A visit to Ferrari-Carano Vineyards & Winery

Enoteca at Ferrari-Carano

I couldn’t help being wowed as soon as I arrived at Ferrari-Carano. What greeted me was a glamorous Italian mansion surrounded by festive bright red flowers, fountains, lush gardens, and miles of golden vines.  Visually this is very impressive and one of the most stunning estates in Dry Creek Valley.

I arrived in the tasting room and was met by their knowledgeable and super friendly hospitality manager, Patrick.  The Italian theme certainly comes through in their wines, and I found plenty of examples such as the Sangiovese and Pinot Grigio, as well as their red blend, Tresor. If you like their Fumé Blanc, you’ll be pleased to find a large selection of other wines in the tasting room.

On this day I was here for their winery tour.  This is a free tour that they offer every day (except Sundays) at 10am.  After a quick taste of Fumé Blanc we headed off on the tour.

I wondered where the Ferrari name came from.  Patrick explained that the winery began as a dream of Rhoda and Don Carano, who founded the winery in Dry Creek in the early 1980s. The Ferrari name comes from Don’s mother, and it is included in the winery name to celebrate the family’s Italian heritage.

There is a small walkway through the gardens and this is a must do. The gardens are just stunning and have a European/Asian style of plants and landscape.  It even features a cork tree, which is interesting for those who haven’t seen one before.

We then headed across to the winery. Most well known for their Chardonnay, the winery brings in grapes from four appellations in Sonoma County.  As we headed out into the vineyard, Patrick pointed out the large vineyard map on a sign which details their 19 vineyard locations.  This explains the scale of the production facilities needed here.

Like at many wineries you’ll find especially in this area, sustainability is often discussed.  Ferrari-Carano along with many of the wineries and grape growers are working to help restore Dry Creek to try to bring the fish population back.   Other sustainable practices on the vineyard include beehives in certain areas, owl houses (owls prey on rodents), and ponds for ducks and geese.  They even have babydoll sheep to keep the grass down.  (Using sheep is something you’ll hear from a lot of sustainable producers as they don’t want to compact the soil between the vines, as happens with machines.)

Our tour finished with a walk through of the barrel room, followed by a tasting in their downstairs tasting room, the Enoteca.  I’d really recommend coming down here for a tasting, as their upstairs tasting room can be busy.  Here I tried the Eldorado Gold, a dessert wine which is fabulous, as is the Baci, a late harvest Zinfandel with chocolate notes, another addictive dessert treat.

A visit to Ferrari-Carano is well worth a stop if you are visiting Healdsburg and Dry Creek Valley.

Expert tips:

  • Plan to visit Monday through Saturday at 10am to take advantage of their free tour
  • Go downstairs to the Enoteca for your tasting.  It is priced slightly higher than the regular tasting bar, but the experience (and wines) are worth it.
  • The tasting room has plenty of great souvenirs

WineryCritic Ratings

8/10 Overall visitor experience

9/10 Knowledge of guide

9/10 Location

10/10 Architecture and design, landscaping

8/10 Other experiences: Various private tastings downstairs in the Enoteca and Prevail Room

8/10 Knowledge of tasting room staff

8/10 Friendliness of staff

9/10 Signage & ease of access

8/10 Quality of the wines poured

Appointment required:  No.  Reservations required if you want to do the tour.

Address:  

8761 Dry Creek Road, Healdsburg, CA 95448

www.ferrari-carano.com

Tasting fees & experiences:  Open daily 10am – 5pm

  • Tastings: Taste four wines for $5
  • Guided tours at 10am by appointment Monday – Saturday
  • Enoteca Tasting $15 (refunded with an $80 wine purchase)
  • Private tastings with charcuterie pairing available on request

Good for:  Italian wine fans, garden & architectural lovers

Wines produced:  Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Fume Blanc, Merlot, Zinfandel, Tresor & PreVail (Cabernet blends), Pinot Grigio.

What’s nearby: Sbragia Family Estate, Dry Creek Grocery, Healdsburg

District/Appellation: Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County

Contact for appointments:  Call 1-800-831-0381 to reserve the winery tour

Date of visit: November 15, 2013

E-mail: mindy@winerycritic.com