Russian River Valley Part 5: Exploring Laguna Ridge

Situated south of the Russian River, the Laguna Ridge neighborhood is composed of soft rolling hills full of mostly Goldridge soils. The neighborhood is certainly warmer than Sebastopol Hills, but not quite as warm as Middle Reach—which Guy Davis, Winemaker at Davis Wines, says is “where the earliest fruit-pick each vintage is rooted.” Some sites see a small bit of elevation, especially in comparison to vineyards in the Santa Rosa Plains, at around 300 feet above sea level. Still very much influenced by the Pacific Ocean, the neighborhood gets quite a bit of fog and has a significant diurnal shift of about 40 degrees during the growing season. Benovia Winemaker, Matt Sullivan, says that “Laguna Ridge has a long history of producing some of the most age-worthy Pinot Noirs in the Russian River Valley.”

Benovia Winery
The Benovia 2013 La Pommeraie Pinot Noir has subtle and delicate aromas of classic bright red, mostly cherry fruit, with purple flavors and an almost mustard-like quality. The savory and floral characteristics develop quite a bit as the wine is exposed to air. I love the purple flower aromatics here that so beautifully emanate from the glass. This Pinot Noir is full of fruit—cranberry, orange zest and red cherry—and these fruit flavors are mixed with nuances of vanilla, though the oak influence is subtle and nicely integrated. This is a tart, fresh and crisp Pinot with a nice core of acidity.

I take it that the core of acidity is a result of the fog influence in the neighborhood, as well as that 40-degree diurnal shift that also allows for slow, steady ripening.  The wine’s semi-full body is nicely structured with some angular edges and medium tannin, though it never feels harsh in the mouth. The Goldridge soil series here has “excellent drainage and low soil fertility,” which Sullivan says “directly contributes to wine quality.” That much is noticeable, in addition to the “structural tannin and bright acidity” that Sullivan points out that the wines from this neighborhood tend to have.

Davis Family Vineyards
Again, I found those unique mustard-like aromas on the Davis Family Vineyards 2012 Soul Patch Vineyard Pinot Noir. This Pinot comes from a 14-acre, east-facing vineyard that possesses a 20% slope. The vineyard was originally planted in 1995 and has been farmed organically since its inception. Guy Davis states that there are “high levels of volcanic ash and calcareous material” in the Goldridge soil series of the vineyards. This, he says, is because of “an ash/vent that ran down this section of the Laguna Ridge during the time it was a shallow ocean floor,” and seems to contribute to the unique aromatics.

Aromatically, this is one of the earthiest wines that I came across in my tastings. Those same purple flower aromas waft from the glass, indicating an aromatic theme here in the Laguna Ridge Pinots. The fruit feels tart on the nose, filled with sour red cherry. East-facing, “wonderful morning sun exposure,” Davis says, preserves the natural acidity and brings a balance of red and dark fruit. The palate of the Davis Family Pinot feels similar in style to the Screen Door Cellars and Siduri bottlings from the Santa Rosa Plains neighborhoods—this a richer styled Pinot. There is that hint of oak influence in the mouth, with flavors of red cherry candy and caramel in its round and smooth texture.

Joseph Swan Winery
I love the aromatic consistency across the Laguna Ridge neighborhood wines. Joseph Swan’s 2013 Trenton Estate Vineyard Pinot Noir has that earthy, mustard-like quality on the nose, and again with those pleasurable purple flower aromas as the wine sees some air. There is a lot of sour red cherry, crunchy red fruits and even some stony aromas here. Like the Davis Family bottling, this Pinot is rich with a strong oak presence on the palate. Although, the wine does open up quite a bit with air, revealing tart red fruit and baking spices, with orange zest on the finish. It gains a bit of finesse and complexity as it sits in the glass, leaving a smooth, medium body and restrained fruit in its spice-driven profile. This is a wine that would hold up in the cellar.

Pinot Noir: Savory/Floral Aromatics and Tart Fruit
As I have already noted, there is a lot of aromatic consistency here in the Pinot Noir from Laguna Ridge. Those mustard-like characteristics and purple flowers were both very prominent in the aromatic profiles of all three samples. These gorgeous aromatic profiles really show the savory, floral side of Russian River Valley Pinot Noir. As far as palates are concerned, the fruit flavors all seem consistently tart and red in style, with gentle oak influence that shows but does not overwhelm, alongside acidity, nice texture and structure.

Missed Russian River Valley Part 4 in this article series?
Check it out here: Russian River Valley Part 4: Exploring Sebastopol Hills

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