Wine of the week: Olivet Lane Vineyard, 2015 Russian River Valley Chardonnay
When people ask Alexia Pellegrini how many years she has been in the wine industry, she quips: “18 to life.”
At 38, the fourth-generation vintner and general manager of the Santa Rosa wine company said her interest in wine began when she took her first viticulture class at Santa Rosa Junior College.
“Standing in a vineyard in Dry Creek on a field trip was where all the dots connected for me,” she said, “From working the earth in the vineyard to dragging hoses in the winery to designing packaging for bottling and opening those bottles to celebrate with friends.”
Pellegrini, along with winemaker Charlie Fauroat, are behind our wine of the week winner –– Pellegrini’s Olivet Lane Vineyard, 2015 Russian River Valley Sonoma County Chardonnay at $50.
What makes this chardonnay a standout is its complexity –– its layered flavors –– riding on a surf of crisp acidity. It has notes of apple, papaya, cedar and butterscotch. This chardonnay has a creamy texture, but it’s kept in check with bright acid. The impressive takeaway is the balance; every flavor is in perfect harmony.
“Our house style is minimal intervention,” Pellegrini said. “As my dad (Robert Pellegrini) would say, ‘No Frankenwine.’ That means no bags of chips or tannins. No extended maceration. No chaptalization” (adding sugar to unfermented grape must to increase alcohol content.)
Pellegrini earned her enology MBA in wine business at Sonoma State University in 2018, and she and winemaker Fauroat are the bookends at the winery, collaborating to produce a full slate of wines. Fauroat, 32, graduated in 2008 from SSU in wine business and marketing.
He joined Pellegrini in 2013 and has worked his way from cellar master to assistant winemaker to winemaker over five years.
What the uninitiated don’t realize, Pellegrini said, is chardonnay is a malleable grape for the duo’s creative play.
“Just like chicken, you can prepare it in a myriad of ways,” she said. “We made chardonnay from Olivet Lane in five ways last harvest - sparkling, unoaked, barrel fermented, late harvest and brandy made from chardonnay lees.”
Pellegrini credits the Olivet Lane Vineyard for the magic that comes out of it, and it’s not a secret to some of the most esteemed vintners in the business.
“We sell half of the fruit we grow for vineyard designate bottlings - William Selyem, Merry Edwards, Gary Farrell, MacRostie, Darioush,” Pellegrini said, adding that the vineyard’s fan club is thanks to the Olivet Lane terroir.
Wine Writer Peg Melnik can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 707-521-5310.