By: Sarah Covey | K&L Staff Member
Dehlinger Winery, founded in 1975 by UC Davis trained oenologist Tom Dehlinger and his wife Carole, is located in the heart of 90 acres on a ridge of red gravelly soil in Sonoma County's cool Russian River Valley. Dehlinger planted the initial 14 acres of the vineyard himself, continuing the planting through 1989; the first vintages were made from purchased Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Zinfandel grapes from other Sonoma County vineyards.
The Altamont and Gold Ridge soils here are very special. From the start, Dehlinger has focused on producing small amounts of hand-worked, barrel-aged wines in a manner that extracts, develops, and preserves the maximum flavor from the grapes in order to best express these unique soils. Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Syrah, and Cabernet Sauvignon are the primary grapes planted on 45 acres today; Eva Dehlinger, one of the two Dehlinger daughters involved in the family business who works alongside her father in winery operations, would like to see their own Zinfandel planted in the near future.
We had a lovely tour with Eva Dehlinger at the end of a long day. She took us out into the red soil of the vineyards and talked with us about how she became involved in the family business. Eva told us that she joined the family business in part because of her deep love of Sonoma County and also because of her appreciation for the winemaking heritage of her family. The work she does suits her, she says, as it requires diverse skills, working with a broad range of people, and gives her constant puzzles to solve. Dehlinger is a family-operated business, and it has been an honor for her to take part in a project that spans almost four decades. Tom has been a great inspiration for Eva in his unending commitment to the quality of their wine, his insatiable curiosity, his attention to detail, and his ability to have a personal relationship with each and every small lot of wine they make. Eva has tried to incorporate those values into all aspects of her own work at the winery and in the vineyard.
When asked what Eva sees as the future for the business and her role in shaping that future, she shared that even in an established company with the advantages of experience and reputation that Dehlinger has, there is always more to do. She and her sister Carmen have many dreams for leading the company into the future. They are in the process of replanting their vineyard, improving services for the many people who have followed their wines over the years, and making important infrastructural improvements to the property. Her hope for now and for the future is that people appreciate the amount of thought and care that goes into the entire process of making their wines; she assures us their work is truly a labor of love.
Eva tasted us on several vintages from barrel, as well as an interesting recent project- a brandy made in conjunction with distiller Germain Robin! After one harvest where there was plentiful Pinot Noir, they decided to make the wine, and then experiment and see what distillation would do to their Pinot Noir- a one-time bottling of Dehlinger-Germain Robin Brandy. Fun!
We tasted the upcoming 2011 Chardonnay vintage from barrel, and we were delighted by it! It went through 100% malolactic fermentation, and has an apple, butter, pretty citrus, almost botrytised nose. Gorgeous! Try the 2009 Dehlinger Estate Russian River Chardonnay which we have in stock now to get an idea of how much attention is paid to small lots of wine they produce. Keep your eyes out, too for some of our Old & Rare single bottles that come into stock with us, as well as Auction Lots of Dehlinger wines.
As Eva Dehlinger expressed so passionately, the care they take to hand-craft each wine is apparent in every bottle.
Sarah C. Covey, WSET Certified
Wine Sales Professional