Get the Dirt about Olivera Wines from winemaker Richard Milkovich

12 Mar

OliveraPeople1. What was your first vintage year? 2014

2. How many cases do you make per vintage? 125-250

3. Do you have a Tasting Room? No tasting room, but we can taste by appointment. You can email a request to

4. If not you, who is your winemaker? (If willing to share.) – From 2014-2016 we made our wine with Rick Moshin at Moshin Vineyards. 2017 was the first vintage under my guidance, Rick still consults and wines are produced at the Moshin facility under our bond.

5. What wine made you want to become a winemaker/start your own winery? Ultimately, I found Pinot Noir to be the most intriguing varietal. I have been in the business my entire adult life in various positions; Retail, Wholesale, Sommelier & Buyer, Restaurateur, Accounting & Finance, and Grower. I planted the Rosalina Vineyard in 2007 and sold all the fruit to Moshin Vineyards. Our contract allows us to produce small amounts under our own label and we chose to exercise that option beginning in 2014.

6. What varietals do you work with? Why? Pinot Noir exclusively for now. Eventually some Pinot Blanc, we have ½ acre planted in the Rosalina Vineyard. I love what you can elicit from the pinot noir grape; its subtle yet can have great complexity with layers of aromas and flavors.

OliveraVineyard7. What vineyards do you source from? Why? If Estate, why do you choose your location? Estate fruit. I have always thought Russian River was one of handful of places in the world that you could grow world class Pinot Noir fruit. We have a south facing slope in Goldridge soils with 18-22% clay content. The micro-climate here is perfect for Pinot Noir. Summer fog patterns and the natural 35° daily swing in temperature all throughout the growing season renders very pretty fruit with great natural acidity.

8. What type of oak treatment do you use? Why? We use French Oak from various producers, 20-30% new Oak, tight grain, medium toast, sometimes Medium + toast. We mainly prefer Mercurey barrels and their interaction with our fruit. Oak should be a spice nuance not forward or overbearing and the Mercurey barrels seem to exemplify our goal.

9. What do you love about your winemaking region? What makes it different special? The climate, soil, and the natural beauty of the environment. It’s an honor and a privilege to live and farm here and I love the community of small farms and farmers. The Pinot Noir vineyards on the Middle Reach of the Russian River adjacent to Green Valley and the Laguna de Santa Rosa, just a 5-10 mile stretch along the river, have such a wonderful perfume in the aromatics. The Pinot Noir grapes grown here can be “true Pinot Noir” in the right hands– it’s all about balance, nuance, finesse, and elegance.

Olivera_Pinot Blanc Label_201510. What’s the story behind your winery name / label? Olivera is a family name going back 5-6 generations in California. My great-great grandfathers’ parents were given a Spanish land grant which was subsequently lost through statehood and taxation in the 1850’s. I chose the name to honor my ancestors who have lived all over CA for the last two hundred years. Rosalina Vineyard is an ode to my mother and mother-in-law, Rosalie and Virginia, who goes by Gina…thus Rosalina. It’s a bonus the name is reminiscent of the rose petal perfume we get from the vineyard and draws from regional Spanish roots.

11. What’s the one thing you wish someone had told you about the wine business before you started your own winery? – Since I have been in and around the business since I was 21, it’s hard to imagine anyone could warn me about negatives. I knew all the hardships. I did it because I love wine, am truly passionate about food and wine, and sharing it with friends, family, and those just newly introduced but drawn by similar passions. It’s a labor of love, a lifestyle, and we are definitely not in it for fame or fortune.

12. Most importantly, what’s so great about being small? What can you do as a small winemaker, that wouldn’t be possible for larger wineries? – Control, small fermentation batches, no rules to follow. I am intimate with the vineyard and winemaking facility. The team at the winery shares the same vision. Farm the vineyard for quality fruit, preserve the wine with natural acidity, utilize native yeasts and natural winemaking to allow the finished bottle to tell a story about varietal, place, and time.

13. How do you view the future in the wine industry for small-lot winemakers? It helps if one has worked in sales and/or accounting & finance. The distribution model is a mess and the field beyond overcrowded. It’s not for the faint of heart; you have to be able to do everything. When you make it, you have to sell it. There is always room for well-made wine, a good story, and someone enthusiastic to share it.

14. If you had to choose another wine region to work in what would it be? It depends on the varietal one chooses to focus on. For Pinot Noir I like Oregon’s Willamette Valley but the Umpqua Valley shows promise. Santa Rita Hills, Santa Maria Valley, Mendocino, and spots in the coast range along Santa Cruz down to Monterey are all nice regions. I don’t think at this point in my career I will be choosing another region to start over in.

For more information about Olivera Wines, please visit their website.

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