The Tasting Panel magazine

March 2018

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Page 33 of 112

march 2018  /  the tasting panel  /  33 P erhaps nowhere else in California wine country is the Italian spirit more wholly embodied than it is at Ferrari-Carano Vineyards and Winery in Dry Creek Valley. When Rhonda and Don Carano sought to establish the winery in 1981, the influence of their shared Italian heritage led them to a location with vistas reminiscent of the country's landscapes. They built a gracefully- imposing Palatinate estate evoking the grandeur of a noble Italian villa, but a la dolce vita sensibility prevails in the warm hospitality they offer there. In 1990, the Caranos decided to add a red blend known as Siena to their portfolio: Inspired by the Super Tuscans, "the name derives from Dry Creek Valley's rich, deep sienna-colored mountains," Rhonda explains, adding that "the label itself, with its ragged die-cut edge, was specifically designed to reflect the soil and our heritage." Although the blend's composition has varied between that first vintage and the recently-released 2015 vintage marking Siena's 25th anniversary, the style and intent of the refined yet approachable wine has never changed. Ferrari-Carano Executive Winemaker Sarah Quider reveals that Siena's early blends were more Cab-focused, but over the years the wine has taken a more decidedly-Italian bent. Sangiovese gradually assumed a domi- nant role and is the major component of the anniversary wine, making up 67 percent of the blend. Ferrari-Carano has also notably developed into one of Sonoma County's largest Sangiovese grape growers. The Current Climate Since Don's passing in October 2017, Ferrari-Carano's future rests securely in Rhonda's capable hands. "The fact that Ferrari-Carano owns 24 vineyards in six appellations is a great part of our success," she notes. "Knowing the vineyards allows us to produce quality wines that are appreciated by consumers for their consistency and value. They know when they purchase a bottle of our wine that they won't be disappointed. Success is having repeat customers time after time." One of the Caranos' most ambitious goals was to earn California Sustainable Winegrowing certification at all of their vineyards: an objective Rhonda deemed especially important considering global climate concerns. This was no small feat considering some of the vineyards exceed 1,100 feet in elevation, but after years of arduous work and dedication, 100 percent of Ferrari-Carano's vine- yards have earned the credential. "This initiative has taken years to come to its full potential," Rhonda says. "When you're talking about farming more than 1,500 acres in six different appellations, it takes commitment." Those lofty vineyards may be tricky to farm, but Rhonda is quick to enthuse about the role they play in the winery's greater identity and legacy. "Ferrari- Carano has always been recognized as producers of white wine, particularly Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay, but equal attention should be noted for our mountain Cabernet Sauvignons," she says. She's particularly excited about the winery's newest mountain vine- yard, Mayacamas Ranch, where she says Ferrari-Carano aims to "produce superior Cabernet Sauvignon." Crafting the Blend In addition to the Cabernet in the 25th Anniversary Siena blend, 36 percent of the Sangiovese providing the backbone of the wine is also sourced from the mountain ranches. "The higher- elevation mountainside vineyards with shallow, rocky, low-vigor volcanic soil add structure and pomegranate flavors, while the Sangiovese from the valley gives juicy berry fruit and strawberry jam characters," Quider explains. To round out the blend, Quider also mixed in some Malbec for the "lush, sweet plums" and Cabernet and Petite Sirah "for the touch of darker fruit and leather." After aging 14 months in about a quarter new French oak, the result is an easy-sipping, "medium- bodied, fruit-forward" wine bottled with a screwcap. And although Siena is ready to drink upon release, Quider is confident "it will continue to hold up nicely for several years, thanks to the good amount of mountain-sourced fruit, the Cab, and the Petite Sirah." Asked for her thoughts on the 25th Anniversary Siena, Rhonda—who also loves to cook—responds with gusto: "Best of all, it goes great with osso bucco!" Italian Palatinate in style, Ferrari-Carano's estate winery in Dry Creek Valley, CA, is at once gracefully imposing and inviting. Ferrari-Carano Executive Winemaker Sarah Quider uses mountain-ranch and valley-floor Sangiovese to provide the backbone of the Siena red blend. The 2015 vintage marks the wine's 25th anniversary.

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