If you’re on Dry Creek Road looking for an impressive tasting room experience, stop in at Ferrari-Carano Vineyards and Winery, voted Best Wine Tasting Room by NorthBay biz readers. When you approach the main entrance, you’ll be met with immaculately kept gardens and a terrace that overlooks a portion of the vineyards, made to resemble those found in rural Italy.
Owners Don and Rhonda Carano started off in the hotel, hospitality and casino business in Reno, originally coming out to Alexander Valley and Dry Creek Valley to search for wines for their restaurants. The Caranos fell in love with the area, bought a house and property, and immersed themselves in the business of viticulture and winemaking. Last year marked the 30th harvest at their property.
“What the Caranos have done,” says Retail Sales Manager Sil Coccia, “is build a very well-recognized luxury brand that has widespread national distribution.” There are four tasting venues at the winery. Villa Fiore was built 20 years ago. Situated upstairs in the main building, it served as the main tasting room for many years. It’s a bright, sunlit space overlooking the gardens and featuring a wine shop. Downstairs is the reserve tasting bar, called the Enoteca.
Located in a dramatic underground cellar, the Enoteca pulls out all the stops to wow visitors. With stone-lined walls and furnished with glossy, dark wood tables and black chandeliers, the atmosphere is luxurious. To the side of this space is a private tasting room, called the PreVail Room. Last (but certainly not least), the recently opened tasting venue on the terrace, dubbed Il Terrazzo.
Coccia says the dazzling atmosphere isn’t an accident. “We’ve worked really hard to create a customer experience where they come away not only saying the place is beautiful and the wines are terrific, but the overall experience was memorable,” he says. “People want to come here because they want to see the gardens. They want to experience the beauty of the property.” He attributes much of this to the meticulous work of Rhonda Carano.
The winery offers 24 different wines across 15-plus varietals and blends. He admits, “We’ve primarily been known as a Chardonnay house. That’s the wine that really put us on the map and has been on numerous White House menus throughout the years.” However the winery has been expanding its Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon portfolio over the past few years. The favorite, by far, is the Fumé Blanc, a Sauvignon Blanc aged 40 percent in oak. Characterized by Coccia as, “the wine nobody doesn’t like,” it features a “bright entry, terrific acidity, a round mouth feel and finish that make it universally appealing.”
The winery gives daily, complimentary consumer tours at 10:00 a.m. by appointment, as well as group tastings and private tastings by appointment. In addition, “We have our bi-annual wine club events, and we participate in a lot of the events in the valley, like Winter WINEland and Passport Dry Creek Valley” (but not barrel tasting). Those interested in weddings are referred to the winery’s sister property, Vintners Inn (See page 73).
Coccia says that, for Ferrari-Carano “the goal with each vintage is to continuously improve on the previous year. You have some things you want to be consistent, but you’re hoping your super premium wines are improving every year.” The winery also has a “tremendous” all-woman winemaking team that helps perpetuate its vision for quality and value.
He adds that recognition by NorthBay biz readers is always gratifying. “That’s the ultimate stamp of approval for us,” Coccia says. “Now the challenge is to maintain and continue to exceed expectations. It only encourages us to work harder to win again.”
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