River Road Family Vineyards and Winery

River Road Vineyards

About

River Road Family Vineyards and Winery is a family owned and operated winery committed to producing exceptional wines. Our wines are sourced from both estate-owned and local family-owned vineyards to bring you a beautiful experience that expresses the unique character of the varietals, vineyards and people behind the wines.

Location Description

Located in Green Valley of Russian River Valley, a sub-appellation of Russian River Valley in Sonoma County.

Features

  • Vibrant and food-friendly, our wines are ideal for everyday enjoyment.

Additional Information

  • Meeting / Conference Facilities:
  • Caves:
  • Wedding Facilities:
  • Picnic Facilities:
  • Dog Friendly:
  • Winery Tours:
  • Wine Tasting:
  • Art or Architecture:
  • Organic / Biodynamic:
  • Awards:
  • Wine Club:
  • Lodging / Bed & Breakfast:

Winemaker

Joe Freeman at River Road Family Vineyards and Winery in Green Valley of Russian River Valley, California, has been involved in the production of Russian River Valley wines since 1997. After a childhood in Wisconsin and Minnesota and a pit-stop in the mountains of Colorado, he arrived in Santa Rosa, California with a desire to find a career that could utilize his training and interest in chemistry, biology and horticulture. Winemaking was the perfect fit for Joe.

Initial employment at Associated Vintage Group, in Graton, provided wide exposure to many aspects of wine production. Laboratory analysis, bottling, and cellar and crush operations were all part of the mix over those first three years. An "old school" approach was experienced at Martini and Prati Winery, outside of Santa Rosa, with its concrete fermentation vats and redwood storage tanks. Time spent at facilities in Graton and Hopland provided access to modern techniques and equipment.

In 2000, Joe was hired as Associate Winemaker at Taft Street Winery, in Sebastopol, and worked with many top Sonoma County winemakers who were making their wines at Taft Street. Joe began working with River Road Family Vineyards and Winery at this time, a client of Taft Street's which had planted a new vineyard in the Green Valley of Russian River Valley and was building a winery.

In 2004, the winery was complete, and Joe was hired by River Road Family Vineyards and Winery as their winemaker. A mid-sized family winery, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are the primary focus, with additional production of Pinot Meunier and Zinfandel. Working with the wonderful diversity of Sonoma County grapes and appellations provides him with continual creative challenges and drinkable rewards!

Joe lives in Santa Rosa with his wife Allison and dog Dylan. They love camping, biking, traveling, and spending time with friends and family.

History

Since 1976, quality has always been a top priority in our wines and vineyards. Our dedicated winemaking team, led by winemaker Joe Freeman, carries out this tradition with a winemaking philosophy that offers a balance of passion and precision. Joe's approach has spearheaded our commitment to delivering the highest quality of wines at a great value.

The Team

Ed Morris, Assistant Winemaker | Cooper
Ed Morris comes from a long line of craftsmen: his great-grandfather was a violin builder by trade, his grandfather was a clock maker, and his father is a carpenter. Growing up in the Russian River Valley, and attending high school in Forestville, he planned to attend Santa Rosa Junior College after graduation. A summer job at a custom cooperage, however, changed everything.

Ed began working at ReCoop during the summer of 1999 and never looked back. During his time, he worked with trained master coopers of the first French coopers who had come to California. Ed quickly became infatuated with barrel building; within three to four years, he was building his own. He set up a shop in his garage, and began manufacturing small barrels for home winemakers, as well as incorporating with ReCoop, in order to officially start a line of smaller barrels.

In 2005, Ed became the production manager, working closely with well-respected winemakers, such as Jeff Hinchcliff at Hanna Winery and Greg La Follette (who was working on his own wine as well as wine for DeLoach Vineyards). This allowed him to do some experimental processes on barrels. During this time, Ed was also taking classes at SRJC and UC Davis, in order to further his education about wine. He started making beer at home and found that he began to experience a personal evolution toward beverage making.

