In the late 1990s, when the economics of dairy farming in Northern California became problematic, John Bucher diversified by planting wine grapes on the 360-acre Healdsburg property his parents purchased in 1958. John still runs his family’s Westside Road dairy operation, these days organic, while also tending the 38-acre Bucher Vineyard.
Celebrated labels like Merry Edwards, Williams Selyem, and EnRoute make vineyard-designate Bucher Pinots. After establishing Bucher Wines in 2011, John and his wife, Diane, joined them. I recently tasted three 2017 Russian River Valley Pinot Noirs. Made by Adam Lee, who had a Bucher Pinot in his Siduri lineup for years, the wines, a total delight, collectively illustrate the superstar vineyard’s diversity of soils and microclimates. A few quick tasting impressions follow.
2017 Bucher Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir. This textbook Russian River Pinot’s flavors haven’t fully melded, but the wine’s punchy whole already seems greater than the sum of its parts (three Dijon clones plus Swan and Pommard). The pleasure at this point derives from the mouthwatering clash of the earthier, tea-and-spice components, the range of red to dark-red fruit (so much going on here), and the oak. As things settle down, this wine will charm all the more. Pinots made from Bucher grapes cost as much as $85 a bottle; at $40, this one’s a steal.
2017 Bucher Vineyard Pommard Clone Pinot Noir. There’s something marvelously fertile about this wine whose grapes come from two vineyard blocks, one well higher in elevation than the other. The Pommard Pinot is all about its sultry, taste-the-soil allure and how the flavors peak mid-palate, then gracefully fade going back.
2017 Bucher Vineyard Three Sixty Pinot Noir. From two Dijon clones grown in two distinct blocks, this Pinot-lovers’ Pinot has the structure and back-palate spice to stand up to a steak but is smooth enough to serve with salmon or sip on its own. Savory notes and a luxuriant finish also stand out.
Pours by Appointment
Proprietors John and Diane Bucher pour their wines by appointment at Grand Cru Custom Crush, outdoors on the patio and socially distanced. Grand Cru, where Bucher and 18 other boutique producers make their wines, is in Windsor, California, about 8 miles south of Healdsburg Plaza.
Why go: boutique operation; superstar vineyard and winemaker.
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Lead photo: Blocks 9 and 10 at Bucher Vineyard.