The mission of Carpenter is to make wines that speak to place rather than process. Starting in 2012, we produced Pinot Noir from a number of different sites in Russian River Valley and the Sonoma Coast. We sent those wines to barrel, tasting them over the next 10 months or so, and settled on the Old Road #3 Vineyard, owned and operated by the Flocchini family, as the sole source for our first vintage of Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir.
The Flocchini Ranch, 150 acres in total, was purchased by Frank Flocchini in 1918 and was a working dairy farm until 2002, when Andrew Flocchini and his brothers sold most of the property to Sonoma Land Trust and planted 30 acres of Syrah, Chardonnay, and Pinot Noir. Today, the Flocchini’s 16 acres of Pinot Noir are planted to five different clones: 337, Swan, La Tâche, Pommard, and 777. We have an evergreen handshake contract for 7-9 tons of Andrew’s fruit each year.
The Old Road #3 Vineyard starts in the foggy lowlands off Lakeville Highway, five miles north of the San Pablo Bay, and rolls up the foothills of the Sonoma Mountains. While we label our wines with the Sonoma Coast Appellation, Old Road #3 is actually in an overlap of the Sonoma Coast and Petaluma Gap Appellations, subject to cooling from the Pacific Ocean to the west and San Pablo Bay to the south. During the growing season, daily shifts of 50 degrees are not uncommon, along with wicked afternoon winds. Once part of the seabed, the soils here are sandy and clay loam, mixed with calcium, salt and other minerals.
The distinguishing virtues we look for in the wine made from the Old Road #3 Vineyard are balance and grace. Our aim is fully evolved varietal character and intense aromas which telegraph the terroir. We seek brightness and lift – a freshness – things for which a cool site are essential, things that make the Old Road #3 Vineyard ideal.
Our Chardonnay is sourced exclusively from the Gravel Bar Block of the Hawkes’ Stone Vineyard on Chalk Hill Road, planted by our family in 1972. The ranch is a tiny, self-contained valley at the border of the Alexander and Russian River Valleys, totaling about forty acres of vines. The ten acres of Chardonnay grow along Maacama Creek, a 7.4-mile-long tributary of the Russian River.
Fruit from this vineyard has gone into such fabled wines as the Grgich Hills Chardonnays of the 1970s, as well as over a dozen other bottlings that have put the Chalk Hill Region on the map and helped define a style of California Chardonnay based on balance rather than power.
The vineyard soils are various: hillsides made of compressed volcanic ash, clay, and round rock. The lowlands, where the Chardonnay grows, is mostly deep, sandy loam. In addition, the Gravel Bar Block is named for the remains of an extinct creek that cuts across the eastern half of the Chardonnay field. The soil break is invisible on the surface, but the effect on the vines is pronounced. The berries and bunches are smaller and ripen earlier, and the finished wine is a paradoxical combination of fruity and flinty flavors.
In 2009, we planted one acre of Sémillon next to our Chardonnay, right along the bank of Maacama Creek. This site at the border of Alexander Valley and Russian River Valley has a no-fail pedigree for producing white wines that reflect the unique, dual-appellation climate, as well as the ash-laden, mineral-rich soil.