By John Cesano
Originally published in the Ukiah Daily Journal on April 11, 2013
“Welcome to RIVINO,” owner Suzanne Jahnke-McConnell greeted me on my recent visit. Together with her winemaker husband Jason McConnell, Suzanne runs the winery at the vineyard Suzanne’s dad has been growing grapes at for the last 20 years.
RIVINO is a made up word, a portmanteau, a combination or joining of two words, River and Vino. Vino is, of course, Italian for wine, and the grapes for these wines are grown in vineyards alongside the Russian River.
RIVINO winery on Cox Schrader Road in Ukiah, east adjacent to Highway 101, is an Estate winery, meaning that the wines are made from grapes grown, crushed, and fermented on site. Estate wines often exhibit vineyard specific characteristics. All of RIVINO’s wines come from their own Schrader Ranch vineyard.
With redwood trees lining the entrance drive, oak trees growing in the vineyard, and the Russian River bordering the vineyard, Schrader Ranch is as picturesque a winery location as visitors could wish for.
All of the vines are both trellised and drip line irrigated. In addition to providing water to the grape vines, the drip line irrigation allows for application of fertilizers and nutrients.
The nominal $5 wine tasting fee is refunded with any wine purchase. Wines are available both by the bottle and by the glass, wine by the glass being a nice option at RIVINO because many people choose to sit at an outdoor table in the summer or beside the fire during the winter and enjoy the surrounding beauty of the estate vineyard.
RIVINO has an incredibly popular summer Friday Happy Hour from 4-7 p.m. featuring a different local musician each week. Last summer’s entertainment included Sheridan Malone & John Morris, Will Siegel & Friends, Monty & Jay, T.J. Elton of the Felt-tips, Scott Shaver and Ray Harrison, and McKenna Faith, among other performers.
RIVINO’s wine club members enjoy complimentary wine tastings and wine discounts from 15-25 percent.
The wines of RIVINO are enjoyable because they are largely unmanipulated. Tasting them is tasting the grape, the specific vineyard, and the vintage.
RIVINO’s 2010 Chardonnay is unoaked, held in stainless steel for clear fruit expression, and does not go through malolactic fermentation.
Malolactic fermentation (ML) is a secondary fermentation that converts the green apple flavors and malic acid of Chardonnay fruit to the butter flavors of lactic acid. Some look upon ML as unnecessary laboratory manipulation, while others see it as one more choice a winemaker has when crafting a Chardonnay.
White peach, pear and apple notes highlight this food friendly 2010 Chardonnay.
The 2010 Viognier is sweet mouthed and was awarded a north coast best of class designation at the California State Fair. Tropical, floral, citrus meets orange blossom with notes of apricot and pineapple.
My favorite wine of the day’s visit was a 2010 Sangiovese, a light garnet colored wine with a gorgeous spice nose that follows right through the mouth, with great blackberry fruit balanced by acid and wrapped in oak.
Sedulous can be defined as “a product of diligent and assiduous workmanship” and RIVINO has a Bordeaux blend of Merlot and Cabernet Franc with a tiny bit of Rhone Viognier that they’ve named Sedulous.
The 2008 Sedulous is a wine with vintage correctness, and might be paired with barbecued meats where the smoke aroma and flavor from the wine can find a match in food.
2008 was a year when fires from summer lightning strikes left much of the county under smoke and ash for weeks.
I was actually a little charmed that this smoky wine was poured unapologetically. I will not be upset when my days of tasting 2008 Mendocino County wines has passed and, while the vintage has fans precisely for the barbecue smoke note I do not love, I am nonetheless pleased to find Jason’s light touch with the grapes in his winemaking evidenced. Jason let the 2008 vintage smoke be tasted in his dark noted 2008 Sedulous.
The 2007 Sedulous with brighter nose and flavors of rhubarb and strawberry with a nice lingering finish is more to my taste.
Another 2008 vintage wine, with a lighter touch of smoke and bright acid is the 2008 Cabernet Franc, with pepper, herb, and red fruit notes.
I like RIVINO. Suzanne and Jason are forward thinking, energetic, and friendly. They have created the perfect environment to enjoy their deliciously enjoyable wines, and provide ample event opportunities to do so.
John Cesano doesn’t know when it will happen, but will be happy when he tastes his last 2008 vintage Mendocino County wine.