At the northern end of Dry Creek Valley, not far from Lake Sonoma, sits one of the larger wineries (both in terms of structure and production) in the appellation, Ferrari-Carano. I have been fortunate enough to spend quite a bit of time in Dry Creek, riding my bike through the picturesque vineyards and drinking some incredible wine, but I knew very little about the winery that I had passed so many times.
I had been there once before when a good friend took me there to try their Sauvignon Blanc, one of his favorites. We were one of dozens in the opulent tasting room and while the wines were impressive, we decided to leave after tasting only a couple in search of more tranquil climes.
Thus, when the opportunity arose a couple of months ago to revisit the winery, I eagerly accepted.
Pulling into Ferrari-Carano, I was immediately struck by the meticulously maintained grounds (even on an early spring morning) and the stately tasting room. While the building and grounds are stunning, I was perhaps more impressed with the people who I met during my couple of hours there.
My first interaction was with Brian, who led a few of us on a tour of the facility and provided some of the history of the winery, which was founded in the early 1980’s by Reno, Nevada hoteliers Don and Rhonda Carano (the “Ferrari” was added by Don as homage to his grandmother and has nothing to do with fast red cars).
I did not have a ton of time with Brian, the Tour guide, but he clearly knew his stuff. It was not that I was trying to stump him (that honestly is not my style–I work in academia and I am around far too many people who constantly feel the need to prove they are the smartest people in the room), but honestly I was trying to get information that was not part of the tour. He answered each question in an affable matter-of-fact manner that was both impressive and refreshing.
After the tour, I was handed off to Cheryl McMillan, the hospitality director at Ferrari-Carano. Cheryl, simply put, is stunning. She also was incredibly nice (which seemed to be her default demeanor, not just her work persona) and I think I can safely say that she loves working at Ferrari-Carano—she has been there for a dozen years. In fact, many of the people who work at the winery have been there for a decade or more, which in my experience is rather rare in the wine industry and a testament to the Caranos and the team they have assembled.
After tasting through the larger production wines (Ferrari-Carano produces about 200 thousand cases annually) at the tasting bar adjacent to the gift shop, Cheryl passed me off to the tasting room staff in the basement Enoteca, to taste some of the smaller production wines that are generally only available at the winery or through the wine club.
In the Enoteca, the presentations are polished, professional and precise. I usually make it my mission to get people off-script, to discover a few stories that are not on the website, that have not been written by marketers. Tried as I might, there was no cracking the staff in the Enoteca, however, but there were plenty of fabulous wines to taste….
2015 Lazy Creek Vineyards Rosé of Pinot Noir: Retail $22. 100% Pinot Noir. From Ferrari-Carano’s Anderson Valley winery in Philo. Not a saignée–the grapes are grown with the intent of making a rosé. Dark salmon color strawberry and rose petal. Very nice acidity on the palate. Nicely done and a steal at $22. Outstanding. 90-92 Points.
2013 Ferrari-Carano Russian River Valley Pinot Noir: Retail $36. 360 cases produced. From purchased fruit, perhaps why it is light and lacking complexity. Ferrari-Cyrano will not be making this wine again. That’s probably for the best. Still, Good to Very Good. 86-88 Points.
2013 Ferrari-Carano Anderson Valley Pinot Noir: Retail $36. A blend of three vineyards from Anderson Valley with noticeably better fruit than the Russian River Valley Pinot and considerably richer. Cherry notes are predominate. Outstanding. 90-92 Points.
2013 Ferrari-Carano Carneros Reserve Chardonnay: $38. Big, rich and buttery. A full throttle Chardonnay. Creamy and unctuous, this is an exceedingly well done California style Chard. Outstanding. 91-93 Points.
2012 Ferrari-Carano Trésor: Retail $60. 71% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9% Petit Verdot, 7% Malbec, 7% Merlot, 6% Cabernet Franc. Bordeaux style with plenty of red fruit and black and green pepper. Really nice on the palate with subtle fruit and prominent tannins. Outstanding. 91-93 Points.
2012 Ferrari-Carano Prevail West Face: Retail $65. 65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Syrah. 800 cases produced. Cassis and raspberry with black pepper. A certain spiciness from the Syrah. Fruity and austere at the same time. This wine needs a good 5-10 years. Impressive. Outstanding. 92-94 Points.
2012 Ferrari-Carano Prevail Back Forty: 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. Retail $90. Whoa. Chocolate and dark fruit. On the palate. Holy cow. Rich full, great now but in a few years? Look out. Outstanding. 93-95 Points.
2002 Ferrari-Carano Eldorado Gold: Retail $90. 85% Sauvignon Blanc 15% Sémillon. Honey golden goodness with a nutty finish. Might be still too young. Outstanding. 92-94 Points.
2010 Ferrari-Carano Eldorado Gold: Retail $30. 100% Sémillon: Sweeter and more perfumed than the 2002. Good acidity. Very nice. Outstanding. 91-93 Points.