Shortly after Liz and I started dating in San Francisco we found our shared love for wine and the experiences that could be had in the vineyards to the north. We would spend two or three weekends a month shooting up the 101 hitting as many wineries we could in an afternoon (our record is 8 near Kenwood in 3hrs). Soon we found a pattern of our favourite places to visit (which interestingly enough coincided with our favourite wines to taste). The most southern winery was our first stop in Sonoma –  Cline Cellars and then up the valley towards Healdsburg and Rabbit Ridge (when it was still on Westside) and Foppiano right outside of town. Somedays we would target the Russian River area and hit up one of the most delicious gems hidden in the picturesque pine forest – Topolos Vineyards and Winery.

Not only did we love this place for their splendid array of big juicy Zinfandels (our favorite varietal) but also because the way in which they farmed their land and produced such amazing wines. Michael and Jerry Topolos were one of the first during the 80’s in Sonoma (and California) to use biodynamic and sustainable farming practices exclusively while most others in Napa and Sonoma were rapidly adopting more industrialized (and harmful) methods. Topolos was sold in 2008 and is now Russian River Vineyards with the plan to augment the facilities while retaining the healthy farming practices of their legacy.

This 1997 Piner Heights Zinfandel was the bottom end of a vertical we had shipped to us as wine club members. These bottles have traveled with us from San Francisco to NY in most unfavorable conditions, so I was basically expecting vinegar to use on our salads. What luck! It was not only still alive, but in most fantastic condition…a little loss of the big blackberry jam that the Russian River Valley is famous for, but it was still well structured and a huge mouthful of yum. While 97′ was a historic vintage, I can’t wait to try the 98′ and 99′ to see how they compare. – J F Grossen, Chief Executive Oenophile (CEO)


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