Passion and destiny are the defining words of Robert Stemmler Pinot Noir wines, and both are found in a glass of the 2005 Robert Stemmler, Nugent Vineyard, Russian River Valley, Pinot Noir.
In 1961, German-born winemaker Robert Stemmler arrived in Napa Valley. For 15 years, he worked with the Mondavis and was the winemaker at Simi winery.
In 1976, he founded Robert Stemmler winery in Sonoma’s Dry Creek Valley. He became passionate about Pinot Noir when few other winemakers were, and his wines were sought after. In 1989, he retired from full-time winemaking and sold the Robert Stemmler brand name to Marcus and Anne Moller-Racke.
In 1981, German-born Anne Moller-Racke arrived in the Sonoma section of the Carneros region with her husband, Marcus Moller-Racke. The entrepreneurial Racke family had purchased Buena Vista winery and the young couple was sent to oversee the winery operations. The plan was to return to Germany after a year. Between then and now, destiny took hold.
Anne Moller-Racke began an apprenticeship in the vineyards and, two years later, became the vineyard manager. She expanded Buena Vista from its original 540 acres to 945 acres before having to replant them again when, in the early 1990s, the Phylloxera louse destroyed the vines. With a thorough knowledge of the land, Racke selected new Pinot Noir clones for specific sites within the vineyard.
In 2001, the Racke family sold Buena Vista to Allied Domecq, an international beverage conglomerate, but kept more than 200 acres of prime vineyards for Anne Moller-Racke’s next quest.
She selected certain sites for grapes to make a new Pinot Noir wine called Donum. The fruit from other plots was dedicated to two Robert Stemmler Pinot Noir wines — Carneros and Ferguson. While I enjoy both of these wines — last year I drank my last bottle of the Carneros 1996 — my preference is for a Robert Stemmler Pinot Noir that Anne Moller-Racke makes from Robert Stemmler’s original grape source: Russian River Valley. Destiny leaves a trail.
Like Stemmler, Racke found a vineyard in this valley where she could get high-quality fruit. In 1997, she helped plant it, and with a long-term contract, she controls all the farming decisions. The results of her passion are displayed in the 2005 Robert Stemmler, Nugent Vineyard: brilliant raspberry color; pronounced fruit aromas and flavors; good body with enough acidity to keep the palate fresh.
Anne Moller-Racke refers to herself as a “winegrower,” meaning she works her vines to produce fruit that matches her vision of what the wine should be. That vision is a wine displaying California’s richness without heaviness; preserving the fruit flavors, not infusing it with vanilla and toasted oak barrel accents; growing the grapes to yield a balance of acidity and sugar. Her vision is actualized in the 2005 Robert Stemmler, Nugent Vineyard, Pinot Noir. And, like Robert Stemmler, her destiny was launched by her passion for a grape after her arrival from Germany.
The 2005 Robert Stemmler, Nugent Vineyard retails for approximately $42.