Curious about the next generation of Winemakers in California? Want to know who you should keep on your radar? Well, here you go! I’ve written about the talent and passion of Bibiana González Rave for several years now, and I continue to love just about everything she touches.
Unquestionably part of the upcoming generation of world-class winemakers who will dominate the California wine scene over the coming decades, Bibiana hails from Medellín, Colombia, where she achieved a degree in chemical engineering (her father was an electrical engineer and her mother was in finance). She then earned a Technician of Viticulture and Oenology diploma in Angoulême, France, followed by a diploma of Oenology from the University of Bordeaux. She worked harvests in Bordeaux – at none other than Château Haut-Brion – as well as with Stéphane Ogier in Côte Rôtie and Domaine du Devevey in Burgundy. In addition, she worked in South Africa and with the likes of Peay, Au Bon Climat, Qupé and Lynmar in California.
As I hope these reviews show, Bibiana is far from a one variety winemaker and has a rare ability to excel with numerous varieties and different styles.
For this tasting, we focused on her own label, Cattleya and Alma de Cattleya, as well as Wayfarer and Shared Notes.
Looking first at the Alma de Cattleya label, this was created with the idea of making a value priced California wine to export to Colombia. However, it morphed slightly into a Sonoma County label geared to hit a price point while still being hand harvested and made with top notch winemaking. It’s made at the Pisoni Winery, and despite the value price, the wines are made in tiny quantities (< 1000 cases) and deliver top notch quality.
Cattleya, which is named after the Colombia state flower, is Bibiana’s personal project and focuses primarily on single vineyard Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays, as well as a Syrah from the Santa Lucia Highland.
For the Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs, Rave pulls from two sites: Pratt and Donum Vineyards.
The Pratt vineyard was developed in the early 1990’s by vineyard manager Jim Pratt and lies just to the north of Sebastopol, just south of the Green Valley AVA in the Russian River Valley. This is a sandy, loamy site that consist of rolling hillside parcels. The site sees the classic early morning fog, and high temperatures top out in the mid 70’s. Bibiana makes a Chardonnay from this site based all on the Wente clone.
The Donum Vineyard is located to the east of Pratt Vineyard, in the Carneros AVA, and is planted with numerous clones of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Bibiana’s Donum Vineyard Pinot Noir is always a blend of Calera and Rutherford clones, and sees 40-50% whole clusters in the fermentation.
The Syrah comes from the Soberanes Vineyard in the Santa Lucia Highlands, which is a younger, yet promising, site managed by the Pisoni and Franscioni families.
The Shared Notes releases are a project between Bibiana and husband Jeff Pisoni, which they started in 2012 so that they could spend more time together during harvest. Bibiana learned how to make Sauvignon at Château Haut-Brion, and for this project they harvest at tiny yields, ferment at low temperatures, and age the wines in new barrels. These are unquestionably some of the top examples of Sauvignon and Semillon coming out of the new world today.
Bibiana joined the Pahlmeyer team in 2012 and is now the consulting winemaker for these terrific single vineyard Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays released under the Wayfarer. This 30-acre site was purchased in 1988 (planted in 2000) and is the only vineyard David Abreu (who developed the Pahlmeyer vineyards in Napa) has ever planted in Sonoma. It consists of 26 acres planted to numerous clones (12 to be exact) of Pinot Noir, as well as four acres of Old Wente (Berlenback and Hyde), Dijon 95, and Mount Eden clones of Chardonnay. The site lies at 1,100 feet in elevation and four miles as the crow flies from the Pacific Ocean. The Chardonnays are made in the 800-case range, with most of the Pinot Noirs in the 100-case range. While they started out with a single release, they now produce numerous Pinot Noirs where are driven by the different soils and clones. I referenced La Tâche more than once in these reviews, and I don’t make that comparison lightly. These are brilliant wines.