Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > San Francisco Bay Area >
Jul 31, 2012 08:14 PM

Recommendations Needed for Amazing Wineries Producing Pinot Noir in the Russian River Valley & Unique Napa Valley Wineries

Hello All! Later this week, my husband and I are headed to the Russian River Valley in search of a few great bottles of pinot noir to bring back to our home in Minnesota. Although we are pretty seasoned on the Napa Valley side, we are quite "green" when it comes to the Russian River Valley. During a previous short visit, we had the good fortune to visit Littorai and have also had past luck purchasing some single vineyard wines from the RRV in restaurants and at wine stores and, as such, are thrilled for our trip. I've done some research that points me to Merry Edwards, Woodenhead, Copain, Freestone and Lynmar Estate. Although desireable, we were not able to get an appointment at Williams Selyem. I'd love any thoughts on those wineries or any suggestions that "those in the know" have to offer.

Similarly, when surrounded by such good food, we don't want to go wrong there either. Any "must do" options for lunch on the Sonoma side?

Lastly, although we've been to a number of places in Napa Valley (our favorites being, among others, Pride, Elyse, Terra Valentine, Reverie, Honig, Ehlers Estate, Robert Sinskey, and Domain Carneros), we'd love any suggestions!

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. For Russian River pinots, go to Freeman. You'll need an appointment but you don't want to miss it. The wine cave there is amazing. It's close to Lynmar, which is also an excellent choice.

    4 Replies
    1. re: arugulove

      Note: Summer is a super busy time (as you may know already) and you'll have much better luck getting appts/avoiding crowds by going on weekdays instead of the weekend.

      Agreed on Freeman and Lynmar (should make appointments at both of them as Lynmar gets super busy).

      Copain makes great wines - unsure if they make pinots though

      Merry Edwards - for a more Burgundian/earthy style pinot. Just a tasting room - effectively no grounds. Their pinots are a little too "old-world" for me but others like them a lot.

      Dutton Goldfield - Only a tasting room. Across from Merry Edwards.
      Joseph Swan
      Paul Hobbs - Appt Only
      Walter Hansel - Appt Only
      Mac Phail - Appt Only
      Littorai - Appt Only
      Gary Farrell
      Porter Creek - is recommended on this board a fair amount. Tasting shed - funky chickens. I find the wines a little too austere but others really appreciate them.

      On the Napa side, I'd consider going up Howell Mountain if you haven't been up there already. All appt only:

      1. re: goldangl95

        Copain certainly does make pinot and it is exceptional! Try to get there if you can... Also, Goldangl's Howell Mountain recommendations are top-notch!

        1. re: CarrieWas218

          +1 on Copain, especially if you liked Robert Sinskey on prior visits to CA

        2. re: goldangl95

          Well, It depends on the style you like. If you like Littorai... then Try Wind Gap, Copain.
          Dutton Goldfield,

      2. If you like Littorai's balanced, Burgundian style, Merry Edwards, Williams Selyem, and others making super-ripe, high-alcohol wines might be a waste of time.

        2 Replies
        1. re: Robert Lauriston

          Also I should have added - Rochioli though a great winery. Only has one Pinot for sale (the rest are through their list). So for a visitor, it may not be worth a visit.

          Sorry just to clarify - are you saying Littorai, Merry Edwards and Williams Seleym are all Burgundian in style? If not, which ones are and which ones aren't?

          I personally tend to like a range from Papapietro Perry's very vibrant fruit all the way down to say Domain Drouhin in Oregon. For whatever reason, for me personally, Porter Creek just doesn't capture my attention, and Merry Edwards has a lot of earthy notes I don't particularly like. But I realize this is a personal taste thing.

          I don't think any of the wineries on the Sonoma side I listed are particularly over the top extracted, but I don't wine taste enough (ha! though I do try my best ) to have familiarity with all these producers in a consistent way.

          1. re: goldangl95

            To me, Littorai tends more toward the Burgundian style and away from the fruit-oak-alcohol bomb style epitomized by Williams Selyem which I usually find pretty unpalatable (though I had a relatively restrained and balanced WS Ferrington recently that was delicious).

        2. . .
          About halfway down, the discussion turns to RRV pinot noir.

          1. I used the information here on Chow to design a Russian River Pinot Noir tour for a Pinot-fanatic friend who was visiting. We started with lunch at Boon Eat + Drink, followed by a short hike in Armstrong Redwoods (such a beautiful place). Our first Pinot stop was Arista, which was incredible! Sadly, that was the best Pinot we had that day, nothing else quite compared. Arista suggested we visit VML just down the road, which was good but I only liked their Chard enough to buy. On to Porter Creek, which I always love. Great small vibe, and their Viognier and Zins are so good. On to Copain, which has some of the nicest views in the area. We finished up at Martinelli, which is a super-friendly tasting room. As I mentioned, the Pinot Noir highlight was Arista, and at each stop after that we would take a sip and declare, "Not Arista." We had dinner at Zazu, which I always love. Thanks to all who posted Russian River Pinot Noir tips!

            1 Reply
            1. re: redyoga

              Jumping in late to say that I love RRPNs too. Rochioli is my favorite, but we just returned from Auburge du Soleil where I ordered Romililly. I had never had it or heard of it, but it was wonderful. Rochioli, however, is not worth a visit, in my opinion. When we went one year, there was no pinot for sale at all.

            2. Stop by Skewis's tasting room in Healdsburg. They produce a number of single-vinyard RRV pinots.