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Rivers Marie: The Winemaker Difference

Fri, Dec 02, 22

Rivers Marie collection available in

Great Falls



There are a number of premium wine areas in the world where the climate and vines come together in a way that feels like a perfect match. In Bordeaux, this is the case with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, in Piedmont, this is the case with Nebbiolo, and in California’s Sonoma Coast, this is the case with Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Like Burgundy, Sonoma County has a number of small regions that produce some of the best Pinot Noir in the world, and with this great competition that stems from the perfect grapes in the perfect region, a difference-maker may come down to the winemaker. Thomas Rivers Brown in the winemaker for Rivers Marie that is the difference-maker in how these wines compete with some of North America’s best Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays. Our Rivers Marie collection is linked above, and find out more about this amazing producer below.

Thomas Rivers Brown from Wine Spectator: https://www.winespectator.com/articles/the-midas-touch-of-thomas-rivers-brown-56998

Thomas Rivers Brown is behind many of Napa Valley’s elite Cabernet Sauvignons, including his work with Shrader and Robert Mondavi. Brown was named Food &Wine’s winemaker of the year in 2010, and he has gained multiple 100-point scores for his Cabernets; however, Pinot Noir has always been a passion of Brown’s. Named after his middle name and the middle name of his partner, Genevieve Marie Welsh, Rivers Marie was born in the early 2000s. With the purchase of the Summa Vineyard in 2010, Rivers Marie was off to making some of the best Pinot Noir and Chardonnays in Northern California.

With regard to Pinot Nor as well as Chardonnay, Rivers Marie has limited release bottlings that focus on the unique features of their vineyard sites. The Bearwallow Vineyard, Silver Eagle Vineyard, Summa Vineyard, and blend from Anderson Valley all offer their own expression of Pinot Noir. New oak is used sparingly so that the distinct fruit profiles of each of the vineyard sites can shine through in the end product. Many of his Pinot Noirs have Burgundian-like qualities of more tart and restrained fruit in its cranberries and raspberries on the nose and palate. Some would call his style of winemaking restrained, which involved minimal interferences with the fruit and adds to the aging potential of each of his Pinot Noirs. Even Burgundy lovers will find the finesse of these wines enticing, and if you love California Pinot, Thomas Rivers Brown’s wines should be on your next dinner table.

Aerial view of two Rivers Marie vineyards (Summa Old and New Vineyards) on the right side of the image from Jersey Foodies: http://jerseyfoodies.blogspot.com/2010/10/summa-vineyards-sold-to-thomas-rivers.html

Like Burgundy, Chardonnay is the companion grape from Rivers Marie. As noted with Rivers Marie’s Pinot Noirs, there is a more minimalist approach to the winemaking, and this is also true with Brown’s Chardonnays. Often, when we think of California Chardonnay, we think or more ripe, round, buttery, and oak-influenced wines. This is not the case with Rivers Marie. Their Chardonnays involved basically no new oak usage (this means the oak will not impart much, if any, flavor into the finished wine), and the wine do not undergo extensive lees aging. When wines are aged on the lees (dead yeast cells from the fermentation process), they have more bread-like or brioche notes with added viscosity. With more limited lees aging, the wine becomes more lean, crisp, and mouthwatering. One is not better than the other, it’s just a stylistic difference. Look for the Chardonnays from Rivers Marie to pair beautifully with fish and poultry, while maintaining enough acidity to be drunk as an aperitif if one chooses. One can look again to Burgundy for Brown’s influence on these Chardonnays, and Burgundy drinkers will not be disappointed.

Thomas Rivers Brown’s Pinot Noir and Chardonnays are truly exception and relatively difficult to find. So, with that, check out the wines through the links above and happy sipping! Cheers!

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