A Private Stash of Pinot noir at "Wits End" Vineyard
ROCO Wines is the family project of Argyle's winemaker Rollin Soles and his wife Corby Stonebraker. Rollin's day job is winemaker and co-owner of the famous Argyle Winery. At home, he and Corby make a small amount of Pinot noir from their family's vineyard. For years, their "ROCO" pinot noirs were given to family and friends. ROCO was, and is, the family's "house" wine.
In 2005, Rollin and Corby released a small amount of the ROCO wines for sale to the public. The winery sent samples to Wine Spectator for review, and the Private Stash rated 94 points for both the 2005 and 2006 vintages. Avalon Wine is honored to offer their wines via our store and website. We offer more information about the 2006 vintage ROCO wines.
Rollin and Corby's personal ROCO wines are made with fruit from their Wit's End Vineyard, located at their home in the foothills of the Chehalem Mountains in Yamhill County. Their seven acre vineyard was planted in 2001. Each vintage has produced intense Pinot noir with notes of blackberry, huckleberry and spice. Wine Spectator gave 94 points to their 2005 and 2006 "Private Stash" Pinot noir.
The name ROCO comes from combining Rollin and Corby's first name. They chose to use striking ancient rock petroglyphs from the Columbia Valley as their graphic talisman. The stone carved thunderbird on the label captures the history of the Pacific Northwest and the wild essence of ROCO wines.
"We love rocks" said Corby Stonebraker. "Soil comes from rocks and Pinot noir seems to drag the flavors out of the rocks and soil so it wasn't that big of a leap from ancient petroglyphs to sandstone soil to ROCO."
Rollin Soles received his oenology (winemaking and viticulture) Masters from winemaking school at UC Davis and then spent six years on a round-the-world approach to learning hot to make wine. He apprenticed in Napa, in Switzerland, and Australia before moving to Oregon to start the Dundee Wine Company in 1987 with Australian Brian Crozer and Oregon wine grower Cal Knudson.
Today Argyle produces over 40,000 cases of wine and manages over 400 acres in the Willamette Valley not only for themselves, but for Domaine Drouhin & Chehalem wineries as well. Argyle first made sparkling wine and branched out to make world famous Pinot noir, Dijon Chardonnay and after many years hiatus, is making Riesling again.
Pruning ROCO's Wit's End Vineyard
Rollin & Corby's Wit's End Vineyard
In the process of making sparking wine, Soles learned a thing or two on how to grow killer Pinot noir and bring out the best in this ethereal grape.
"We decided on dense planting for our own vineyard because Argyle's best fruit came from similar dense spacing, it was a no-brainer" said Soles.
The vineyard is densely planted to 2,800 vines per acre "Cool weather grapes show their terroir and Pinot noir reflects it more than any other" said Soles. "This dense planting provides a degree of stress to the plants necessary to bring out that 'sense of place'.
Wit's End Vineyard in the Chehalem Mountain foothills rests on fast draining yellow sedimentary soil, often referred to as Willakenzie type soil, which typically ranges from silty, sandy ocean bottom type- soil to clay loam style soil in nature. The Willakenzie soil produces wines akin to the Côte de Nuits region of Burgundy, with intense dark berry fruit and big black cherry flavors, which is spot-on when describing the style of ROCO's wines.
Whereas neighboring AVA Ribbon Ridge grape growers with Willakenzie soil tend to 'dry farm' their fruit to train the tap roots to 'go deep' for moisture, winemaker Soles is not opposed to adding a little water in and the end of August into early September to keep the grapes from turning into raisins. The property is serviced by two year-round springs that came in handy in the early years of establishing the grapes' root systems, and are now essential when growing high density plantings of Pinot noir in recent hot summers.
"High density planting creates so much competition for water, that in draught years, a little water is imperative" said Soles. "The leaves loose water during photosynthesis so with higher density, more leaves and more water loss, so a judicious amount of water keeps the plants healthy and the grapes in top form."