In 2010 when Ed was hired as a crew member, to work in the cellar at River Road Family Vineyards and Winery. In early 2011, Ed became Joe Freeman’s assistant winemaker. Ed’s coopering background does add extra value to his role at River Road. As the Assistant Winemaker, he takes the heads from barrels, and has also done some insert installation. He’s even done some barrel repair, when needed. He’s helped to refine the barrel program, and has been able to use some techniques on barrels that the winery would otherwise have to outsource. He adds value to the wines by finding the best barrels for the programs; barrels that are particularly well-suited to Russian River Valley grapes. He is also able to identify the char of the barrels and the toasts that are available. Ed’s cooperage experience is incredibly valuable to the winemaking team at River Road.

As a native of this area, Ed loves to live and work where he grew up, feeling that this part of California is where his heart is. He resides in Sebastopol .

Jim Pratt, Vineyard Manager of Cornerstone Certified Vineyards, has been working as a wine grape grower of the stars for nearly 30 years. He is also a veteran of the grapevine nursery business. In 1995, Jim Pratt bought what he would later call the "Pratt Vineyard," after a career working with Rich Kunde at Sonoma Grapevines (a Santa Rosa-based nursery no longer in business).

Today, in addition to his own vineyard, he owns, leases, or manages over 200 acres of wine grapes in the Russian River Valley and Sonoma Coast AVAs, including the River Road Family Vineyards and Winery property.

According to wine writer Virginie Boone, in a story for the Santa Rosa Press Democrat, "And so it went through the years, with Pratt becoming one of the more sought-after vineyard managers and growers."

At River Road Family Vineyards and Winery, Jim offers meticulous management skills for our world class wine grapes, guidance with all of our vineyard management duties, advice about rootstock and budwood cuttings, as well as recommendations with existing and future vineyard plantings. His farming philosophy is to give the customer the best product possible, respect his crew and neighbors, and to remember that his vineyard is a reflection of who he is. (An avid diver, Jim's favorite wine and food pairing is Pinot Noir and abalone. On the philanthropic side, he enjoys donating the fruits of his diving labor to different charitable auctions.)

Jim Pratt explains River Road Family Vineyards and Winery's Gold Ridge Sandy Loam soil: it's unique to this winery's area in Green Valley, beginning from just north of Forestville and Petaluma and going up to Sebastopol. Hundreds of thousands of years ago it was under the sea as part of the Pacific Ocean. When the Pacific receded, it left great soil: sandstone, down about anywhere from about five to nine feet, with a sandy loam soil on top. So what we have is a moderate clay layer that's permeable to water. This gives us outstanding drainage, with the sandy loam on top. This is good nutrient content, but not so much that it dictates the vigor of the vine. This way the wine maker and grape grower can actually work together with the soil, take what it gives, and then add this Russian River area climate. We have the best of both worlds; we have great soil and outstanding climate. This gives us a perfect terroir... It also makes for the perfect opportunity to grow exceptional wine, and that's what we have at River Road Family Vineyards and Winery.

Practices & Techniques

There is a great diversity of locations from which we bring in grapes, including the Russian River Valley and Green Valley. I’ve worked with fruit from both locations for many years. I find Russian River fruit to have warm spices inherent in the grapes, and the fruit profiles can range from pie cherry to red raspberry. The Russian River Valley contains many different soil types and fog penetration areas. My goal is to create wines that are what people expect a Russian River Pinot Noir to be.

I first worked with Green Valley fruit from the 2003 vintage. It’s a unique appellation and the fruit expresses itself completely differently in terms of the way the acids are expressed, the tannic structure, and the life span of the wines in barrels. The Green Valley wines like to be left alone in the barrels for a much longer time than the wines from the Russian River Valley.
I strive to maintain the clarity of fruit that exists in the grapes.

My approach with Chardonnay is to deliver a wine that’s fruit driven and balanced. I think it’s an underappreciated variety. I’ve heard people call it “transparent,” and though it’s true that a winemaker can affect it more than other grapes through aging and fermentation protocols, I really think it’s interesting to see the different fruit characteristics that come out of different vineyards and regions. We try to really dial in on the tropical and citrus fruits, with our efforts focused on adding layers to the wine that will complement those flavors.

