A former journalist for the San Francisco Chronicle, Davis Bynum is considered one of the original icons of the Russian River Valley. In the 1970s, it was really just him, the Rochiolis and the Bacigulupis on Westside Road. He had started out with home winemaking but it was not until 1965, at the age of forty, that he decided to make wine professionally. In 1973, he and his wife, Dorothy moved to an 83 acre property on Westside Road, just south of Healdsburg. Later that year, he made the first ever single-vineyard-designated Pinot Noir from Russian River Valley with grapes purchased from their neighbour, Rochioli Vineyards. In 1978, Bynum hired Gary Farrell to take over winemaking. Long before it was fashionable, Bynum advocated for protecting the environment and farming organically, promoting the Russian River as a premier winegrowing region. In 2007, at the ripe age of 82, he sold to Tom Klein of Rodney Strong Vineyards. Greg Morthole, current winemaker, took on the role in 2010. For the Russian River Valley Pinot Noir, grapes are sourced from the warmer Santa Rosa Plains with its clay-rich soils underlain by volcanic ash, from the warm Middle Reach neighbourhood with low pH soil, and the much cooler Green Valley with its Goldridge sandy loam soils. The River West vineyard is also located in the Middle Reach and is home to 87 acres of Chardonnay in total, consisting of six different clones on two types of soil. The terrain is gently sloping, with well-drained Yolo sandy loam soils interspersed with very gravelly Cortina soils. The subsoil is deep alluvial gravels extending down several feet. These deep gravels have little fertility. Additionally a select piece from the hillside vineyard in the Petaluma Gap, within view of San Pablo Bay, adds racy acidity and briary fruit to the blend. Grapes are harvested at night (cooler temperatures mean happier workers, the grapes themselves have stable sugar levels in the evening, and harvesting grapes when they are already cool means less energy chilling them before they are crushed). Wild yeasts are employed for fermentation for greater complexity and, they believe, a more interesting, genuine expression of the terroir. In keeping with Bynum’s “hands-off” winemaking philosophy, Davis Bynum wines are unfiltered, bottled along with their natural sediments, yeast and bacteria after a careful racking process.
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