This week, Slow Living Radio brings to life the lesser known wine region of Rutherford, right in the heart of the Napa Valley. Hear the story of some of the winemakers and a chef who has made the locale his home to cook among the vineyards.
Dedicated to encouraging and promoting the highest quality standards in grape growing and winemaking in the Rutherford Viticultural Area, the Rutherford Dust Society's mission is to help wine lovers and the wine trade discover Rutherford's unique expression.
The Rutherford Dust Society was founded in 1994 by growers and vintners in tribute to the legacy of our grape growing and winemaking forebears.
Since the late 19th century, the growers and vintners of Rutherford have played a significant role in the development of Napa Valley as a world-class winegrowing region.
The late, revered winemaker André Tchelistcheff said: "It takes Rutherford dust to grow great Cabernet." What we now fondly refer to as "Rutherford dust" has come to reflect an enduring commitment to quality, a spirit of achievement and a deep connection to Rutherford's soil – as opposed to any sensory component in the appellation's wines.
|Andy Beckstoffer and André Tchelistcheff, 1989|
Rutherford Dust Restoration Team (RDRT or "our dirt")
In 2002, the Rutherford Dust Society Board of Directors voted unanimously to empower a subcommittee, the Rutherford Dust Restoration Team (RDRT or "our dirt"), to initiate a plan to manage and restore the river. The sub-committee is co-chaired by John Williams, of Frog's Leap Winery, and Davie Pina, owner Pina Vineyard Management, LLC, also a Rutherford Dust Society Board member.
About Rutherford Appellation Wines
Since its earliest days, Rutherford's growers and vintners have been committed to quality. Today, they maintain the spirit of Rutherford's proud history through their commitment to build upon this standard. This attitude toward quality is the driving force behind the vineyards and wines of this distinguished district.
The Rutherford Viticultural Area is approximately 6 square miles, beginning just south of Cakebread Cellars and BV Vineyard #2 along Highway 29. It ends at Zinfandel Lane, 3.3 miles to the north, and stretches across the valley 2 miles at its widest point from Mt. St. John on the West to the Vaca Mountain Range on the East.
Soils from three alluvial fans are primarily gravelly, sandy and loamy. The fans are formed from shattered, well-bedded sandstone, and their deposits are high in gravels. Deep and well-drained, the fans have pockets that allow runoff to easily flow to the streams and Napa River. Rutherford soils are dominated by the Franciscan marine sedimentary materials with some volcanic deposits (primarily Bale, Pleasanton and Yolo loams).
One of the more unusual aspects about Rutherford is that it has a higher radiant value than other parts of Napa Valley. Because the area is located at Napa Valley's widest point, it spends more time in the sun. University of California, Davis categorizes Rutherford as a Region II, with over 3,000-degree days during the growing season.
Warm summer days ripen Rutherford grapes, giving way to cool evenings. An average summer day may drop 12 degrees (F) immediately after sunset. This fluctuation allows the fruit to ripen at a steady pace; temperatures north and south of Rutherford can vary as much as 10 degrees. Rutherford has an average rainfall of 26-36 inches per year. Although typically mild, spring can bring freezing temperatures at night during March and April.
Although bordered on the West and East by two mountain ranges, the Rutherford Viticultural Area does not extend above 500 feet in elevation. Regardless, the elevation is quite pronounced. Vineyards creep up the nearby hillsides from the Napa River in the center of the appellation, which lies just 172 feet above sea level.
Rutherford offers a multitude of microclimates and soil types for vintners and growers. Nevertheless, wines produced from the grapes grown here reflect a distinct Rutherford character.
”André Tchelistcheff, a Russian-born immigrant with a thick accent, and John Daniel, a strong-willed heir to the Inglenook estate, are two of the most important 20th century personalities that helped shape the course of Napa Valley Cabernet winemaking.”
