The Wine: Oeno Skin Contact NV
Oeno Skin Contact is an orange natural wine made from 93% skin-fermented Chardonnay and 7% direct pressed Cabernet Sauvignon grown in the Russian River Valley, California.
The Producer: Oeno • Amy Atwood
OENO (ee- no) is owned by Amy Atwood, who also operates a wine import and distribution company, Amy Atwood Selections. She has sought out top quality vineyards in Sonoma and a like-minded CA winemaker who makes these wines to her specifications (start with pristine fruit, then use native yeasts and neutral oak). Oeno wines are made in Sebastopol, California. Oeno is the ancient Greek word for wine, as well as the name of a goddess known for turning water into wine.
The Region: Russian River Valley
The Russian River Valley is an American Viticultural Area (AVA) located in Sonoma County, California. This appellation extends along the Russian River basin encompassing the areas around the cities of Sebastopol, Santa Rosa, Forestville, and Healdsburg.
Viticulture in this AVA has a relatively long history: it was initiated during the 19th century by immigrant communities, which relocated to California mostly from Southern Europe – the majority were of Italian descent. It was only with the turn of the 20th century that viticulture and winemaking became commercial phenomena, with almost 200 wineries operating in the area.
After the dark ages of Prohibition, with its “Jackass brandy” and illegal wine production, we have seen a resurgence of winemaking starting from the early 1970s. It was Foppiano Vineyards in 1973 to label a wine Russian River for the very first time. The Russian River Valley was recognized as its own AVA in 1983.
The Terroir of Russian River Valley
The soils of Russian River Valley were shaped by two main factors: first, millions of years of tectonic activity between the North American and Pacific tectonic plates, second, relentless volcanic activity.
As a result, we have essentially three types of soils:
Generally speaking, the Russian River Valley is a cool climate area, a characteristic due mainly to its proximity to the Pacific Ocean, which a mere 10 miles away. Hence the love affair with Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, grape varietals thriving in cool viticultural areas – such as for example Burgundy in France.
The Pacific Ocean is also responsible for the signature coastal morning fog, which embraces the vineyards slowing down the ripening process and contributing to the grapes finesse. The Russian River’s influence on the region’s climate has to do more with irrigation during the summer than with its mitigating effect.