Joseph Jewell Wines

“Killer Pinots from high-quality fruit” is the goal at Russian River winery specializing in single-vineyard wines.

The aha moment that sparked 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.

Hallberg Ranch in Sebastopol provides the fruit for one of Joseph Jewell’s single-vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noirs.

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 two hundred acres of vineyards in the entire county, the wines qualify as California rarities.

Although Joseph Jewell also makes Chardonnay, Zinfandel, and a Rosé, the Russian River Valley Pinots, most crafted in small lots, are the stars. Hosts, sometimes including one of the winemakers, pour them at a modest storefront tasting room along laid-back Forestville’s short main drag. Two good tasting options – on hiatus as of mid-July 2020 because of Covid-19 restrictions – are one showcasing the appellation wines and another featuring the single-vineyard wines. For a more in-depth experience, guests can schedule tours of Starscape Vineyard, with lunch included. Starscape is also the tasting stop on the ultimate tour (also on hiatus for the foreseeable  future): a helicopter ride over the winery’s main Russian River vineyards. In the air or on the ground, 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.”

6542 Front St.
Forestville, CA 95436

Owner: Adrian Manspeaker.

Location: 12 miles west of Santa Rosa and 13 miles south of Healdsburg.

Appellations: Dry Creek Valley, Humboldt County, Russian River Valley.

Hours: 11 A.M.–5 P.M. Thursday; 11 A.M.–7 P.M. Friday and Saturday; 11 A.M.–5 P.M. Sunday and Monday. By appointment Tuesday and Wednesday. 

Tasting and Tour: Gourmet Picnic Lunch & Vineyard Tour ($52.50 per person). By appointment.

The Wines: Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, Syrah, Zinfandel.

Specialties: Vineyard-designate Pinot Noirs.

Winemaker: Adrian Manspeaker. 

Annual Production: 2,500 cases.

Of Special Note: Open house events in April and October. Food-and-wine pairing (reserve two days ahead). Tasting room is pet friendly. On-site art gallery with works by Sonoma County painters and photographers. Gem Series Pinot Noirs available only in tasting room.  

Nearby Attractions: Russian River (rafting, canoeing, kayaking, swimming, fishing).

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.

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