Anywhere it is produced, Pinot Noir is a difficult varietal. At least in viticultural terms, it has been referred to as “the heartbreak grape,” and the work done by winemakers has been referred to as the “search for the Holy Grail.” The objective of Californian winemakers has been to create the ideal Pinot Noir or at least one that is as good as possible, for more than 50 years. Today, there are wineries in various regions of the state that have, so to say, taken Pinot Noir by the horns and produced some quite amazing outcomes. Here are some crucial Pinot Noir dates for the three most significant winegrowing regions in California: Sonoma Valley, Russian River Valley, and Central Coast.
1849: In this year, Frenchman Theophile Vache planted the original vines in the Central Coast wine region and was among the first people to cultivate Pinot Noir in California in 1860.
1850-1856: Within this period, Charles LeFranc, Colonel Agoston Haraszthy de Mokesa, and Frenchman Pierre Pellier were the first to transport Pinot Noir to California.
1883: In this year, in his vineyard, which is now a portion of the Kunde family’s winery grounds, John H. Drrummond was cultivating Pinot Noir. From the 1880s to the 1940s, Pinot was grown at the famed Fountaingrove winery. Even Swiss Colony, a former Italian tourist hotspot, sold it.
May 25th, 1931: On this day, Dr. David H. Bruce was born in San Francisco. Between the 1950s and 1970s, when the Santa Cruz Mountain wine industry was reviving, he founded David Bruce Winery. Bruce chose the location of his vineyard because it was close to Martin Ray and because he thought the region’s high elevation and mesoclimate would be ideal for producing the Burgundian wine varietals Pinot noir and Chardonnay. In 1966, David Bruce, M.D. established his name-brand winery and produced his first Pinot Noir for sale.
June 4th, 1934: On this day, Joe Rochioli Jr. was born. In the 1960s, together with Joseph Swan, Joe started making the first Pinot in the Russian River Valley wine region, ushering it into its current era of pinot Noir perfection. Joe Rochioli Jr. and the Russian River Valley are inextricably linked. Rochioli was raised on his family’s farm on Westside Road in Healdsburg, and other than for college and the Army, he never moved. He was both the local patriarch and an essential member of the Healdsburg community. He developed into a proud, diligent farmer who contributed to the Russian River Valley’s development as a top location for Pinot Noir.
September 14th, 1938: On this day, Cecil O. De Loach Jr was born. He is a California winemaker and grape producer who operates in the Russian River Valley AVA. He has helped Sonoma County’s viticulture gain recognition and respect. When De Loach paid about $60,000 for the 24-acre Barbieri Ranch at 2150 Olivet Road in Santa Rosa, California, he started cultivating grapes there. Itilo Barbieri had planted the Barbieri Ranch in 1905. Itilo’s son Louis sold the old Zinfandel vineyard to De Loach. On property he had purchased in 1969, he planted his first Pinot Noir in the Russian River Valley.
1942: In this year, Louis M. Martini bought 200 acres of the Stanly Ranch in Carneros, and together with Harold Olmo they experimented two varieties, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. UCD clones 12 and 15 for Pinot Noir and UCD clones 108 for Chardonnay were developed as a result of this research.
1953: In this year, Van der Kamp Vineyard started planting pinot noir, becoming the oldest pinot producer in Sonoma Valley. This enchanted area has a long history of excellent cultivation and is situated at an elevation of 1,500 feet on a bench of Sonoma Mountain that faces north. Native Americans in the area revered the location because they believed the world began at the summit of Sonoma Mountain. The Van der Kamp family has produced fine wine from this vineyard for more than 40 years. With current plantings dating back to 1952, this vineyard produces some of California’s oldest Pinot Noir. On the homestead, farming methods are designed to maximize biodiversity, and the products they grow provide enough food for the entire family.
1953: In Sonoma Valley, the Zellerbachs cultivated six acres of pinot noir, yielding the first batch of Hanzell Pinot Noir in 1957. The oldest continually producing vineyard of Pinot Noir (and Chardonnay) in California is a 4.04-acre block of Pinot Noir now known as Ambassador’s Vineyard.
1964: In this year, using budwood from the Wente brothers, the Bacigalupi family planted Pinot Noir on Westside Road in the Russian River Valley.
1971: In this year, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay were planted in the original Iron Horse Vineyard. The Sterling family acquired Iron Horse in the Russian River Valley’s Green Valley in the middle of the 1970s, and in 1979 they produced their first still Pinot Noir. Forrest Tanzer was the original winemaker and winegrower.
1982: In this year, Robert Stemmler’s first Pinot Noir was released, and it won more awards than any other Pinot Noir in America upon its initial release. Long before it became a well-known appellation, he was also the first to produce a Pinot Noir from the Sonoma Coast.
1996: In this year, in the first dual live-stream tasting in the United States, wine enthusiasts convened on two opposing coasts to taste Pinot Noir wines simultaneously. The dinner was sponsored by a group of sommeliers in Arroyo Grande, California by Brian Talley of Talley Vineyards. In the New York region, a group of sommeliers was hosted by Stephen D. Tanzer, editor and publisher of the bimonthly International Wine Cellar publication since 1985. For the simulcast, the tasting of Central Coast Pinot Noirs was recorded and shared with both parties.
2001: In this year, a small but devoted group of winemakers from California’s San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties founded The World of Pinot Noir in 2001. The purpose of the event was to draw tourists to San Luis Obispo County so they could sample the Central Coast Pinot Noir produced there. The winemakers used fruit from Arroyo Grande, the Edna Valley, the Santa Rita Hills, the Santa Maria Valley, and coastal vineyards in both Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo Counties to make their wine.