Stewards of the Land: Russian River Valley

Welcome to our video podcast – Stewards of the Land Russian River Valley, Sonoma – Video Show #24.

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When you think of the Russian River Valley, what comes to mind? Pinot Noir and Chardonnay? Well, right now, yes, but it wasn’t always that way.

Trappers and hunters predominated in the early 1800s, as Russian settlers moved into this area just north of San Francisco giving the river and the surrounding watershed its colorful name. By the 1870s, viticulture had been firmly established in the valley, only to be completely de-railed by prohibition in the 1920s. What followed, even after the repeal of prohibition in 1933, was a steady growth in normal agricultural crops and orchards for many years to come. It would take a 30-year incubation period for the re-birth of vineyards.

The true wine Renaissance finally arrived in the 1960s, when pioneers like Charles Bacigalupi and Joe Rochioli began planting Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. And later, when Chateau Montelena took the French by surprise at the 1976 Paris tasting (with a Chardonnay made from Bacigalupi fruit), and Williams Selyem began to win accolades for its Russian River Valley Pinot Noirs, the valley found its rightful place as a world-class (and world famous) wine growing region.

GrapeRadio is proud to present a brief look at the Russian River Valley, including interviews with Joe Rochioli, Howie Allen, Helen Bacigalupi, Burt Williams, John Haeger, James Laube, and many more. Join us for a close-up of this beautiful area, including highlights of its history, its agriculture, its foods, and most importantly, its people.

45 Responses to “Stewards of the Land: Russian River Valley”

  1. 1 John Preston Dec 25th, 2007 at 9:54 am

    Terrific show! Well done! A very nice Xmas gift indeed. Loved to hear Joe Rochioli…love his wines…just as much as SQN. Thanks again eveyone and Happy Holidays!!!

  2. 2 Ramon Dec 25th, 2007 at 11:37 am

    WOW! That was an amazing video. I love how the blend of the land. history and people captured the essence and special qualities of the RRV. Seeing Rochioli, Allen, Bacigalupi, Williams, Selyem, talk about their love of the land was very special indeed.

    Happy Holidays and all the Best to everyone at GrapeRadio!


  3. 3 Richard Thomas Dec 25th, 2007 at 4:33 pm

    Absolutely wonderful! I have been a long time advocate of the wines of the Russian River Valley and make it a point to go out there at least every other year. The magnificence of the country, the stewardship of the wineries, and the quality that every person strives for is top notch. Whether it is Pinot Noir, Zinfandel, Syrah, or Chardonnay, you will not go wrong. The video does a wonderful job and you should be commended for the effort. Bravo, Grape Radio!

  4. 4 John Dec 25th, 2007 at 5:18 pm

    You guys have reached a entirely new level. Fine, fine work.

    Thank you for bringing this kind of quality to us all. Immensely enjoyable.


  5. 5 Jeff Dec 25th, 2007 at 10:00 pm

    Ken Burns, eat your heart out. Not just informational, but a real feeling for the Russian River Valley. You even got the fragrance of the vineyards. Looking forward to your next one.

  6. 6 Theo Heselmans Dec 26th, 2007 at 12:23 am

    Very professional ! Looking forward to more ‘stories’ like this.

  7. 7 Charlie Dec 26th, 2007 at 9:47 am

    Great job, guys. Very professionally done. I look forward to future similar projects but I am a bit concerned. I really enjoy your “regular” podcasts and hope that you have the personal bandwidth to carry on with both. I can only imagine how much effort went into this show, not to mention keeping up with your day jobs.

  8. 8 Doug Hackett Dec 26th, 2007 at 10:26 am

    I also would like to echo the sentiments of others and say I really enjoyed this video. Jeff invoked the name of the great Ken Burns which tickled me a little because I felt like this could easily have been shot for a PBS special as I was watching it (I read the comments after watching the video). The production value was great and maybe a series is born, eh?

  9. 9 GrapeRadio Bunch Dec 26th, 2007 at 10:39 am

    I would like to make a series of videos like this one. I wanted to gauge the reaction first before taking any action.

    Charlie, I love the “personal bandwidth” comment. I would lie to say it is not a concern for us also. In addition, we have dug into my own pockets to pay for some of this video.

    However, I am flat out hooked so there is no turning back now.


  10. 10 Jason Hagen Dec 27th, 2007 at 6:30 pm

    Really great stuff! I could easily watch hours of this. I want the director’s cut 🙂

    On to part 2!

    Thanks guys!


  11. 11 Brian Crabtree Dec 27th, 2007 at 7:18 pm

    Stunning. Speechless. Inspiring. For a group of everyday wine geeks…where you guys have come and the level to which you have elevated your craft…it is amazing. Congratulations and thank you.

