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Papapietro Perry Pinot Noir

Williams Selyem has spawned more of today’s most notable Pinot Noir producers in the Russian River Valley than any other winery. The two principals behind Papapietro Perry are Ben Papapietro and Bruce Perry, both of whom were inspired to craft wine by the co-founder of Williams Selyem, Burt Williams. The trio met while they were all coworkers for the San Francisco Newspaper Agency, publisher of the San Francisco Examiner and Chronicle. As their friendship evolved, they all discovered they shared grandfathers who had made wine that was served nightly on the dinner table. In the 1970s, Ben lent Burt a hand in producing wine in Burt’s garage in Sonoma County. By 1980, Ben began making his own garagiste wines, including Pinot Noir, and Bruce joined him a few years later. Friends and family soon warmed to the wines and the two launched Papapietro Perry Winery in 1998 with their first commercial release of 75 cases.

Early on, the winery’s biggest challenge was obtaining high quality Pinot Noir grapes. As their reputation grew and they began winning Gold Medals at major wine competitions, they enlisted a number of exceptional vineyard sources. They now have long term contracts in place with both Peters Vineyard and Leras Family Vineyard, both located in the Russian River Valley. Other Pinot Noir vineyards now include Charles Vineyard in the Anderson Valley and the Elsbree Vineyard in the Russian River Valley. Excellent Zinfandels, crafted in a Pinot Noir style, are sourced from the Elsbree Vineyard and Pauline’s Vineyard in the Dry Creek Valley.

Papapietro Perry wines were initially crafted by Ben and Bruce at Rutz Cellars and then Balverne Winery. In 2005, they moved their winery and tasting room to its present location at 4791 Dry Creek Road, just a 10 minute drive north of downtown Healdsburg. The winery is truly a family operation with Ben’s spouse, Yolanda, and Bruce’s spouse, Renae, actively involved in the sales and marketing side of the business. The four of them have created a very warm and unpretentious atmosphere at their winery and Papapietro Perry was recently recognized by the San Francisco Chronicle as one of the top tasting rooms in Northern California.

David Low (one of three winemakers at Anthill Farms who trained at Williams Selyem) shoulders most of the winemaking duties now with Ben and Bruce making major blending decisions. Production is 6,000 to 8,000 cases annually depending on the vintage. The clones are picked and vinified separately (except Elsbree Vineyard which is composed of a field blend), cold soaked for two to four days, fermented in 3/4-ton t-bins with two strains of commercial yeast (Burgundy and Assmannshausen), and aged 11 to 12 months exclusively in Francois Freres oak barrels. Appellation wines are aged in 1/3 new, 1/3one-year-old and 1/3 two-year-old barrels while vineyard-designate wines are raised in 50% new oak barrels (with selected lots receiving up to 100% new oak treatment).

Papapietro Perry recently won the Pinot Cup at the 4th annual Pigs and Pinot Celebration at Charlie Palmer’s Dry Creek Kitchen in Healdsburg on March 20, 2009. When I visited the “Pappy-P” tasting room recently, I shot the following photo of Ben (right) and Bruce (left) proudly displaying their pig trophy from this event. At

Pigs and Pinot, 50 of the world’s top Pinot Noir producers were evaluated by a renowned panel of judges. Some of the prestigious wineries in the competition were Anthill Farms, Benovia Winery, Brogan Cellars, Buena Vista, Craggy Range, De La Montanya (runner-up), Domaine Serene, Hanzell Vineyards, Kosta Browne, Lynmar, Merry Edwards, Paul Hobbs, Rochioli, Siduri, Talley Vineyards, Vincent Girardin, Willakenzie Estate, Williams Selyem and Zepaltas.

I tasted through the lineup of 2007 Papapietro Perry Pinot Noirs both at the tasting room and the next day in my usual tasting environment at home. The wines sampled at home had been opened the day before at the tasting room and re-corked, then traveled over 400 miles in my car and still tasted stellar. I was very impressed with all the wines. They all featured moderate color, beautiful harmony and a panoply of luscious red fruits. The two appellation Pinot Noirs and the Leras Family Vineyard Pinot Noir are ready for drinking now, but the others will benefit from more bottle age. Some of the wines have been released to Wine Club members, while the Leras Family Vineyard Pinot Noir has been released to distribution, and the remainder of the 2007 vintage wines will be available periodically this year. Magnums of some wines are available. I suggest you make a point of calling, or preferably visiting, and claim your prizes now. Just don’t attempt to rapidly say, “Papapietro Perry Pinot Noir,” after consuming a glass or two of Pinot unless you love ridicule.

2007 Papapietro Perry Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., 1,211 cases, $45. · The nose is highly nuanced with bright Bing cherry, cardamon, white pepper, herbs, musk and a hint of oak. Tasty cherry and berry flavors with a sidecar of oak and underbrush. Admirable acidity, a velvety texture and a pleasing finish.

