Wine of the week: Frei Brothers, 2013 Russian River Valley Chardonnay

Frei Brothers chardonnay is for budget-minded wine lovers looking for a bold taste.|

Michael Eddy never expected be a matchmaker, but now that he’s a winemaker he takes pride in it.

“There’s nothing more rewarding than finding those special relationships between grape and site that work,” he explained.

Gallo’s director of North Coast winemaking is behind our wine of the week winner - the Frei Brothers, 2013 Russian River Valley Chardonnay at $20.

This is a smart buy for budget-minded chardonnay lovers who find a bold version appealing. It has aromas and flavors of bright apple, toasty oak and butter. It’s rich and full-bodied, and it has a lingering finish. The wine is a great value for the caliber of the chardonnay.

Eddy said the wine’s $20 price tag is possible because Gallo owns many of the vineyards where the fruit is sourced.

The winemaker, who grew up in Southern California, began his foray into wine with beer. As a home brewer, he found the process of making beer fascinating. Wine later captivated him in the same way.

“The complexity of wine has always intrigued me,” Eddy said. “The idea of navigating all the steps it takes to bring out all the different flavors in a wine really appeals to me.”

Eddy earned his master’s degree at U.C. Davis in food science, specializing in Oenology. He discovered that tapping the potential of wine requires methodical precision, and playing matchmaker is key.

“In the past few years, Frei Brothers has worked collaboratively with viticulturists and growers to match grape to site for each of our wines,” Eddy said. “We grow our grapes in the places they grow best, and to us, that means Sonoma County.”

The Frei Brothers Chardonnay, for example, is grown entirely in the Russian River Valley. The cool climate and maritime influence delivers complex grapes with bright tropical and citrus flavors, as well as natural acidity, Eddy said.

The Frei Brothers brand is owned by E&J Gallo. Eddy said Gina Gallo, senior director of winemaking, is at the forefront of the big-picture winemaking.

“Gina is instrumental in spearheading new vineyard and winery innovations and helps guide our wine style at tastings.” Eddy said.

The late Walter and Louis Frei retired in the 1970s and sold their land and brand to the Gallo family.

Frei Brothers has become a poster child for Sonoma County, sourcing fruit exclusively from it. Bottlings are produced from fruit grown in the Russian River, Alexander and Dry Creek valleys. The brand touts its sustainability efforts, and Eddy said it pays off in the bottle.

Wine writer Peg Melnik can be reached at 707-521-5310 or

Peg Melnik

Wine, The Press Democrat

Northern California is cradled in vines; it’s Wine County at its best in America. My job is to help you make the most of this intriguing, agrarian patch of civilization by inviting you to partake in the wine culture – the events, the bottlings and the fun. This is a space to explore wine, what you care about or don’t know about yet.

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