Winery Profile: Ferrari-Carano Vineyards and Winery, Best Sonoma County Wine

With two wineries, one for red wine and the other for white wine, Ferrari-Carano Vineyards and Winery, holds a unique place in the Sonoma County wine scene. Although it has vineyards in Napa Valley and Mendocino County, Sonoma is the heart of its superb and diverse vinous offerings. Nevada restaurant and hotel owners Don and Rhonda Carano founded the winery in 1985, after having purchased 60 acres of vineyard in the Alexander Valley in the early eighties.

Don and Rhonda became fascinated with the winemaking process and this passion led them to take classes in oenology at the University of California, Davis. At first they produced wine for family and friends, but this soon took on a life of its own. Today, Ferrari-Carano produces over 20 white, red and dessert wines. In 2015, their 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.

Does Ferrari-Carano Really Have Two Distinct Wineries?

Although red and white (and rose) wines can, and usually are produced in a single winery, they involve different processes. Having two specialized wineries for red and white wines represents Ferrari-Carano’s commitment to producing the very best expression of these distinct styles possible.

Located in Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County, the Estate Winery focuses on stellar white wines. A number of techniques ensure superb whites, including harvesting at night when temperatures are the coolest, resulting in crisp and intense fruit flavors. “From the moment the grapes enter the winery, our objective is to interpret the individual characteristics of each vineyard block, based on the growing techniques, soil, clonal differences and flavor,” says Ferrari-Carano. A gentle, whole cluster fruit press provide intense flavorful berry extraction. Stainless steel settling tanks allow natural separation of grape solids as opposed to the roughness of a centrifuge, which can remove flavor compounds. The Estate Winery also has five barrel cellars, including a stunning underground cellar, for Chardonnay fermentation and aging.

All Ferrari-Carano wines are vinified and kept in separate lots until blending, a philosophy that began with Don and Rhonda’s first bottle of wine and continues to this day.

The Mountain Winery for red wines is found on RockRise Mountain on the east side of Alexander Valley, Sonoma County, high above Geyserville at an elevation of 1,000 feet. Also practicing night harvesting, with hand picking, this state-of-the-art winery boasts unique tools to accomplish this incomparable California red wines. A vertical elevator belt moves whole grape berries dropping them directly into each fermentation tank. This unique delivery system was specifically designed for Ferrari-Carano to handle the fruit as gently as possible. Three crush pads are used: large capacity, gravity flow and optical. Adjacent is a 77,000 square-foot underground cave where the red wines ferment and barrel age in a temperature-controlled and energy-efficient manner. “Our red wines are produced from a variety of different clones and selections from Ferrari-Carano’s many ranches, including two mountain ranches, RockRise and LookOut,” says the winery. “These mountain grapes come from low-yielding, non-irrigated vines which add depth and character to the wines.”

Bottle Barn offers a range of these California wines, which can quickly and easily be purchased online. This includes the 2017 Ferrari-Carano Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon. With 14.5% alcohol, this best red wine boasts vibrant aromas of licorice, cedar, clove and black cherry.  The 2019 Ferrari-Carano Sonoma County Chardonnay was described by wine critic Jeb Dunnuck as showing “a clean, fresh, yet toasty, richer style.” On the nose it features butter and stone fruit notes, with toasted brioche, and white flowers. “Medium-bodied, it has a soft, rounded texture, a good sense of freshness, and a clean finish,” says Dunnuck, who gave it 90 points.

Written By: - Charlie Leary

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