What's White Burgundy like? Find Out for Less with Gary Farrell

Categories: Wine
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The View From Gary Farrell
According to William "Rusty" Gaffney, M.D., aka The Prince of Pinot, "Some consider Gary Farrell the father of Russian River Valley Pinot Noir." While Gary himself has long ago left the vineyard, the fog-shrouded winery he built with Bill Hambrecht is still producing premium wine, and seems to have managed this feat while going through a series of ownership changes more befitting cult wines than wineries.

Farrell himself sold the business to Allied Domecq, who sold it to Beam Wine Estates, which sold it to Ascentia Wine Estates which more recently sold it to Bill Price's Vincraft. Price and Vincraft take the long view, so we expect a steady future for the brand from here out and wanted to take a return look at what was once one of our favorite wines.

The Gary Farrell approach is a "Burgundian" one. In simple terms that means they focus on the wines of Burgundy, pinot noir and chardonnay.

Expert Tip: Regardless of the complexity of its label, if it's red wine, and it's from Burgundy, it's pinot noir. If it's white (aka white burgundy) it's chardonnay. A fun party trick is to pour white burgundy for someone who "won't drink chardonnay" and lord over them with your superior knowledge when they comment on how much they like it -- but we'd never do that, and you probably shouldn't either. Just keep the info to yourself and smile.

The "Burgundian" approach yields wines long on acid and generally intended for meaningful cellar time, not same-year drinking. The Gary Farrell 2008 Russian River Selection Chardonnay is a great example, but as it has enjoyed a significant amount of aging on the cellar clock, and the wine is approachable enough to drink now, it's a nice way to sample white burgundy without the massive investment the real thing requires.

Wine: Gary Farrell 2008 Chardonnay, Russian River Selection

Notes: Pale hay in color. Light lemon and butter in the nose with a hint of toast (from the barrel, not the bread). First sift is soft, almost warming (perhaps because this Chardonnay is 14.2% alcohol). Tastes initially run to delicate citrus and citrus pith, particularly of grapefruit. The acid is almost tangible, powdery, in the mouth. The sharpness, some would say angularity, of the wine from the pronounced acidity is your best indication this is built to age. Even now, with over three years under its cork, this wine is asking to be held aside for the future. Five years easily, ten years probably. Certainly enjoyable and educational to drink now, but it will be so much better later. If you want to get a view to the future, decant it, or save some to taste the next day.

 Seafood, sushi, firm cheese.

Sells For:
 $32 Drinks Like: A white burgundy (ie: $$$).
Where to score it: Jug Shop and Le Beau Nob Hill Market.

Contact Ben Narisin at sfoodieben@gmail.com . Follow us on Twitter: @sfoodieand like us on Facebook.

My Voice Nation Help

And if you really want to try wines that Gary Farrell actually has a hand in, you should try Alysian Wines.



I think it's clear from the second line, "While Gary himself has long ago left the vineyard" that I'm not covering Gary's work as a winemaker, but your recommendation is a good one.  Alysian has a few offerings at or below $40 so I will reach out to try the wines.


Flaunting one's lack of understanding of the wines from Burgundy to shill Gary Farrell is unbecoming of any wine professional.


The wine I picked from the line up holds up to many of the white Burgundies I have had - and surpasses others.  It's a perfect entry level, Burgundian "style" wine that can educate a palate that doesn't want to add a zero to their budget, and in that I've had plenty of wines that have that extra zero and still manage to disappoint, and my editor maintains a $40 limit on wines we cover, I stand by the recommendation.

I am, of course, more than open to recommendations of other wines that achieve the goal for the price.

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