When I work with Pinot Noir, I consider the site and clones it came from, as well as the type of wine that Pinot Noir wants to be. Pinot Noir has different fruit expressions. Structurally, some Pinot tends to be delicate and feminine, so that’s the type of approach I take. With Pinot from other locations, I see a darker, more powerful fruit profile. With those, I want to give them a more complementary structure by using a higher percentage of new barrels and more extractive fermentation techniques. I try not to amplify the differences in the types of fruit that are present. I want to be respectful of the underlying structure and textural characteristics of the wines.

When it comes to fermentation, we don’t have a single style. We do some open top fermenting, closed top fermenting, punch downs, and gentle pump-overs. I usually cold soak the Pinot Noir, in order to start with extraction on the front end. We generally press the wines just prior to dryness, in order to minimize any seed tannin extract. We like to use all of these approaches. Frankly, nothing is more valuable than having a range (structurally and stylistically) of different wines, when it’s time to blend.

I view our growers as true collaborators. We’ve worked with many of them for over a decade, and they’re the people that we know who want to give us the best fruit possible from their sites. My skills are related to taking the grapes that have been brought in, fermenting them, and bringing out the most from them. I shepherd them through the aging process and then blend them. I look for the grower to be a partner who is giving me a very honest effort and who can communicate his challenges, so that we can brainstorm ways to do things differently, if necessary. We also look for sustainable farming operations, because sustainability is very important to us. We want to know they’ll be able to farm that site for many years to come.

As a winemaker, my inspiration is mostly internal. Deep down, I live in my own head quite a bit. I don’t like to draw comparisons between what I taste and what I’ve tasted in the past. I check myself against an internal sensor; I judge against a personal vision that I have. At the end of the day, I have to like the wine I make. Regardless of the wine I’m producing, I don’t want to impose myself as a blanket over the grapes, smothering them, and making them generic. All that matters is to create a beautiful experience with our wines."

Joe Freeman, Winemaker.

Estate Vineyards / AVA

Sonoma County Series Vineyards

We grow and source our grapes from vineyards throughout the diverse environments of Sonoma County, an area with a truly amazing variety of growing conditions which allow us to craft premium wines with complex flavor palates and aromas. Grapes from vineyards in Alexander Valley, Dry Creek Valley, and the warmer locations of Russian River Valley allow us to produce approachable, fruit-forward wines perfect for everyday enjoyment.

Reserve Series Vineyards

For our Reserve Wines, the grapes are sourced from vineyards located located throughout the Russian River Valley, from the Santa Rosa Plain to the river benches along the Middle Reach of the river. Our Reserve wines highlight the core characteristics of the Russian River Valley, providing a wonderful balance of acidity, bright fruit, and textural richness.

Family Series Vineyards

We partner with established, family-owned vineyards to select the finest grapes from the well renowned appellations of Russian River Valley and Green Valley of Russian River Valley. These grapes are selected for their ability to produce wines of tremendous depth and style, speak truly of their origin, and distinguish themselves with their premium quality and consistency.

Awards

90 Point score from Beverage Dynamics Magazine - 2012 Sonoma County Chardonnay

Best of Class & Double Gold at 2013 Sonoma County Harvest Fair Wine Competition - 2012 Sonoma County Chardonnay

93 Points/Gold Medal - 2013 Press Democrat North Coast Wine Challenge - Russian River Valley 2012 Rosé of Pinot Noir

Gold Medal - San Diego International Wine Competition - 2011 Sonoma County Un-Oaked Chardonnay (Stelvin twist-off). Learn More

BEST VALUE WINERY 2012-13 Sommelier Challenge International Wine Competition. Learn More

Gold Medal - 2012 Sommelier Challenge International Wine Competition - 2011 Russian River Valley Boschetti Vineyard Pinot Noir

Gold Medal - 2012 Sommelier Challenge International Wine Competition - 2011 Sonoma County Pinot Noir

Gold Medal - 2012 Sommelier Challenge International Wine Competition - 2011 Russian River Valley Reserve Pinot Noir

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Hours

By appointment only.

Address

5220 Ross Road
Sebastopol, California 95472
United States

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