“Killer Pinots from high-quality fruit” is the goal at Russian River winery specializing in single-vineyard wines.
The aha moment that sparked Joseph Jewell Wines vintner Adrian Jewell Manspeaker’s infatuation with wine occurred during a night on the town for his twenty-fifth birthday. At dinner he splurged on a bottle from the year of his birth, a wine whose grapes, he learned from the label, were harvested the very week he was born. As he read the description more closely, it dawned on him, he recalls, “that every wine is more than just a Cabernet or Pinot Noir. There’s a vintage. What happened that year? When were the grapes harvested? What winery made it? Who was the winemaker? What’s the story?”
A year or so later, Manspeaker met Micah Joseph Wirth, who as the son of a winemaker was well acquainted with wines and their stories. After the two formed a wine-tasting group, Manspeaker’s interest deepened further, prompting Wirth, then working at Gary Farrell Vineyards & Winery, to ask if Manspeaker wanted to make wine with him. Their first effort, a Russian River Valley Pinot Noir made in a garage with equipment borrowed from Gary Farrell and other sources, placed second in a blind tasting of wines by two dozen far more accomplished producers.
Buoyed by the encouragement of winemakers soon to become their peers, the duo set out in 2007 to establish a brand whose name joins its founders’ middle ones. As a winery with no vineyards of its own, Joseph Jewell, which specializes in single-vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noirs, relies on strong relationships with premier growers, among them the owners of Hallberg Ranch, Bucher, and Starscape. The small operation also produces wines from Humboldt County, where Manspeaker was born. With fewer than 200 acres of vineyards in the entire county, the wines qualify as California rarities.
Although Joseph Jewell has in recent years made Chardonnay, Vermentino, skin-fermented Pinot Gris, a rosé of Pinot Noir, Zinfandel, and Syrah, the Russian River Valley and Humboldt County Pinots, most crafted in small lots, are the stars. Hosts, sometimes Manspeaker himself, pour them at a modest storefront tasting room along laid-back Forestville’s short main drag. (Seasonal experiences include a vineyard tour and tasting.) The Joseph Jewell story—best conveyed by the wines themselves—revolves around a passion for producing what Manspeaker hopes guests will agree are “killer Pinots from high-quality fruit.”
Owner and winemaker: Adrian Manspeaker.
Location: 12 miles west of Santa Rosa and 13 miles south of Healdsburg.
Appellations: Dry Creek Valley, Humboldt County, Russian River Valley, Sonoma Coast.
Hours: Check website.
Tastings: From $25. By appointment.
The Wines: Chardonnay, Vermentino, skin-fermented Pinot Gris, rosé of Pinot Noir, Pinot Noir, Zinfandel, Syrah.
Specialties: Vineyard-designate Pinot Noirs.
This profile first appeared in The California Directory of Fine Wineries, ninth edition (2019), and is reproduced here, with minor revisions, courtesy of the publisher, Wine House Press.