Sustainable Wineries Ferrari-Carano Vineyards
Yes, California wine country is back, and sustainable wineries have so much to offer their wine loving visitors. Just as other industries are returning with a new focus on the environment, is it any wonder that wine connoisseurs will benefit from a focus on the health of the terroir as well?
It’s been a tough year for the nation’s wine garden. Fires, climate change and Covid have taken their toll, but it was so exciting to see the area coming alive again during my recent visit. What I discovered is that many are rebounding better than ever with a renewed focus that will benefit both the land and visitors to the vine. For those looking for a weekend getaway with plenty of outdoor space, California wine country is calling.
The landscape of Sonoma County boasts mountains, rivers and valleys. From the right location, when the light cooperates, it provides a backdrop of over fifty miles of coastline. With over 60 varieties of wine, 18 appellations and over 425 wineries, there is no doubt northern California is serious about wine.
So many choices for the visitor, how to decide? Natural wines, organically grown grapes, green string method, biodynamic, California green medal, the terms can all be a bit confusing. A good benchmark for your winetasting focus is the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance. The Alliance offers a choice of over 171 certified wineries in California, giving wine lovers the option to drink local while concentrating on certified California sustainable wines or vineyards.
CSWA Mission and Sustainability Practices
The long-term mission for the Sustainable Winegrowing Program includes:
- Establishing voluntary high standards of sustainable practices to be followed and maintained by the entire wine community
- Enhancing winegrower-to-winegrower and vintner-to-vintner education on the importance of sustainable practices and how self-governing will enhance the economic viability and future of the wine community
- Demonstrating how working closely with neighbors, communities and other stakeholders to maintain an open dialogue can address concerns, enhance mutual respect, and accelerate results
Healdsburg and The Dry Creek Valley
Our first stop in California was Healdsburg. The village has a small town charm with an assortment of eco-friendly luxury hotels and restaurants featuring delicious, local ingredients from the surrounding area. The nearby Dry Creek Valley is only minutes away, making a visit to the CSWA certified Ferrari Carano Estate an easy choice for our first wine tasting.
Ferrari-Carano Sustainable Winery
A Brief History
As owners of a successful hotel and casino in downtown Reno, Nevada, Don and Rhonda Carano were first introduced to Sonoma while researching wines for their business in 1979. The Alexander Valley made quite an impression, and after purchasing a 60-acre parcel, they began investigating the winemaking process. After educating themselves in enology and viticulture, their first wines were created under the Carano Cellars label and eventually introduced at their restaurant.
Additional land was added, and the couple eventually built their winery in the Dry Creek Valley. Under the Ferrari-Carano label, they released their first bottles in 1987. Today, the winery still produces the first two, a fumé blanc and Alexander Valley chardonnay, along with 20 additional white, red and dessert wines.
In 2015, Ferrari-Carano’s 24 vineyards earned California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance (CSWA) certification, becoming a Certified California Sustainable Vineyard for their numerous efforts to preserve the land for future generations while producing memorable, sustainable wines of outstanding quality.
We are committed to sustainable farming techniques from vineyard to bottle. – Don and Rhonda Carano, co-founders of Ferrari-Carano
Its long been known that great wines begin with in the vineyards. The wines produced at Ferrari-Carano are the result of a focus on the health of the environment. The brand customizes their sustainable farming techniques for each individual area to produce the best fruit possible, and in turn, the best wine.
Sustainable Wineries Land Management Techniques
- It takes 81 gallons of water to make one gallon of wine in California
- Efforts at the vineyard include decreased irrigation hours, irrigating only at night and subsurface irrigation directly to the grapevine.
- The use of misters as opposed to overhead sprinklers to cool grapes during heat spikes and a unique trellising system with the ultimate goal of leaving more acreage to dry farming.
- Grey water collection is used for watering and fountains.
Tree Sap Alternative
The use of tree sap (lignin sulfonate) in combination with crushed rock excavated from the surrounding mountain ranches is used instead of asphalt in the roads on vineyard property. This treatment keeps dust mites at bay and reduces the risk of pollution that can wash into the area during rain fall.
Other Sustainable Winegrowing Practices
- Wine cave
- Gravity flow winery
- Biofuels for energy consumption
- Habitat restoration
- Natural crop nutrition
As we arrived, we were handed a glass of light 2020 Fumé Blanc from Sonoma County. We then had the special opportunity for a private tour of the property with Antonia Mata-Marquez, gardening program manager.
It has always been a dream of mine to manage a gardening program such as what we have here at Ferrari-Carano. My vision is to create an all-sustainable garden that feels welcoming to every guest. I want people to a have an incredible experience, so they’ll want to come back.
After having only been there six months and dealing with the delays of the last year’s health crisis, Antonia is well on her way to achieving the goal of creating a productive, sustainable garden.
Those who know me, know of my predilection for all things broccoli. As Antonia handed me a freshly picked stalk from the prolific and organic Giardino della Cucina, I tasted a little bit of green heaven!
Next we snacked on some celery. Although wine was obviously the main event, what a delight to see such energy being put into the ingredients that will soon end up on the table of future dishes in the Sycamore Grove terraces (now open for brunch on Sundays). Enjoying a flight of wines overlooking the vineyards and gardens with selections from the seasonal, Italian inspired menu will no doubt leave a lasting impression on all who visit.
Estate Olive Oils
The terroir of the surrounding area, including sun, stone, drought, silence and solitude mimics the ideal conditions of the Mediterranean. There are big plans for reviving the olive trees surrounding parts of the property. The brand is currently sold out of the Estate Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Meyer Lemon Olive Oil. No doubt in the trusty hands of Antonia, this will be something for fans of the vineyard to look forward to in the future.
Villa Terrace Wine Tasting
The winery is currently open seven days week with tastings by appointment on the terrace overlooking the breathtaking vineyards, gardens and fountains. The outdoor patio is the perfect place to enjoy a flight of 4 award winning reserve wines in a relaxed and welcoming atmosphere with plenty of outdoor space. Plentiful red umbrellas provide a colorful accent and appreciated shade from the sun. The one-hour tasting is $30.00. and the setting is spectacular.
2018 Emelia’s Cuvée Chardonnay, Russian River Valley
This single vineyard pour was straw yellow in color and delicious. Just the right amount of oak with a great nose. The taste was rich, but not overpowering with notes of pineapple, citrus, and a hint of fresh thyme. Perfect for a summer picnic with lobster rolls or chicken salads. $38.
2018 Middleridge Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley
The Pinot Noir was wonderfully balanced and earthy with a nose of some of my favorite flavors. Red fruits are followed by currant and a hint of cardamom. $54.
2018 Zinfandel, Dry Creek Valley
Grown on the Estate in Dry Creek Valley, this easy to drink zinfandel has a wonderful combination of smokey oak, blackberries and pepper. The smooth combination of of 97% zinfandel and 3% petit sirah makes for a smooth, easy drinking wine. $28.
2019 Viognier and Dry Rosé
We then strayed a bit from the wine tasting menu . The 90 degree temperatures made water the focus and also looking for a lighter bottle than the last one on the tasting-2015 Trésor Cabernet Sauvignon Blend from Sonoma County. Our loss, I’m sure, but you can’t control Mother Nature! Instead, our knowledgeable host gave us a pour of a delicious and cool 2019 Viognier from Alexander Valley along with a glass of their Dry Rosé from Sonoma County. Light and refreshing, we found these two both perfect for warm weather. A delightful way to end our visit to the Ferrari-Carano sustainable winery.
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