After leaving San Francisco and a side trip to Muir Woods, we visited the heartland of California's Wine Country in the Sonoma and Napa Valleys for four days. California is the fourth largest producer of wine in the world, behind France, Italy, and Spain. 90% of all the wine produced in the United States comes from here. Including Mendocino County and Lake County, the Wine Country occupies over 7,000 square miles and is home to hundreds of wineries that are open to the public for tours and tastings. There are many lodging accommodations, fine restaurants, one of a kind shops and beautiful scenery that would charm even a non wine enthusiast.
We drove through Sonoma North and South, but basically concentrated on the Dry Creek area of Sonoma in the north. Just look at this street sign at one of the intersections -- so many wineries, so little time! Although we would have loved to visit them all, we chose a few that were recommended to us by friends who had visited them before us. It's my pleasure to now highlight a few of them for you!
One of our first stops was Ferrari-Carano Vineyards and Winery, located at 8761 Dry Creek Road, Healdsburg. Owned since 1985 by Don and Rhonda Carano, they strive for wines with a consistent taste of style and elegance. Ferrari-Carano consists of 19 estate vineyards in four appellations, totaling over 1400 acres.
Their hospitality center called Villa Fiore is set in the midst of their 70-acre Dry Creek Valley estate vineyard.
This beautiful estate could be a travel destination just to see their immaculately kept five acres of exquisite gardens.
A 1,000 pound wild boar sculpture named "Boardeaux" greets you as you walk up the entrance. It is based on a sculpture that stands in an open market in Florence, Italy, and rubbing its nose is supposed to bring good luck. I hope it also means we will be fortunate enough to make a return visit to both places one day!
There was still some morning mist rising up from the vineyards in the distance.
The gardens are truly spectacular! Much of the flora changes with the seasons. You can see more photos on the Ferrari-Carano website.
The vineyards were also immaculate. They are directed by Don Carano and orchestrated under the supervision of Steve Domenichelli, Director of Vineyard Operations.
(To enlarge all photos, click on them once, and then again when they open on a new page)
You will have to enlarge this photo to read this informational board that was on display on the estate explaining all the interesting sustainable farming techniques used by Farrari- Carano.
We were cheered on our trip to learn that many Sonoma and Napa Wineries are striving to use sustainable farming, to be environmentally friendly, and, in some cases, to be totally organic.
Shall we take a little stroll together through one of the vineyard lanes?
The entire wine country had experienced a cooler than usual summer in this '10 year so the harvest was expected to be delayed as the vintners hoped for a few more hot days to help the grapes develop sweetness. Time will tell if this delay will mean good or bad vintage for 2010.
The profusion of grape clusters that were literally dripping from the vines was amazing sight to see! Quite a bit of careful pruning and trellising of the vines is practiced in most of the vineyards we visited.
Wine is sunlight, held together by water." ~ Galileo Galilei (1564-1642)
We took a very interesting tour in one of Ferrari-Carano's wine making facilities where we were shown the process of making wine, as you can see in the photo collage above. The whole cluster fruit press is utilized to gently provide intense flavorful berry extraction, and the stainless steel juice-settling tanks allow grape solids to settle naturally without the roughness of centrifuge, which can remove flavorful grape solids. We also toured one of the five barrel cellars, including a magnificent French styled underground cellar used for the fermentation and aging of the Chardonnays. It was explained to us that the imported Austrian cobblestone floor is gently moistened daily to maintain coolness and humidity in the cellar.
Visitors may taste Ferrari-Carano's Classic Wines and Villa Fiore wines (sold only at the winery) at the tasting bar. Pinot Grigio, Fume Blanc, Sonoma County Chardonnay, Siena, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon are available. Visitors can also elect to taste some of the limited release and reserve wines in the Enoteca Lounge. There is also a gift shop where you can purchase bottles of wine and also an assortment of gift items such as tableware, linens, wine accessories, and logo clothing.
The Ferrari-Carano wines were truly multidimensionally flavorful, and visiting their magnificent winery was very memorable. We were very happy we chose to visit them!
In my next post I'll bring you to the new Sonoma Francis Ford Coppola Winery, and his on site restaurant called Rustic. They are spectacular places to visit!
I'm linking this post to Susan's "Outdoor Wednesday" event on her blog A Southern Daydreamer. I hope you will visit Susan to see her outdoor adventure and to see the links of all the blogs participating today!