Edible Monterey Bay

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Ferrari Family Renews Steep and Storied Vineyard

May 14, 2021 – You’ll find no Ferrari’s at this hilly vineyard in Corralitos, except for owners Dave and Liz Ferrari. They are no relation to either Ferrari-Carano or to the automobile legend in Italy. To complicate matters, there is a Ferrari winery in Italy that happens to make sparkling. While the couple awaits their own sparkling being made from their estate grapes, they are talking with the Ferrari folks in Italy about carrying their wine. Everybody likes bubbles. 

Dave and Liz, whose Silicon Valley company OneWorkplace keeps them mighty busy, used to spend most of their time at their home in Monte Sereno. But Covid made virtual everything a reality and they quickly realized how much they enjoyed spending time at the vineyard retreat they purchased in 2016. For much of 2020, they self-isolated in this gorgeous view-blessed spot, from which you can see other homes dotting the hillsides and yet feel a world apart. It was a blessing. They adopted a senior black lab, whose owner had passed away, and they adapted to a slower pace of Zoom life, with an enviable background that doesn’t need to be photoshopped.

Much of Corralitos is a Pinot Noir vine’s idea of heaven. Viticulturist Prudy Foxx, who has been consulting with the various owners of this particular vineyard, including the present ones, says the abundance of every type of citrus, apple, pear and flowering shrub speaks of an idyllic climate for flora and fauna alike. “It’s like a mini Garden of Eden,” she says. “Backyard gardens planted in the 1920s and 30s are filled with the most exotic trees. Almost anything will grow here. The warm days, the cooling fog and moist air, and great alluvial soils make it ideal. They have great drainage. Vines do not like wet feet.” 

Ferrari Ranch Vineyards in Corralitos

There’s no chance of wet feet on the steeps of this 23-acre property, though. The pitch of the slope upon which the vineyards cling is pretty much the only thing about this particular piece of land that isn’t ideal for humans and machinery. The newest section, planted in 2018 after a mudslide wiped out the existing vines in 2017, is particularly challenging, but Dave loves farming on his tractor. It’s total concentration, something he appreciates. His family were farmers in Santa Clara Valley long before the high tech era and the couple have been growing grapes and making wine from Zinfandel on their estate in Monte Sereno for family and friends for years. 

The tractor on the Ferrari Ranch label is tiny, almost lost among the five swirling lines represent the cool morning fog and sweet evening breezes. The Ferrari’s have three children, making them a family of five, and there are also five lines in a musical staff. Two of the Ferrari children are pursuing careers in music and the third is mastering the harmonica. 

The vineyard, the site of a former apple orchard, was first planted to grapes in 1979 by Mike Matteson, who put in Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Riesling and Gewurztraminer. Kenny Likitprakong of Hobo Wines and Ghost Writer, made Gewurz from here, but it was subsequently pulled out. For several years in the 1990s, Jeff Emery of Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyard, made Pinot Noir from here which he described as intense and driven. In 1997, the vineyard became known as Ciardella and the owners applied an “old world, hands off” approach, which didn’t suit the vines. Basically, the vineyard needed a boost. 

Then, Pete and Barb Woodward took it over and with the help of Foxx, who encouraged them to feed the vines, restored the vineyard to health. But eventually, the stress of caring for such a demanding property, despite the obvious rewards and benefits (Bradley Brown of Big Basin Vineyards has produced some of his best pinots from the Woodruff Vineyard), became too much, and they sold the property to the Ferrari’s. 

Foxx encouraged them to rip the fossil rich soil deeply, exposing the roots to oxygen. It worked. Winemaker, Ross Reedy, who also crafts wines at VML in Sonoma, is making some fine Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from this special place. “Because the vineyard doesn’t face south, the fruit is protected from sunburn. This provides for slow and steady ripening, which yields great flavors over time,” says Foxx. 

The vineyard, planted to clone 4 and old Wente clone of Chardonnay, along with a heritage selection of Pinot Noir clones in the original planting. The new Pinot Noir block planted in 2018 is a mix of Mount Eden and Swan clones.

Currently, wines available under the Ferrari Ranch label are the 2018 and 2019 vintages of Chardonnay, the 2018 Pinot Noir and a soon to be released Rosé of Pinot Noir.

If you are interested in visiting, Ferrari Ranch Vineyard will be open to ticket holders during the Santa Cruz Mountains Vintners’ Festival on May 22 and 23.

SAVVY SIPS

2020 Scheid Sauvignon Blanc, $22  – This is a light and breezy execution of a wine that can sometimes be quite polarizing: you never know what you’re going to get. There should be some kind of sliding scale indicator on the back labels for SB. On one end, a koala bear symbolizing pure Aussie grass, eucalyptus and grapefruit, and on the other end, a Carmen Miranda hat decked with pineapples, guava and coconut, portraying the tropical end of the spectrum. Scheid walks the middle on this one, with light lemongrass, tangerine, lime, Meyer lemoon and a touch of starfruit and melon. There’s a grassy note, too, plus a sprig of rosemary, giving it a tinge of herbaceousness.

2019 ROAR Rosella’s Vineyard Chardonnay, $50 – One of the most famous vineyards in all of the SLH, Rosella’s is coveted. Each vintage is enormously complex, owing to its site at the northern end of the bench. Pale yellow-green, yet viscous in the glass, this delivers aromas of passionfruit, mango, tangy citrus, wet stone, hyacinth, toasted coconut and white peach. It’s rich on the palate, with creamy seckel pear, braised fennel and coconut cream pie. I love how winemaker, Scott Shapley, toes the line between the restraint of Burgundy and the generosity of California. Magnifique!

2019 Sarah’s Vineyard Tondré Grapefield Pinot Noir, $48 – One of the best executions of this vineyard, planted by Tondré Alarid and lovingly farmed by his son Joe, and wife Penny, in recent memory. Winemaker Tim Slater has certainly made his best pinot noir ever from this lauded vineyard in vintage 2019. With rose petal and Rainier cherry aromas, this seductive wine is silky smooth and red-fruit dominant, from start to finish. It exhibits an incredible range of red deliciousness, including red cherry, red raspberry and ripe wild strawberry, accented nicely by a flood of baking spice and cardamom. Overall, this is a joy to drink, with plentiful acid, great energy and none of the dark earthiness that seems to come out in more extracted versions of fruit from this vineyard. 

About the author

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Laura Ness is a longtime wine journalist, columnist and judge who contributes regularly to Edible Monterey Bay, Spirited, WineOh.Tv, Los Gatos Magazine and Wine Industry Network, and a variety of consumer publications. Her passion is telling stories about the intriguing characters who inhabit the fascinating world of wine and food.

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