Williams Selyem was founded in 1981 when Ed Selyem and Burt Williams, friends who shared winemaking as a hobby, decided to make a commercial vintage. The men were neighbors in the Russian River Valley with full time jobs that were unrelated to winemaking. Nevertheless they purchased grapes and made Zinfandel, then single-vineyard Pinot Noir. Williams Selyem Pinots quickly earned a cult following. In 1998 the founders sold the winery to John and Kathe Dyson, former customers with backgrounds in wine production and business. The winemaker is John Cabral. Though the estate is best known for Pinot Noir, it also makes Chardonnay and Zinfandel. Says Robert M. Parker Jr: “The overall style of Williams Selyem Pinots remains one of elegant, high-acid wines that can age….”
Russian River Valley AVA is named for the river that meanders from Mendocino County in the north until it finally runs into the Pacific Ocean north of San Francisco. The AVA is cool thanks to its proximity to the northern California coast and the river, and grape growers must learn to deal with regular fog. Nevertheless in recent decades the AVA has become one of the best in the state, meaning that its wines often earn excellent reviews and have considerable cachet. The AVA status was awarded in 1983 and today the appellation has 15,000 vineyard acres. Chardonnay is the most widely planted grape though Pinot Noir has also been very successful in recent decades. Russian River Valley Pinot Noir are known for being rich, lush and filled with concentrated fruit and berry flavors. Russian River Pinot Noirs are today considered some of the best domestic Pinot Noirs.
Zinfandel is a black-skinned grape, but 85% of the wine produced is made into a rosy “White Zinfandel.” Red Zin is far more complex and bold, while still being light-bodied. It grows in popularity as winemakers continue to experiment with new styles and blends.