Dana Epperson was raised in the heart of the Russian River Valley so it’s not surprising she knows how to craft a compelling point noir from the region.
“Picking the fruit at its optimum ripeness allows the terroir of the wine to shine through …” Epperson said.
The winemaker is behind our wine-of-the-week winner – the Migration, 2015 Dutton Ranch, Russian River Valley, Sonoma County Pinot Noir at $68. This is an impressive pinot noir that will turn heads because of its tangy red fruit coupled with edgy spice. These two forces make it a feisty pinot with a wild ride of aromas and flavors. It has notes of pomegranate, cranberry, raspberry and Asian spice. With bright acid and a spicy finish, this pinot is striking.
“Our style at Migration focuses on producing sophisticated wines, with abundant fruit, bright acidity and balance,” Epperson said. “If you’re not paying attention to all the details, it can quickly lose its sense of place …”
The winemaker said she endeavors to keep a steady eye on the finicky grape from the vine to the bottle.
“Every detail makes such a big impact, from choosing the ideal growing site, to maintaining vine balance and low yields, to managing the fermentation closely and to selecting barrels that will lift the fruit without overwhelming the nose and the palate,” Epperson said.
When crafting pinot, it’s the unknown variable that captivates this winemaker, the constant tinkering and the endless thought that goes into making it.
“I love experimenting with new ideas, and I have gained a wide range of experience over the years through trial and error,” Epperson said. “I can safely say that no winemaker can be sure just how any given wine will turn out, and this is what makes winemaking so exciting.”
Epperson, 33, graduated with a degree in Food Science from Cal Poly in 2006. Her credits at other California wineries include Ferrari-Carano, Edna Valley Vineyards and Artesa Vineyards. She joined Duckhorn Wine Company in 2014 and in the spring of 2017 she became the winemaker for its Migration brand.
The winemaker said the most confounding part of crafting pinot noir is keeping her fingerprints off the wine.
“Having restraint is the most challenging part of pinot noir winemaking — knowing when to be hands-on and hands-off,” Epperson said. “How these decisions are made can change the final expression of the wine.”
Wine writer Peg Melnik can be reached at 707-521-5310 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
Migration, 2015 Dutton Ranch, Russian River Valley, Sonoma County Pinot Noir, 14.1% alcohol, $68. ★★★★1/2
This is an impressive pinot noir that will turn heads because of its tangy red fruit coupled with edgy spice. These two forces make it a feisty pinot with a wild ride of aromas and flavors. It has notes of pomegranate, cranberry, raspberry and Asian spice. With bright acid, this pinot has great balance and a spicy finish. It’s striking.
Gary Farrell, 2015 Russian River Valley, Sonoma County Pinot Noir, 13.9%, $45. ★★★★: This pinot is weighted to red with notes of wild strawberry, raspberry and pomegranate. Best of all it’s layered with spice from nutmeg to cinnamon to dried clove. It’s pretty and it has a nice price-point for budget-minded pinot fanatics.
Davis Bynum, 2015 Dijon Clone 667 Jane’s Vineyard, Russian River Valley Sonoma County Pinot Noir, 14.5%, $55. ★★★★: What sets this pinot apart is its earthiness coupled with its bright fruit. With notes of leather, mushroom and forest floor, this pinot plays well with its feisty fruit flavors of cherry and pomegranate. Nice length. Smart.
Merry Edwards, 2015 Klopp Ranch, Russian River Valley Pinot Noir, 14.5%, $66. ★★★★: This is a complex pinot with layered notes of raspberry, Bing cherry, toast and cola. But what makes it a standout is its supple texture and its lush, lingering finish. Gorgeous.
MacRostie, 2015 Thale’s Vineyard, Russian River Valley Pinot Noir, 14.3%, $56. ★★★★: This is a full-bodied pinot with notes of black cherry, blueberry and toast. It’s buoyed by crisp acid with plenty of upfront, generous fruit. Impressive.