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B Vineyards & Habitat Earns an A+

Gerald and Shaun Bybee farm a former open-space habitat that originally was the home of Miller Dairy, the last certified raw milk producer in Sonoma County. The original dairy processing building still stands on the property and now serves as an equipment and barrel storage facility, but one day may be revived as a winery. The property is adjacent the 30 year-old Hartford Family owned Arrendell Vineyard in the Green Valley appellation of the Russian River Valley. The development of the property has presented many challenges due to its location in the nutrient rich and water laden flood plain near Atascadero Creek. The usual vineyard pests including birds, insects, gophers and deer are plentiful. Nevertheless, the microclimate offers ideal conditions for growing Pinot Noir including morning fog, Goldridge soils, and one of the coolest climates in the Russian River Valley.

Gerald asked noted winegrower Warren Dutton to visit after the Bybees acquired the property in 1996. Dutton advised Gerald to rehabilitate the ponds (there were originally five ponds) and improve the drainage in the habitat. A singular lake was created and when Dutton returned for a visit and gave his blessings and encouragement, a Pinot Noir vineyard was planted in 2000 and 2001. The clones chosen were Dijon 115, 667, 777 and Pommard.

Shaun is a passionate supporter of organic farming and directs the organic and biodynamic practices on the property (organic certification came in 2003). The B Estate Vineyard is the only organically certified Pinot Noir vineyard in the Green Valley district of the Russian River Valley. Shaun says, “The B Vineyards & Habitat wines are meant for those with not only a great understanding of Pinot Noir and all of its intricacies, but also an appreciation of the dedicated farming practices that ultimately determine what ends up in the glass.”

Grapes harvested in the early years were sold to Patz & Hall, Lynmar Winery and Lutea. In 2005, the Bybees began a collaboration with winemaker Suzanne Hagins to produce a premium estate Pinot Noir. She vinified the 2005 through 2007 vintages. Lynmar Winery winemaker Hugh Chapelle has assumed the winemaking duties as of 2008. The consulting viticulturist is Greg Adams who specializes in the cultivation of cool-climate Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in West Sonoma County.

2006 B Vineyards & Habitat Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

13.9% alc., 336 cases, $55. Made from certified organic grapes. Aged 10 months in 25% new and lightly toasted French oak barrels. Unfined and unfiltered. · This wine has really blossomed since I sampled it first a few months ago. Lovely scents of raspberry, flowers, herbs, toast and even warm cookies. Supple tannins embrace the refreshing core of cherries, raspberries and red currants with the just the right strike of oak. The juicy flavors fan out on the palate nicely and the silky texture is dreamy. The breeding of the fruit shows through in this charismatic and easy drinking wine.

2006 B Vineyards & Habitat Sera Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

13.9% alc., 144 cases, $65. Named both for the Bybee’s daughter, Sera, the Italian word for evening, and the bucolic Green Valley evenings. Select barrels are chosen by Shaun Bybee from micro-picked distinctive estate vineyard areas and rows. 100% de-stemmed, cold soaked for 3-5 days in small fermenters, aged 15 months in 33% new medium toast French oak barrels. Unfined and unfiltered. · A completely different reflection of the B Vineyard compared to the regular bottling. The nose is pure black cherry and black raspberry with some forest floor accent. Densely fruited and richer, more darkly fruited and earthier than the regular bottling with a plush mouth feel. Despite its decadence, the wine is clean, stylish and velvety. Still brooding, this nicely balanced wine will benefit from further bottle age to meld the tannins and bring the fruit closer to the forefront. In a year or two this will be one big party.

B Vineyards & Habitat Pinot Noirs are sold almost exclusively through a mailing list at The 2006 Sera bottling will be released to mailing list members in January, 2009 and to the general public in mid February. Signed, limited edition prints of the habitat photo on the Sera label (below) are free with case purchases of the Sera wine. Gerald Bybee is an accomplished professional photographer and imager whose work is in high demand ( His client list includes Adobe, AT&T, Pentax, Intel, Microsoft, Kodak, Polaroid, Sirius, Gallo, Mondavi, Sports Illustrated and Time. The Bybees also produce an excellent rosé (the 2007 vintage is whole cluster pressed, cold fermented, 130 cases, $24). Tasting is by appointment in Sebastopol. 707-823-9199.

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