  12. 12 GrapeRadio Bunch Dec 27th, 2007 at 7:35 pm

    Thanks guys. I could never properly express how much your over the top praise means to us. We have toyed with the idea of releasing a much longer version, but it would take too much time. BTW, the video was shot in HD. The DVD rocks! The web version does not come close to the HD version.


  13. 13 Matt Dec 28th, 2007 at 9:50 am

    Absolutely incredible video. The Ken Burns reference above definitely fits. I can’t tell you guys how much I’ve learned from your podcasts the past several years. I listen to them consistently and now with these videos I’m just blown away at what you guys are contributing to us all. Thank you so much.

    One funny note that was great in the video was the chef cooking with a bottle of Williams Seylem. As a relatively new ‘list member’ I know what those bottles cost and to see him cooking with it was quite a sight!

  14. 14 John Gonzalez Dec 29th, 2007 at 5:53 am

    My heartiest congratulations! This is one of the most enjoyable, understandable and rewarding pieces of wine video I’ve ever seen. I echo others in hoping that you have the energy to keep up the wonderful podcasts that I’ve enjoyed over the years while giving us more gems like this.
    I may be hiring you guys to do network level features after watching this first rate production.
    John Gonzalez
    NBC Sports

  15. 15 GrapeRadio Bunch Dec 29th, 2007 at 6:53 am

    John, we will work for wine.

  16. 16 Mark A. Ryan Dec 31st, 2007 at 10:43 am

    Thank you all for the comments. We strived to produce the absolute best video we could under the circumstances (40 hours of footage didn’t hurt!). As a director and cinematographer for Discovery, BBC, MTV, I don’t make a distinction between video for the web and video for broadcast. So thanks for the PBS references!

    Matt, watching Nash (the chef) pour an entire $70 bottle of Williams-Selyem Zinfandel into the sauce was painful to film! The results were very tasty though…

    We’ll do our best to get more of these videos out to you guys. Like a great bottle of wine, it’s always best to share it with an appreciative group.

    Director, “Stewards of the Land”

  17. 17 Dave Dec 31st, 2007 at 12:36 pm

    I just wanted to echo the other sentiments…really great stuff. Excellent production, lighting, editing. Thanks for the hard work, & looking forward to more. Happy New Year!



  18. 18 Sidney Dec 31st, 2007 at 2:26 pm

    Are you happy Jay and Eric…I finally looked at some Grape Radio content 🙂 The video was nice…great job!

  19. 19 Nancy Jan 1st, 2008 at 8:57 am

    Unbelievably georgeous cinematography and perfectly balanced nature shots with interviews – totally satisfying. Just wondering, where are the other female voices here?

  20. 20 GrapeRadio Bunch Jan 1st, 2008 at 6:11 pm

    Nancy, what to you mean?


  21. 21 Jonathan Jan 2nd, 2008 at 7:47 pm

    Absolutely brilliant effort, beautiful, poetic, and full of great info. You’ve outdone yourselves – I could easily see this as part of a larger series, or even a feature film documentary on cali wine pioneers. Once again, knowing more about what makes these wines so special clearly adds to the enjoyment and understanding. Im inspired to seek these wines out – as I haven’t had any RRV Pinots…Thanks and keep up the good work!

  22. 22 John D Jan 3rd, 2008 at 5:31 pm

    Wow! That was a beautifully done video. Really exceptional work. I liked the fact that you really captured these really great pioneers as they are. It was really well produced but also very real! Would love to see more like this. Thanks for such a treat.

  23. 23 Tom Jan 4th, 2008 at 4:06 pm

    This was absolutely wonderful. I really enjoyed the visual interplay between growers, winemakers, critics and chefs discussing the various characteristics of the site/location. Just great.

  24. 24 Nick Jan 4th, 2008 at 4:28 pm

    That was one of the most beautiful videos I have ever seen. I can not even imagine the amount of labor and love you put into this piece. All I can do is hope that you continue to produce more stunning videos like this that capture the true essence of wine. Cheers to you and your crew! A job well done!

  25. 25 DAVID Jan 5th, 2008 at 12:34 pm

    OK, I will jump on the band wagon too! Great Job! Stepping out of the way and letting the people speak directly was fantastic! This should be on PBS!

  26. 26 Kevin Smith Jan 12th, 2008 at 8:23 am

    Wonderful production. The shots of the hillsides, vines, weather and soil were like crack. Give me more! It would be great to see an overview of the Santa Barbara county vineyards such as SeaSmoke, Clos Pepe, Hitching Post, and Longoria. You know, kind of a Sideways Part II. Maybe call is “Backwards – how Pinot came to SBC”. If Hollywood can’t get together and do a nice follow up to what kick started the recent Pinot craze, then why not you guys. Clearly, you have the skills. Great work!

