Alquimista Cellars is a small artisanal winery from self-proclaimed “Pinot Disciple” Greg La Follette and Patrick Dillon. Together they create vibrant, balanced Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in California’s cool climate. They have developed some of the most renowned growing sites in Sonoma and have implemented meticulous winemaking techniques that highlight the unique character and intense expression of their region.
Although all of Tinto's wine is high quality and from smaller producers like Greg, Alquimista rates pretty high on my favorite wines we offer. You can taste their care and passion for winemaking in every sip. Every single wine they make is precise, expressive and thought provoking. The work they are doing is incredible. Scroll to the bottom to shop their selection and keep reading for our interview with winemaker Greg La Follette.
Winemaker Greg La Follette.
Q: How did you end up at the winery?
A: I co-founded it with Patrick Dillon after Patrick worked with me at La Follette Wines. We were commanded by the majority owner of LF to NOT pick a certain vineyard due to difficulty and expense, but Patrick declared that we would pick it anyway. The Manchester Ridge won the sweepstakes award at the American Fine Wine Competition, ostensibly wearing the mantle of “best red wine in America”. Patrick then declared we should start our own label where no one would tell us what to do.
Q: What is your role?
Hawk's Roost Vineyard.
Q: Everyone talks about terroir. What makes yours unique?
A: I’ve worked with my vineyards for many years, some for 3 decades. These plots of land have become old friends that I know inside and out.
Q: What do you do to keep your wines and land healthy?
A: Minimalist approach to the winemaking and sustainable, organic or biodynamic farming of the land.
Greg helping out with thinning work in the vineyards.
Q: How many different grape varieties do you work with?
A: Pinot noir, Chardonnay, Pinot Meunier, Zinfandel, Cinsault and Carignan
Q: If you use non indigenous grapes, what is the reason?
A: Pinot and Chard are the twin jewels of Burgundy and these are our focus. The other varietals are from some of the oldest vineyards on the planet and we enjoy the stewardship of these ancient vines.
Q: What is the most difficult part of the wine business?
A: Selling wine!
Q: What are your goals for the winery?
A: To remain very small and focused.
Q: What impact is climate change having?
A: It is huge – the current fires are an example of that. How much time do we have to talk about this?
Old vine Zinfandel in the Lodi region.
Q: Tell us something about your region or area (history, music, art, etc).
A: West Sonoma County is very rural and agricultural. The first grapes were planted by Russians in the early 1800s, well before the Franciscan missionaries came to Sonoma County. Our area is incredibly diverse both in terms of people (we have several native groups as well as a vibrant Latin community) and the land. In fact, Sonoma County has more soil types than all of France!
Q: Tell us a little bit about the food of your region.
A: Also quite diverse with just about any cuisine one could imagine. Cal-fusion is perhaps what we are best know for and our Mexican restaurants can’t be beat!
Q: What is your favorite local restaurant?
A: Single Thread Farms.
Q: What is their specialty?
A: Japanese fusion with a Cali twist.
Single Thread Farms restaurant.
Q: What do you eat at home with your wine?
A: My wife is a great cook and also incredibly diverse in her kitchen. I really like barbequing, using French oak wine barrel wood for the fuel. We call it West County BBQ.
Q: What do you do for fun?
A: Make wine in other countries.
Q: What about your next vacation?
A: What’s a vacation?
Q: Anything else we should know about the winery or you?
A: We may be new, but we have been making wine for decades and Alquimista Wines are the culmination of many years of learning.
Van der Kamp Vineyard.
Appellation – Russian River Valley, Sonoma Mountain, Mendocino County, Mendocino Ridges, Mokelumne River
Producers in appellation – Mes Filles Vineyard, Hawk’s Roost Ranch, van der Kamp Vineyard,
Total production in bottles – 16,000
# of different wines produced – 13
Cork closures (y/n) - “UniQ” technical natural cork
Organic/biodynamic (other) – all sustainably farmed, some organic & biodynamic
Yield per hectare – 5kL/ha average, 2.3 tons/acre
Alquimista Cellars 'Convergence' Pinot Noir Cuvée 2016, Mendocino County, California
100% Pinot Noir from 3 Mendocino Vineyards and aged for 19 months in French oak (10% new) on lees. Each Vineyard contributes attributes of its unique terroir; soil, elevation, microclimate, farming technique and mystique. With clear coastal influences, this wine shows notes of bitter orange, cranberry and cinnamon that are well-balanced with tannin and acidity through the finish. We love it with duck, chicken, pork and mushrooms.
Alquimista Cellars 'Mes Filles' Chardonnay 2017, Russian River Valley, Sonoma County, California
100% Chardonnay aged for 10 months on lees in 1/3 each new, once and twice used French barrels. The cool, maritime influence is evident in this mineral-driven Chardonnay. Fruit flavors of pineapple, Bosque pear and Gravenstein apples are balanced by great acidity and accented with hints of French oak. We love this wine with richer fish dishes, pork, chicken and anything in a cream sauce or with fungi!
Alquimista Cellars 'Haiku' Chardonnay 2016, Sanel Valley, Mendocino County, California
100% Chardonnay aged for 18 months in 25% new French oak barrels on lees. The wine shows yeasty cookie dough, piecrust and lemon blossom aromas. Tropical fruit and zesty citrus are highlights on the palate. There are light flavors of vanilla amid a balanced acidity that shows a Chablis-like character. For this wine we like to take advantage of its naturally high acidity which works wonders with delicate, creamy sauces. Stick to lighter meats and fishes like chicken, bass, halibut, cod, clams or scallops.
Alquimista Cellars 'Mes Filles' Pinot Noir 2016, Russian River Valley, Sonoma County, California
100% Pinot Noir aged in French oak barrels on lees, only 800 bottles of this wine were produced. Mes Filles Pinot Noir shows aromas of bay laurel, cedar and black cherry that into into a palate of sandalwood and ripened fruits with a long, lingering finish. An incredibly versatile food pairing wine given its higher acidity and lower tannin, we love this wine with duck, chicken, pork and mushrooms.