The Tasting Panel magazine

August 2016

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Page 91 of 100

august 2016  /  the tasting panel  /  91 Fourth-generation farmer Steve Domenichelli, Ferrari-Carano's Director of Vineyard Operations, might offer a similar answer with an emphasis on sustainable farming techniques. Says Domenichelli, "Farming for me starts with a deep respect for nature and the environment by being more 'hands-off'—the land is the priority. We are the guest when developing and maintain- ing a vineyard, so I strive to keep the integrity of our surroundings while occupying this land. It is very important to me that we do everything we can to sustain animal life in our waters and on our land while we are farming. I have the highest regard for the environ- ment, animal life and nature as a farmer, and I want to work with it, not change it." Domenichelli's labor-intensive sustainable vineyard techniques applied to the 1,900 of acres of vines help to produce an expansive dossier of wines, earmarked into a handful of different categories. For instance, Ferrari- Carano's Classics— the "everyday drinking wines"— show more like elegant, special occasion wines. This is especially the case with the Ferrari-Carano 2012 Trésor Sonoma County Red Wine, a Bordeaux-style blend of 71% Cabernet Sauvignon with almost equal parts Merlot, Malbec, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot from the Alexander and Dry Creek Valleys. The wine sees 40% new French, American and Hungarian oak for 21 months of cave aging before blending and bottling. Lower in price yet equal in elegance, the Ferrari-Carano 2013 Merlot surpasses expec- tations. This blend of Sonoma County Merlot from the varying vineyards of Ferrari-Carano sees 25% new French, American and Eastern European oak for a total of 15 months. But if there is one wine that is truly clas- sic Ferrari-Carano of the Classics, it's the Chardonnay Reserve. The 2013 is made with Chardonnay grown primarily in Napa Valley Carneros. The wine is aged sur lie in new French oak, and bi-weekly bâtonnage occurs for eight months before an additional aging of seven months in older, neutral French oak. I asked Rhonda Carano which of her "children" she secretly loves the most. "Personally, I like our Classic Sonoma County Chardonnay; it's my mainstay. I like the idea of blending, similar to the French style of winemaking. Our Classic wines are more approachable, spend less time aging and are easy to enjoy. A blend of all our vineyards gives the wine complexity and dimension on so many levels. It's like a chef in the kitchen adding spices to create his masterpiece dish. The Vineyard Selects are beautiful as well, intense, with depth, a sense of terroir . . . truly a sense of place." The Vineyards What is it about the vineyards of Ferrari-Carano that separate them from the pack? Here's a quick breakdown from north to south: Mendocino Ridge and Anderson Valley The Anderson Valley AVA, one of California's cooler areas, forms part of the larger Mendocino AVA. It is here they source their Pinot Noir for the Ferrari-Carano Pinot Noir. The non-contiguous Mendocino Ridge AVA, however, is only partially within the Mendocino AVA and requires all vineyards to be at least 1,200 feet above sea level. It's no wonder that Ferrari-Carano has dubbed their estate vineyard here Sky High Ranch. The Pinot Noir grows at over 1,500 feet and goes into the Vineyard Select series wine of that name. Alexander Valley Warmer than Anderson Valley and Mendocino Ridge, the Alexander Valley AVA in northern Sonoma County is home to Ferrari-Carano's Mountain Winery. It's also where over half of their fruit is sourced. Here they grow Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot, Syrah, Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot from the area's valley floor, benchlands and mountainous microclimates. On the side of the steeply terraced LookOut Mountain, Ferrari- Carano grows its Cabernet Sauvignon for the Prevail West Face. It's here too that you will find their newest property: Foster's Ranch. I asked Rhonda Carano why it was they had been trying for so many years to acquire this property. Says Rhonda, "When we first bought land in Sonoma County it was pretty much valley vineyards along the Russian River, perfect for the majority of our wine production at that time, Chardonnay. We soon realized that if we wanted to be recognized as a red wine producer, we needed to acquire mountain vineyards. Hence, all the latest property we bought has been mountain land. I truly believe we have some of Sonoma's premier mountain properties, including our newest property [Foster's Ranch] which is virgin land and will be treated as such, with sustainable farming creating some of the finest Cabernets. We are currently planting this land, and time will tell how the story unfolds." Newly planted vineyards at Maacama Ranch.

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