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Neyers Vineyards Bruce's Journal

You Rarely Find Pinot Noir This Good

By Bruce Neyers

Wednesday 16th August, 2023


For most of the past 100 years, Angelo Sangiacomo and his family have been farmers in Sonoma County. Early on, they specialized in fruits and nuts, but now they deal exclusively in wine grapes. I met Angelo when I moved to the Napa Valley in 1972, and we bought grapes from him when I worked at Mayacamas. In 1975, I went to work for Joe Phelps, and Angelo was an important grape supplier to us. When we began Neyers Vineyards in 1992, Angelo was our first grower. The Sangiacomo family has had a role in my entire wine career. Angelo died in February, at the age of 93. He was admired and respected by all, and was one of the most honorable men I ever met.


In the 1990’s, the Sangiacomo family expanded their business into the Petaluma Gap region of Sonoma County. The region had not yet been given AVA status, but that recognition came soon. The grapes grown in this area combine the cold weather of The Sonoma Coast with the rocky soil of the west-slope of the Mayacamas Range. The Sangiacomo Family took a chance, and planted Chardonnay and Pinot Noir there. They were way ahead of the game.


Tadeo and I visited the Roberts Road Vineyard in 2006, and learned that a small block of their Pinot Noir was planted to budwood from the old Joe Swan Vineyard in Forestville. I knew Joe’s vineyard well – I helped him prune it for years – and we agreed to buy 100% of the fruit from this ‘Selection Massale’ parcel. The vines had never been heat-treated, and several Burgundian producers I spoke with believed we would enjoy an advantage as a result. The crop from this ‘vegetatively-propagated’ parcel is small – rarely more than 2-3 tons – but the fruit is impressive, with an elegance and grace I seldom find in Pinot Noir.


In 2020, we harvested 3 tons from the parcel. The grapes were plump and ripe, and the fruit was already aromatic. We de-stemmed 50% of the grapes, then pumped them into a stainless tank. After a week of cold-holding, the native-yeast fermentation began, and it lasted for a month. We drained and pressed the tank, and the new wine was moved to 60-gallon François Frères barrels – 25% of them new — where it was aged for one year. The finished wine was bottled in September 2021, without fining or filtration.

The southwest-facing slope of the Roberts Road Pinot Noir block. The parcel planted to the Joe Swan ‘selection’ is at the base of the slope.

The new generation at Sangiacomo Family Vineyards.
Mike Sangiacomo in the middle, with his brother-in-law Mike Pucci on his right, and brother Steve Sangiacomo on his left.