I made a day trip out to Mendocino County yesterday to check on our Gewurztraminer and Grenache vineyard sites. This time of year, I travel north about once a month and it’s always a spectacular day. I try to get an early start and head north through Calistoga into Alexander Valley through Geyserville and past Cloverdale before taking the windy 128 over to Boonville. Ferrington Vineyard is just north of downtown Boonville and is the home to our Gewurztraminer. It’s always a quick stop, as I walk the 4 rows in one block and 3 in another. The viticulture practices are very well managed here, so there is rarely anything to request. Yesterday, the vineyard crew was just finishing up the last of the seasons canopy management, removing leaves on the morning side of the vine. There is no sign of softening yet, which tells me harvest will be at least 10-14 days later than last year. It was foggy and cold, as usual in the early mornings in Anderson Valley.
When I leave Ferrington, I head back through downtown Boonville and northeast on highway 253. This mountain pass almost always takes me above the fog line as I head into sunny and warmer Ukiah. My first stop in this eastern part of the county is Venturi Vineyards, a new grower partner for us in 2016. This site is owned by Larry Venturi, whose family emigrated from Tuscany in 1917. Larry tells stories about his family and the history of the ranch. My favorite is when he laughs about how they built highway 101 through the middle of his ranch! I check on our small block of organic, dry farmed, head trained Grenache. I am thrilled at the opportunity to work with this fruit this year as part of our Clif Family Grenache red wine program!
Headed back on Highway 101 south, I pass through the town of Ukiah and head east to the Talmage bench to see Rory Bartololmei. The Bartolomei brothers are 4th generation in the family, who have farmed the land since the early 1900’s. We have been purchasing this Grenache block for several years now, and it is the site of our sought after Rose´. Rory and I chat about fruit set, politics and Clif Bar as we walk the rows. I’m always asking for more grapes, but I’m forced to look to the newly planted Grenache vines in the neighboring block and think wishfully to 3 or 4 years down the road. On my way out of the ranch, I stop to pick some blackberries on the side of the dirt road.
So, after about 200 miles round trip, I return to St. Helena. A bit groggy from the ride, I am thankful to have these wonderful sites in Mendocino County that offer diversity to our wine program. I am also thankful for these grower partners, who care so deeply about their land. I enjoy working with their grapes, appreciate their friendship and cherish these out-of-county days.