"These high density, fully ripe and perfectly timed grapes make wines that are velvety and silky in character with a sweet juicy center," said Soles. "Pinot noir grapes are mostly seeds and seeds that create hard astringent tannins. We aim to make wine with juicy center, soft and balanced and different than what I do at Argyle".
Where Argyle's high end 'Spirit House' designate is grown on basalt based soils and is more red-fruited, Soles picks oak barrels that emphasize that. ROCO's grapes are grown on sandstone based soils. The wines show a bit more dark intense fruit and tannins, yet add an amazing silkiness to the wine. For ROCO wines, Rollin chooses to use barrels with a bit of char to them, emphasizing the bacon and blackberry elements in the fruit. ROCO use 40% new oak and a mix of one and two year old barrels to make two very unique wines.
The ROCO Wines
ROCO makes two levels of Pinot noir. About 100 cases are selected out of the best barrels and bottled as their 'Private Stash' designate. Another 200 cases are bottles as ROCO Pinot noir.
ROCO Private Stash Pinot noir 06
150 cases made
Wine Spectator 94 points
and "HOT WINE":
"Soft and fragrant, this is remarkable for its silky texture and seamless structure. Pretty strawberry and currant fruit pulse gently at the core, shading toward white pepper as the open-textured finish lingers elegantly. Drink now through 2015.". - H.S.
The 2005 ROCO Private Stash also received 94 points from Wine Spectator.
A Pinot expert's Pinot, Rollin Soles'(Argyle) personal vineyard, Wits End, provides the fruit for this Estate Pinot. Two Pinots are offered, this "Private Stash" being the wine he, until recently, only sold to family and friends.
Everything is just as it should be in this Pinot expert's wine - there's layered complexity of fruit, spice, acid, and tannins offering a constantly changing array of pleasing qualities, all essentially Pinot taken to its highest levels.
Nose Scent is of sweet red raspberry, cherry, and currant, with tantalizing hints of toast, vanilla, and oak. Flavors: Sweet red and black berry and cherry feature throughout the experience of tasting the wine. Layers of different flavors waft through the fruit, including different cherries, red and black raspberry, currant, sandalwood incense, sweet spices, hints of sweet tobacco, and toasted espresso bean. The wine has the quality of feeling like it expands in the mouth, and it's mouthfeel is voluptuous and velvety.
Finish: As the wine opens, it offers more and more complexity of flavors and scents. In the finish, there are hints of anise, intense black fruit and berries, and barrel spice.
ROCO Pinot noir Willamette Valley 06
Wine Spectator 92 points:
"Supple, silky and remarkably open textured, this just glows with beautiful plum, currant and a hint of lime in the background, delicately framed with oak. The fruit wins in the end, and this lingers for days. Drink now through 2016. - H.S.
The ROCO Pinot noir 2006's deep garnet color signals the full flavored berry essence of this wine. The nose reveals deep rich plum, cherry and a hint of cobblestone and spice. In the mouth, the texture is smooth and fills the palate with deep plum, boysenberry, and Bing cherry juiciness. In the mid-palate, the rich fruit flavors begin to meld with a touch of spice, revealing hibiscus, bergamot, and vanilla. This wine is full balanced, and has firm structure and a mellow, loving finish. - the winery
First and foremost, this is a wine that screams "vineyard". It's clearly made from scrupulously perfect fruit, from a vineyard whose special qualities are understood and called for in the winemaking. Many of the most experienced winemakers say that Pinot noir is made in the vineyard...the trick is to not screw up what the fruit gives you. Rollin is clearly a master at determining the vineyard's special qualities and crafting a wine that emphasizes them.
The private wine label of Argyle winemaker Rollin Soles. Fruit from his Wits End Vineyard. With Argyle producing tens of thousands of cases of excellent wine, here's our chance to try a more individual project, Rollin's personal take on Pinot noir. Very limited.