Winery Showcase: Foppiano Vineyards

With 124 years in Sonoma County, Foppiano Vineyards has always been quintessential to the region.

The 200-acre property includes 120 acres of vineyards, bordering the Russian River. “We can speak ‘Russian River’ with our wines because we have been here since the beginning of the appellation,” says President and Vineyard Manager Paul Foppiano, who represents the fifth generation of family control.

Paul’s grandfather Louis J. Foppiano helped establish the Russian River AVA. In 1973, Louis J. was among the first winemakers to print “Russian River” on a bottle. Decades earlier he helped found the Wine Institute of California, and the Sonoma County Wine Growers Association, for which Louis J. was the first president.

Today, the winery remains known for its petite sirah. The current vintage, Foppiano Vineyards 2016 Estate Petite Sirah, retails for $24.99 per 750-ml. bottle. It’s a soft, rich wine, 100% varietal, with flavors of black cherry cola and jammy red fruit, plus chocolate and expresso notes. Time in oak has smoothed out the tannins very well.

“Petite sirah will always be our flagship as long as I have a say,” Foppiano says. “It will never be a front-line varietal like pinot noir, but can always have a great following and traction.”

“Petite Sirah will always be our flagship as long as I have a say,” says President and Vineyard Manager Paul Foppiano, who represents the fifth generation of family control.

Why such an older wine for the current vintage? “Petite sirah is such a big-tannic wine that you really have to work hard to soften those tannis,” Foppiano explains.

With those tannins, the varietal ages phenomenally in the bottle. Drinking a three-year vertical, the 2014 displayed an even softer, more-well-rounded palate not present yet in the 2015 or current vintage. And you can cellar for much longer.

“When petite sirah gets real old, like twenty-plus, it’s like drinking old Bordeauxs,” Foppiano says. “I would recommend ten to fifteen years, if cellared properly. I’d cellar it against any good cab from California.”

Elsewhere on the winery, Foppiano boasts some of the older sauvignon blanc vines in America. The result is minerality and ripe melon, plus a lovely citrus note. Foppiano Estate Sauvignon Blanc 2018 retails for $19.99.

Planted in the ‘80s, the winery’s chardonnay vines help produce ripe pear and citrus notes. Foppiano Estate Chardonnay (SRP: $24.99) aged mostly in used French barrels. This chard is less oaky and more balanced — overall, well integrated between varietal and oak.

The Foppiano Estate Pinot Noir ($34.99) has classic earthy, fruity, spice rack flavors and aromas. It’s the result of seven different clones across 45 acres, and is 100% pinot noir.

“I think you’re going to see a lot more wines that a varietally correct in the coming years than in the past,” Foppiano says. “The bulk market has collapsed. You can afford to buy pinot noir again.”

Vines for the Foppiano Estate Zinfadel ($27.99) went into the ground only a decade ago, but present a wine that tastes as though from older vines. The red fruit is balanced with just enough spice to carry through the palate wonderfully. Pair this with sausage, barbecue or any red sauce.

Planting zin was Foppiano’s idea. “We hadn’t had zin vines on our vineyard for more than 30 years,” he says. “It was a real pleasure to bring it back.”

Kyle Swartz is editor of Beverage Dynamics magazine. Reach him at or on Twitter @kswartzz. Read his recent piece How JJ’S Built an Experience-Based Retail Business.


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