruits and savory herbs. On the palate there are red stone fruits veering toward raisin. The wine finishes with bracing acidity.

2006 C. Donatiello Floodgate Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

14.3% alc., 175 cases, $57. 35 year-old vineyard planted to Martini clone (UCD 6). Aged in 50% new French oak barrels. · This one was saved for last and no wonder. It has the most striking aromatic and flavor profile which only old vines can offer. Deep on the palate, packed with copious red and black fruits, and nicely complimented by spice and herbs. Despite the evident power, the wine retains an admirable elegance.

2006 C. Donatiello Maddie’s Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

14.2% alc., 185 cases, $61. Maddie’s Vineyard is 3½ acres of Pommard clone Pinot Noir planted in 1998. Aged in 50% new French oak barrels. · Attractive aromas of Bing cherry, baking spice and wet oak. Dominated by redder fruits nicely spiced. Supple and plump in the mouth. Well-concealed tannins and a nice acid lift on the finish.

C. Donatiello wines are available through a mailing list (The Cellar List and The Cellar Guild) at, and in the tasting room which is open daily from 11-5. The winery address is 4035 Westside Road, just a short drive from downtown Healdsburg. Tours of the winery and Aroma Garden are given daily at 12:30 and 2:30. Private tours and tastings are available by appointment. Initimate “Live from the Middle Reach” singer-songwriter ticket performances are scheduled in the Aroma Gardens and complimentary concerts are planned for the first, second and third Sundays of the month. Check the website,, for schedules. Come for the view (below), stay for the wine.

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