Talawind Ranch Vineyard
Talawind Ranch Vineyard is located in the heart of Russian River Valley. Its original history and name belonged to former owners, wife and husband team Karen McMillan and Gale Reifers. Karen and Gale called their property Talawind Ranch, in honor of their beloved, Arabian studhorse “Talafire.” The Horse ranch had 20-acres, with multiple buildings on the property and rings for exercising their horses.
When neighboring Russian Hill Estate Winery was created, Karen and Gale befriended Russian Hill’s winemaker Patrick Melley. After many years of neighborly friendship, Gale unfortunately became ill and the ranch was too much for Karen to manage, on her own. They were looking to sell the ranch, and it became an opportunity for both parties. Russian Hill could expand with 20 additional acres. And, to their relief, Karen and Gale were thankful that their property was being passed on to friends. Gale subsequently passed away, but Karen stayed on, until she needed to downsize her life and moved into a smaller home in the same area.
Patrick had spent a lot of time on the property with Karen and Gale, so he knew well all of the buildings and land that they had lovingly built and maintained. There weren’t any vineyards; just the riding ring, grazing pastures, and many separate barns.
Most of the fence and some of the buildings came down, and vineyards were planted in the front of the ranch style home. Today, only a few pieces of fence remain, as a reminder of its Talafire equestrian past.
Patrick planted approximately nine acres to vineyard, which is now known as the Talawind Ranch Vineyard.
Pinot Noir was planted on the sloping portion of the hill, as it gradually levels to the bottom along Slusser Road. It is the growing and making of this fascinating variety that lured Patrick from Napa Valley to the Russian River Valley. Pinot Noir clones of the highest quality were used. The Pommard Clone portion was planted on rootstock, and the Clone 667 was field budded one year later. Pommard is revered as a beautiful Burgundian selection, capable of expressing each, individual vintage’s unique characteristics.
Clone 667 is also referred to as having the highest quality, with equal esteem. It is best known to have an excellent, full-bodied structure, intense color, and is a deliciously complex Pinot Noir. In addition to the Pinot Noir, three acres of Sauvignon Blanc was planted, rather than the more commonly planted Chardonnay. The Sauvignon Blanc was planted on the top of the sloping hill, bordering Slusser Road. Chardonnay is what most other vintners in Russian River were planting at the time. Patrick made a different decision, though, based on some of the regions early grape growing history. During the early years of Russian River Valley’s grape growing, it was Sauvignon Blanc that was often planted, rather than Chardonnay. Patrick decided he wanted to return to those earlier roots.
Talawind Ranch recognizes and pays homage to its earlier equestrian heritage, while still moving the property forward to its current viticultural state.