  27. 27 Domenico Bettinelli Jan 13th, 2008 at 9:17 am

    Great job, guys! I loved it. Video and audio are such distinct media with their own strengths and weaknesses. You really are taking advantage of both. A 20-minute video like this gave me as much information as several hours of audio would. For instance, seeing the fog clinging to the hillsides of the Russian River Valley provided an instant understanding of its ubiquity and its impact on the grapes.

    I hope you do make a series of these videos, perhaps profiling each distinct wine region in California.

    I have to believe that there is a large market for this beautiful piece of art.

  28. 28 GrapeRadio Bunch Jan 14th, 2008 at 12:04 pm

    Guys, your over the top reaction to our video convinces me we can do this, WE SHOULD DO THE, WE NEED TO DO THIS.

    We really did put our souls into this video.

    p.s. Domenico, I see no reason to limit these to California. 🙂

  29. 29 James Dietz Jan 14th, 2008 at 2:25 pm

    Absolutely stunning work.. . I fell in love with wine all over again.. the photography is amazing!!

  30. 30 GrapeRadio Bunch Jan 15th, 2008 at 6:26 am

    Jim, that is the single greatest compliment you could make. I am moved deeply.


  31. 31 Mark A. Ryan Jan 15th, 2008 at 9:56 am

    James, I second that. We set out to make a film that conveyed our passion for the region and it looks like it got through. 🙂 Thanks to everyone for the positive response!

    Now if only Jay could be persuaded to make a film about a region I REALLY care about, like Hermitage or Chambolle-Musigny…imagine the results! 🙂

    Director, “Stewards of the Land”

  32. 32 Larry Cognetti Jan 25th, 2008 at 11:31 am

    A wonderful film! Seamless transitions…a quality, highly professional video. I can only imagine the time and energy that went into the production. I introduced the film (and your site) to the wine store in my small town and they were amazed! Great mix of talent…especially the Chef…not so objectively speaking, my son, Nash Cognetti.

    Thank you for a real New Year’s gift.
    Larry Cognetti

  33. 33 Matthew Hartmann Feb 16th, 2008 at 4:52 pm

    I am not the first and won’t be the last to congratulate you on your efforts! A series of this type of documentary would be outstanding and I would not be surprised to see a compilation appear in the local Miami International film festival or at similar venues. I agree that the chef has some talent in terms of expressing himself, and I like the food linkage.

  34. 34 Matthew Hartmann Feb 16th, 2008 at 4:52 pm

    PS I also enjoyed the piece on the Schramsberg winery.

  35. 35 Matt Lennert Feb 28th, 2008 at 8:53 pm

    The production value on this film is outstanding. Beautiful color. Great skin tones! Both the people and the grapes! Very inspirational. Thanks.

  36. 36 Dave Nelson Mar 26th, 2008 at 10:12 am

    Beautiful work, guys! Not sure how I missed this one, but I didn’t hear about it until the award nominations were announced. Really gorgeous filming and fine content.

  37. 37 GrapeRadio Bunch Mar 27th, 2008 at 8:19 am

    The question I have now, are we capable of kicking it up a few levels?


  38. 38 Bob Jul 17th, 2009 at 7:12 am

    Absolutely wonderful and mind blowing to see this Red Wine videos! I am a new advocate of the wines of the Russian River Valley and I am looking forward to go out there at least once in my life with my son in remeberance of my father who loved Zinfandel, really appreciate the stewardship of the wineries, and the quality that every person strives for is top notch. Whether it is Pinot Noir, Zinfandel, Syrah, or Chardonnay, this is absolutly witnessing the miracle of co creation. Massive appreciation to you.

  39. 39 Michael O. Feb 1st, 2010 at 1:37 pm

    Jay and the Bunch,
    Really great video. The beauty of the Valley, the character of the growers, the story of him pulling out all those vines after his father died and planting Pinot when there was no market at the time is great stuff. I was struck by the color of those grapes they were almost black. It reminds me, I have some 1999 Ferrari Carano Eldorado Noir Black Muscat from the Russian River Valley left. My wife and I savor this stuff it is beyond description it is so good. I am contemplating what to cook to go with it. Thank you for taking us there.The music is great also. A second helping please.

    Michael O.
    Partaker of the Grape.

  40. 40 Ray Walker Aug 14th, 2010 at 3:23 pm

    That is simply beautiful! I am getting to this video late. However, I wish I you guys continue to do more and more videos such as this one!

    Truly excellent work!

  41. 41 Mustafa Ozkaynak Jul 22nd, 2011 at 11:33 am

    I really want to go to the Russian River Valley right now!

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