Last October we attended a wonderful event, Pinot on the River, on the town square in Healdsburg. It is a Pinot Noir lover’s dream, featuring over 100 of Sonoma’s best Pinot producers. As you’d expect, we tasted some amazing wine and met some outstanding winemakers.
As the afternoon crowd dwindles towards the end of the event, the buzz begins from those in the know. Some of the loudest buzz was around Bucher Vineyard, a 38 acre vineyard in the Russian River Valley, not far from Healdsburg. Single vineyard designated Bucher Vineyard Pinot Noirs have been created by some of the most renown Sonoma vintners, including Williams Selyem, Siduri Wines, Papapietro Perry, Arista, Holdredge, C. Donatiello Winery, and Thralls Family Cellars.
While I was familiar with the vineyard name and the wines made by other producers, the buzz was actually about the wines under the new Bucher Vineyard label. So we had to check them out. I must say they were indeed buzz-worthy. Just a day later we spent a few relaxing hours with John and Diane Bucher at their home on their 360 acre ranch which includes the vineyard and a 700 head organic dairy farm.
John’s parents, immigrants from Switzerland, purchased the acreage in the 1950’s to create a dairy farm. Interestingly, there were vineyards on the property, but they were torn out to make room for the dairy operation. John began running the farm after his graduation from UC Davis in 1984. Vineyard planting began in 1997 and now includes a section aptly named the 360 vineyard, a respectful nod to the original vineyard removed in the ’50’s. Winemaker Adam Lee of Siduru says the location “makes the wines a bit different and unique from their neighbors just south” on Westside Road in the Russian River Valley. Thralls Family Wines owner and winemaker, Ed Thralls states, “John is a meticulous farmer who understands wine growing, Pinot Noir and is willing to work with winemakers to grow the highest-quality fruit possible.”
Our visit to Bucher Vineyards was reminiscent of our first visits to Sonoma in the early 1980’s. No fancy tasting room…actually, no tasting room at all. We drove along the dairy farm fence and up a short climb to the Bucher’s ranch style house where we were met by John and Diane. Both are warm and friendly. Since the weather was ideal we began our tasting and tour on their back patio with an expansive view across the Russian River Valley.
I was very interested in seeing the Bucher’s acclaimed vineyard, so we jumped in their vehicle and took a short ride across the property. The first thing I noticed was that different blocks in the vineyard were planted at different angles and in different directions. John explained that this was done so that each block could take advantage of the soils, hillside and sun orientation. Special care was taken to choose the right Pinot Noir clone for each panting. Diane Bucher explained, “Our 40 acres of vineyard are comprised of a variety of clones, root stocks, terrain, soil types and row directions. No cookie cutter vineyard management here.” Adam Lee offers that much of the Russian River valley is flat space including old river bed areas “but the type of hills that Bucher has are special.”
Parts of the dairy farm are visible from the vineyard, making a compelling contrast. There is a definite separation, however. While Bucher vineyard employs any number of organic and sustainable farming techniques, the vineyard is not certified organic. Therefore a defined distance must separate the vineyard from the certified organic dairy farm so nothing will endanger the dairy operation’s organic status.
We returned to the Bucher’s patio to taste the wines. Read reviews of these outsanding here. The wines are made by Adam Lee of Siduri at the direction of John and Diane. When asked about the difference between Bucher Vineyard Pinot and Siduri’s Bucher Vineyard Pinot, Adam said, “John chooses all of the picking dates for his own wine, so to call me winemaker is a bit of stretch. We make the wine for John, in consultation with him, but by directing the farming for his sections and picking dates he is really the one dictating the style….John tends to pick earlier than we do by a bit…but from a wine style point of view, John and Diane tend to want a somewhat lighter, somewhat more elegant wine.”
The tasting experience itself is the way I wish more tastings were, intimate and personal. John and Diane’s passion for their exceptional wines, beautiful vineyards and dairy farm are all evident. As Diane said, “Our visitors are drawn to the history of the farm, our dedication to Sonoma County and agriculture, and our commitment producing the highest quality products. And with some outstanding 2012 Pinots in the bottle and fantastic 13’s in the barrel, there is plenty of wine to be tasted and discussed.”
We encourage you to visit Bucher Vineyards and spend some time with John and Diane. The wine is exciting, the people delightful and the views are spectacular. The Buchers offer private tours at the vineyard by appointment from March through November, but have a limited schedule during the harvest season. If you are interested in a vineyard tour and tasting, please contact Diane at 707-484-5162 or firstname.lastname@example.org.