2007 Papapietro Perry Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., 715 cases, $45. · Deeper colored than the Russian River Valley bottling. Aromas of slightly confected cherries and strawberries with hints of herbs, spice and mocha. Reasonably concentrated flavors of dark red cherries complimented by brown spice and a touch of earthiness. Nicely composed with minimal tannins making it thoroughly enjoyable now. Like Drew Barrymore, very successful at a young age.

2007 Papapietro Perry Charles Vineyard Anderson Valley Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., 740 cases, $49. · This wine isn’t ready to drink. The nose is quite austere, displaying reluctant aromas of red fruits and herbs. A bit awkward and closed, there is a luscious berry core lurking in the background but it is drowned out by healthy dry tannins and a citrus tang that carries the finish. Definite potential here, but currently zippered up.

2007 Papapietro Perry Elsbree Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., 937 cases, $49. This vineyard consists of a field blend of about 20 clones on multiple rootstocks. Farmed by Chuck Elsbree. · A very complex and alluring nose displaying red plum and red current fruit with a sniff of cactus flower, roasted nuts, herbs and oak vanillin. A demure wine that is packed with flavors of spiced stone fruits and berries. Youthful tannins are evident and there is good grip, even a slight tartness to the refreshing and lingering finish. Still not showing all of its charms. I really like this wine and salute its uniqueness.

2007 Papapietro Perry Leras Family Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., 1,235 cases, $49. This vineyard is located centrally in the Russian River Valley, one road east of River Road behind Martinelli Winery. Several clones including Pommard, Beringer and Dijon 115, 667, 777 and 828. · This wine smells of the forest with oak and floral highlights. Juicy strawberry, cranberry and cherry fruit flavors. Herbs, oak and toast are evident but subtle. The fruit is pulled into line by a spark of acidity. Hi-toned, elegant and very satisfying.

2007 Papapietro Perry Peters Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., 963 cases, $49. The Peters Vineyard is owned and farmed by Tom Mukaida. He originally was an apple grower who switched to farming Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in the 1980s. He sold his grapes to Gallo for several years. Composed of Pommard and Dijon 777 clones. · This wine is a real showoff. Very bright cherry fruit, even sensual, with a spicy touch of oak in the background. Plush and mouth filling attack of raspberry and cherry fruit with added flavors of savory herbs and baking spices. Perfectly harmonious with lithe tannins, this beautiful wine seduces with its smoothness and silkiness. You will need a cold shower after drinking this one.

2007 Papapietro Perry 777 Clones Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., 342 cases, $70. A unique wine composed of Dijon 777 clones from five different Russian River Valley vineyards. Debuted at this year’s World of Pinot Noir. A popular wine in Las Vegas. · The heady aromas of black cherries, oak toast and Provencal herbs draw you in. Good concentration of layered berries and rustic cherries with a touch of brown spice. A vein of acidity runs through creating a slight tartness and a grapefruit tang on the finish. A wine showing great promise for the dinner table.

2007 Papapietro Perry Pommard Clones Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., 436 cases, $70. · Deep aromas of black cherries, brown spice, barnyard and herbs. Medium-weighted dark red cherry and berry flavors that pick up intensity with air time. A touch of cola adds interest. Supple tannins and bright acidity. A very tasty wine, but still a Lolita, and needs another 6 to 12 months of bottle age.

2007 Papapietro Perry Mukaida Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., 218 cases, $75. · Restrained but pleasing deep red fruit aromas and flavors that build in intensity in the glass. The fruit has a distinctive tropical bent. Impressively soft and smooth in the mouth. Oak is evident but not intrusive. I had the feeling that this wine might be the best in the lineup with another year in the bottle.

2006 Papapietro Perry Mukaida Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., $75. This label should have read, “Mukaida Block,” since the wine is an homage to Tom Mukaida and is sourced from his Peters Vineyard (he refuses to name the vineyard after himself). 8 best barrels aged in 80% to 100% new oak barrels. · Smoky oak and dark raspberry red fruit dominate the aromas and flavors. Smoothly textured with admirable balance. Picks up interest with time in the glass. Close to the 2007 vintage in character.

Papapietro Perry sells their wines through a mailing list, at the tasting room and via the winery’s Wine Club. There is some retail distribution of the larger production Pinot Noirs. The tasting room is open daily from 11:00 AM to 4:30 PM. 707-433-0422. The website is They stock some cool and suggestive swag including tee shirts for men that say, “LONG LASTING..with a big finish,” and for women that proclaim, “Full Bodied & Delicious, With Lots to Admire,” and “Papapietro Perry, So Good You’ll Want to Swallow.”

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