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Wine Spotlight: 2018 La Rinconada Vineyard Chardonnay

Russian River Valley is our home, but much like an artist  yearns to have a colorful palette and unique visual style, a winemaker gets excited about expressive vineyard sites to highlight regional and varietal characteristics. Gary Farrell Winemaker Theresa Heredia was thrilled when an opportunity opened up to work with the amazing fruit from the renowned Sanford & Benedict Vineyard, and their special corner of Chardonnay vines grown adjacent to their famous Pinot Noir, and appropriately named La Rinconada.  

Best CA Chardonnay


The Wine

After several years of drought, heat and early harvests, 2018 was a breath of fresh air and a return to a more normal harvest onset. The season began with a cold, wet winter, which set the pace in that it delayed vine development by 3-4 weeks. Budbreak began mid to late March, followed by a mild, sunny spring. When bloom ensued in mid to late May, the weather was just right, with very little wind and no rain to damage the delicate flowers. When growers saw the generous potential cluster count after flowering, they knew it was going to be an ample crop. The nearly perfect weather throughout the summer months led to a very large, yet excellent quality crop. The month of August yielded typical, foggy mornings, with sun finally breaking through late morning and vanishing again late afternoon. Harvest commenced on August 30th and we were finished by September 29th, just before the rain came. Despite the quantity of clusters per vine, flavor, concentration and tannin levels were quite excellent. Canopy management was extremely important in that fruit thinning was necessary at multiple stages of vine development.


Tasting Notes

The maritime influence is apparent in the expressive aromas that open with flint and brioche, followed by white peach, honeysuckle, lime peel, fennel and quince.  The resulting wine is a beautiful expression of place, exhibiting flavors of roasted lemon, nectarine and wildflower honey, with hints of lightly toasted oak adding layers of richness and complexity. The creamy, yet mineral-laden palate is balanced by pinpoint acidity, and accentuated by an oily viscosity that lingers on the palate long after the wine is gone.


  • 92 Points | Wine Spectator, January 2021


The Vineyard

In 1971 Richard Sanford and Michael Benedict took a chance on a spring fed farm on the north facing slopes of the east west traversing Santa Ynez River on California’s Central Coast and planted what became Sanford & Benedict Vineyards to Pinot Noir. Planted in 1997, the La Rinconada Vineyard sits adjacent to Sanford & Benedict, and contains 12 clones within 20 vineyard blocks. La Rinconada is primarily planted to Pinot Noir, but is complemented by some very special Chardonnay vines. The success of these sites depends on the maritime influences of the Pacific Ocean. The movement of fog and cooling winds up valley and the soil, a living medium of minerals and organic material, is quite unique to this growing region. A byproduct of receding seas, river-deposited particles, landslides and the slow weathering of ancient stone, which in the Sta. Rita Hills AVA includes shale, serpentine, and sandstone. The lower portion of La Rinconada sits on sandy loam, but transitions to clay loam, diatomaceous earth and shale on the hills closer to Sanford & Benedict.



The Sta. Rita Hills AVA is located in California’s Central Coast in Santa Barbara County. The Pacific Ocean influence in marine layer and afternoon breezes move East/West through the region between the Purisima and Santa Rosa Hills. The combination of cool weather, coastal fog and calcium-rich soils produce intensely flavored wines with natural acidity and firm structure.


Intro to Gary Farrell Winery

Gary Farrell Vineyards & Winery is a 38-year pioneer of cool climate Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from the Russian River Valley. Winemaker Theresa Heredia joined us in 2012, carrying on our legacy of crafting Burgundian-styled, varietally expressive small-lot artisan wines capturing the balance and stylistic elegance of some of the finest vineyards in the Russian River Valley AVA and beyond; including Rochioli, Allen, Bacigalupi, Hallberg, Ritchie, Olivet Lane, Durell, Gap’s Crown, Fort Ross and Bien Nacido. Theresa works closely with our growers to showcase the exceptional fruit from their vineyards in each of her wines.


Watch the Grower Spotlight Video HERE

Russian River Valley Vineyards

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