In 1998, Barbara Barham Mendelsohn and Richard Mendelsohn planted 5 acres of Pinot Noir on Lala Panzi Ranch in the Russian River Valley near Healdsburg in Sonoma County. This was the same year that Jim Clendenen planted his Le Bon Climat estate in the Santa Maria Valley. The Mendelsohns engaged successful and experienced viticulturalist Fred Peterson to direct the planting of 6100 vines on their rolling ranch land. He recommended 5 clones: the 114, 115, 667, and the 777 clones from the University of Dijon in Burgundy, and the traditional Pommard selection from UC Davis. Clendenen had planted much of the same material in Santa Barbara at the same time. The Mendelsohns questioned leading wine industry figures and compiled a list of the most successful Pinot Noir producers and cross-referenced it down to three names. After an interview process, a joint venture was proposed to Jim Clendenen, owner of Au Bon Climat. During this mutual discovery period Clendenen was impressed by the beauty of Lala Panzi, the excellence of the site, and the commitment to organic farming. The concurrence of Jim’s idea of clonal selection with Fred Peterson’s ideas and the exciting shared vision of food and wine culture that Jim possessed with the Mendelsohns cemented their relationship.
The farming protocol at Lala Panzi remains the same: stringent canopy management, organic farming, manual tilling and weed control, micro-management of ripening assessment, and ultimately a quick, early morning harvest at the best possible balance. Once again, no adulterations were done to the grapes. The 2014 Pinot Noir is a result of the growing conditions extant at Lala Panzi, and careful harvest decisions made by the viticultural team. The wine underwent a 14 day fermentation and was aged in predominately new Allier and Vosges forest wood,coopered by Francois Freres of St. Romain. The wine was racked once after malo-lactic fermentation and bottled unfiltered. The textural, letter-pressed labels are individually numbered and applied by hand.