James Laube, Wine Spectator, February 29, 2000
Alpha Omega Winery
Alpha Omega Winery
Alpha Omega is located in legendary Rutherford in the heart of Napa Valley and is one of Napa’s newest boutique wineries. Surrounded by vineyards and mountains, the beauty of this rustic, farm-style winery is as captivating as its wine.
Alpha Omega’s extraordinary winemakers, along with historic vineyards, combine to create wines that express the essence of this famous wine region. Talented winemaker, Jean Hoefliger, has teamed up with one of the world’s finest palates, Michel Rolland, to create wines that express their passion for excellence as well as the unique terroir that is Napa Valley. By procuring prized grapes from the many appellations of Napa Valley, our winemakers blend the essence of exceptional terroir ranging from valley floor, hillside, mountain and coast. Using natural techniques, they handcraft finesse-driven, complex and balanced wines, which express the aromatic profile of the best Napa Valley has to offer.
Hoefliger and Rolland’s combined award-winning winemaking techniques create elegant, approachable and perfectly balanced wines of the highest quality through blending the best of Old World and New World wine styles. A gifted young winemaker and a master winemaker are discovering together the excitement of creating world-class wine from world-class grapes in world-class terroir for Alpha Omega.
Round Pond Estate
For more than a century, Napa Valley’s Rutherford region has been recognized for producing wines of rare depth and complexity, most notably rich and expressive Cabernet Sauvignon. At Round Pond they pay tribute to the personality of the estate vineyards by crafting wines that reflect the charm and sophistication of this extraordinary appellation. Made from select blocks of our best estate fruit, their wines embody the essence of a terroir-inspired, Californian winemaking philosophy.
From the commitment to vine balance to gentle winemaking approach, the wines of Round Pond Estate benefit from loving attention that includes small lot fermentation and patient aging. In the vineyard they harvest at peak ripeness, hand sorting and destemming the fruit before applying a gentle press and cold soak. In order to extract rich colors, aromas and flavors, they emphasize extended maceration of the grapes. Alongside these artisan techniques Round Pond also employ cutting-edge technology, like custom-built fermentors, which continuously regulate temperature to within a fraction of a degree ensuring control and quality. Adding additional layers of depth and nuance, the barrel-aging program utilizes the very finest French oak coopers.
Ripened in the rich soils of Rutherford, California, the imported Mediterranean olive trees of Round Pond Estate bestow upon fruit of extraordinary purity, flavor and character. Each of the four estate olive oils is crafted from a meticulous selection of hand-harvested olives using signature pressing methods, which combine traditional stone mill techniques with state-of-the-art technology. Master blending in small lots, and bottling only on demand ensures that each gourmet olive oil is delivered to customers at the height of vibrant freshness. Round Pond also have released three new, complementary herb infused oils, made from the very finest California extra virgin olive oil and hand blended at the Estate.
Chef, Alex Italian Restaurant, Rutherford
A native of the Napa Valley, Chef Nick Ritchie began his culinary career in the Tra Vigne kitchen in 1994 under Chef Michael Chiarello and Chef de Cuisine Carmen Quagliata. Nick completed his Associates Degree in Culinary Arts at the CIA Hyde Park, NY as well as an internship at Sazerac in Seattle, WA with Chef Jan Birnbaum.
In 2001 after completing his degree, Nick traveled to Lombardia, Italy working for one year at La Campagnola di Salo on Lago di Garda. Upon his return to the United States, Nick worked under Chef Quagliata once again at The Vault, in Boston, MA. In 2003, Nick began working as a sous chef for Chef Kevin Davis at The Oceanaire Seafood Room, Seattle, WA.
To round out his time in the Seattle area he worked for Chef Daisley Gordon at Campagne and Café Campagne. Nick returned to the Napa Valley in 2006 to take the Chef de Cuisine position for Michael Chiarello's NapaStyle and in 2008 moved on to open Bottega where he received many accolades as Chef de Cuisine, including a Rising Star Chef in 2009.
In May of 2011 Chef Ritchie departed from Bottega and is very excited to be the Executive Chef of Alex Italian Restaurant here in beautiful Rutherford, CA