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Papapietro Perry Winery - Sonoma County

93 Points, Pinot Report - 92 Points, Wine Spectator magazine

It has been a few years since we featured tiny Papapietro Perry Winery, known for their outstanding vineyard designate Pinot Noirs from throughout Sonoma County. Now they are back, better than ever, with one of their best Pinots to date from the Leras Family Vineyard in the heart of the Russian River Valley.

When Ben Papapietro first encountered Bruce Perry in the late 1970’s, both men were members of the Teamsters Union working for the San Francisco Newspaper Agency delivering newspapers in the San Francisco area. The two men were products of close Italian and Portuguese families that were reared around a full wine table. They soon found that they shared a common interest in wine and a lifetime friendship was quickly forged. Their mutual interest in the grape soon led them to another newspaper employee named Bert Williams who worked as a typographer at the newspaper and who was in the process of releasing his first wines under the Hacienda del Rio label. Several years later, Williams’ wines gained great critical acclaim under the name of the prestigious Williams Selyem Winery.

During this period both Papapietro and Perry were able to spend some significant time in Sonoma with Williams, mainly during crush. Like their tutor in the business, both became enamored with the Pinot Noir grape and Ben started making wine in the basement of his San Francisco home in 1980. He gradually expanded his efforts and in 1985, Bruce Perry indicated that he wanted to become a part of Papapietro’s winemaking operation. Beginning in 1990, their mutual efforts resulted in the annual processing of four to six tons of grapes that turned into nine or ten barrels of wine in Ben Papapietro’s basement.

The Papapietro Perry Winery moved to Sonoma County in 1998, sharing winemaking facilities with two other wineries located in Windsor. The first release in 1998 was a mere 75 cases, but production was gradually increased until it reached its present 8,000 case level.

Throughout the embryonic stages of their operation, both owners dedicated themselves to the production of the finest quality wines they could afford to make.

Even though they produced a number of different varietals, both Papapietro and Perry remained fascinated with the Pinot Noir grape as their winery’s primary vehicle. Over the years, they began introducing small lot programs of Zinfandel and Chardonnay, but the winery’s focus has remained on their vineyard designated Pinots.

“Pinot Noir is totally seductive as grape varietals go,” Papapietro explained. “With its array of flavors and tastes, a really well made Pinot Noir will truly draw you into its web. It is marvelous with food and a perfect sipping wine. The word I always use to describe Pinot Noir is heavenly, and that says it all.”

During the past decade, Papapietro Perry Winery has also developed a number of critical relationships with top-level Sonoma winegrowers. Particular interest has been paid to the Russian River Valley and Sonoma Coast appellations, prime growing areas for the rarely cooperative Pinot Noir.

“It was imperative for our winery’s growth to find growers who were really willing to work with us,” Papapietro added. “If you don’t have the right type of fruit to start with, producing a significant Pinot Noir can be quite difficult. We have been really selective with our growers and we now have the luxury of some of the finest vineyards in Sonoma to draw from. Ripeness is the key to both the grape and the eventual wine, and our growers make sure we have the former so that we can produce the latter.”

Their instinct for sourcing exceptional grapes and skill for crafting extraordinary wine immediately drew critical acclaim to the tiny winery, and it has continued vintage after vintage. But what makes these winemakers truly happy is sharing their wines with the world and making others smile over a glass of their handcrafted wine.

And according to Papapietro, Papapietro Perry Winery has already reached it maximum production. “I don’t want us to fall into the trap that catches other wineries,” he informed. “Too many wineries try to do too much and make too many different wines. We want to be known for our focus, and making the best wine possible.”

If determination and focus are the deciding factors, Papapietro Perry Winery is well on its way to making Ben Papapietro’s wish come true.

  1. Papapietro Perry
    2008 Pinot Noir
    Papapietro Perry
    Leras Vineyard


    93 - The Pinot Report
    id: 928