Ten Acre: Carving Out a Niche in the Russian River Valley

By Bob Johnson

Bella Vineyards is known for Zinfandel, as my recent blog on the Dry Creek Valley estate demonstrated. Proprietors Scott and Lynn Adams have worked hard to develop the brand and the reputation.

But they do not live on the Bella estate. Their home is in the Russian River Valley — specifically, on a 10-acre vineyard that grows that region’s two top varieties: Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.

Michael Zardo (left) is the winemaker from Ten Acre, while Joe Healy (right) handles those chores for Bella Vineyards. Both labels are owned by Scott Adams (middle) and his wife Lynn (not shown).

Michael Zardo (left) is the winemaker from Ten Acre, while Joe Healy (right) handles those chores for Bella Vineyards. Both labels are owned by Scott Adams (middle) and his wife Lynn (not shown).

Their homegrown fruit has always been of exceptional quality, but in order to protect the Bella brand, they always sold it to neighboring wineries.

In 2008, the Adamses decided to take the next step with their Russian River Valley grapes: They developed a new, small winery utilizing that fruit, supplemented by grapes from the Sonoma Coast region. Their “ten acre project” evolved into Ten Acre Wines. And to provide one additional line of separation from Bella, they hired a separate winemaker for Ten Acre: Michael Zardo.

With Zardo and Scott Adams, I had the opportunity to sample five Ten Acre wines — one Chardonnay and five Pinots.

When Zardo was asked about sourcing Chardonnay for the new label, he said his first choice would be the Richie Vineyard, located along Eastside Road in the Russian River Valley. It took two years to procure an allotment, but it was worth the wait as the 2012 vintage perfectly balances fruit, tannin and acid. The initial oaky impression gradually gives way to an apple aroma and then to a lemon curd note.

The 2010 Cummings Vineyard Pinot Noir is made from grapes grown just outside the city of Santa Rosa. For the vintage, the wine is surprisingly intense, and would match nicely with a thick slice of prime rib.

Ten Acre’s Russian River Valley Pinot Noir seeks to present a consistent style from vintage to vintage, tapping a small all-star team of vineyards as well as coopers. The 2012 vintage is a benchmark Pinot Noir, with an enticing aroma, silky mouthfeel and smooth finish.

Zardo is particularly enthusiastic about the 2012 Ramona Pinot Noir, made from grapes grown just outside Forestville. “What I really like about it is how well it expresses its site,” Zardo says. “Sites can be hidden by the winemaker’s hand, but I don’t like to do that.” As a result, the luscious fruit seems to jump out of the glass, accented by engaging spiciness.

Perhaps the most Burgundian of the Ten Acre Pinots comes from the Jenkins Vineyard, located outside of Sebastopol. An initial sense of earthiness in the nose quickly dissipates with swirling, revealing a Rainier cherry aroma. In a word, this wine is elegant.

While Ten Acre is a second label for Scott and Lynn Adams, it absolutely is not a “second label” in the traditional sense of that term (meaning something “less” than the original label, offered at a lower price point). It is separate and distinct from Bella, and doing a nice job of carving out a niche in the Russian River Valley region.

Perhaps Scott and Lynn Adams took a cue from Dorothy in the “Wizard of Oz,” who so wisely observed, “There’s no place like home.”

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Ten Acre wines are available at the Bella Vineyards tasting room at 9711 West Dry Creek Road in Healdsburg, Calif. For hours or directions, call 707-473-9171.

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