Napa Natives Come Together to Fund Relief
Last Monday, winemaker Ric Forman and his wife Cheryl — who live in the hills above St. Helena — decided it was best to evacuate, given the proximity of the Atlas Peak and Tubbs fires. Like so many others, they took important documents, family jewelry and a few precious belongings, unsure what would happen to their home, vineyards and winery. Thankfully, two days ago, they were able to return to a home unscathed. Then, more good news. Their source for Pinot Noir on Atlas Peak — incredibly — had survived. Thankful for the First Responders and thousands of fire-fighters working around the clock, but keenly aware of those who were not as fortunate — Ric and Cheryl wanted to help. They reached out to Wine Access to offer another allocation of their 2015 Rossi Wallace Pinot Noir (made with fruit from that Atlas Peak vineyard). For each bottle purchased, we’ll make a $5 donation to The Napa Valley Community Disaster Relief Fund and the Formans will also donate $5 per bottle.
Read on to learn about this wine, but please consider hitting “Buy” and joining us in providing much-needed support to the long-term relief and recovery of our beloved wine country.
In 1990, Ric Forman crafted one of the most talked-about Pinot Noirs of its time. Robert Parker, who cemented Forman’s status as “Napa Valley’s first superstar winemaker,” famously compared that wine to “a cousin with initials DRC!” As in Domaine de la Romanée-Conti. Fast-forward 25 years, Forman has crafted one of the most extraordinary wild-berry American Pinot Noirs — at any price — of 2015. Antonio Galloni rated it 92 points, enthusing that the “2015 Pinot Noir from Rossi-Wallace is especially fine this year.”
Ric Forman has always marched to the beat of his own drum. Way back in the late 1970s, Forman built a cult following for Stony Hill, turning out exquisite, high-toned Chardonnays and Rieslings. Then it was on to Sterling, where Forman almost single-handedly lifted the winery out of the doldrums with his bold, finely structured Cabernet Sauvignons. The story was much the same at Newton, Villa Mount Eden, and Inglenook. But it really wasn’t until Forman hung out his own shingle that he began receiving the accolades he’d long deserved.
Like many great winemakers, Ric has what one might call a photographic olfactory memory. All the way back in the fall of 1990, he’d worked with a few tons of small-berry bunches drawn from Piero Antinori’s Atlas Peak, crafting one of the most talked-about Pinot Noirs of its time, a bottle that Robert Parker famously compared “to a cousin with initials DRC” — as in Domaine de la Romanée-Conti! Twenty-three years later, Forman called Antinori asking for a second shot.
The exquisite purity of Antinori’s Atlas Peak Pinot Noir stems from the large diurnal temperature shifts over the summer months. In 2015, daytime highs crept into the 90s, while nighttime lows dipped into the low 50s. The rugged volcanic slopes eked out just a couple tons per acre. Berry size was small, no larger than the tip of your little finger. In the fourth consecutive drought year in the valley, the call to harvest came early as sugars started to soar. Despite the extreme ripeness, acids remained firm.
The 2015 season was impossibly short for growers all over California. Even more so for those at higher elevations. But Forman saw an opportunity, turning to two top growers in Sonoma and Monterey (under NDAs) to bump his production to 35 barrels. The combination of Antinori’s Atlas Peak vineyard with carefully selected sites in the cooler Sonoma and Monterey regions were extraordinary.