The Big Vineyard in the Sky, Part II

Ferrari-Carano Vineyards and Winery. | Courtesy

The homepage of the Web site displays only 13 words. Those few words tell a large part of the story of our next Vineyard in the Sky member, as well as stories of hundreds of thousands like him. They read: “Valdez Family Winery, a true America Dream success story. Hard-work, passion and family …”

Read Part I Here

Ulises Valdez started his work/passion journey in 1985 at the age of 16 when he left his remote village in Michoacán, Mexico, with the goal of supporting his 10-member clan by pursuing his American Dream. He found work in Rockpile Vineyards in Sonoma County. In 1986, the U.S. instituted the Immigration Control and Reform Act, which paved the way for many to achieve legal residency and ultimately citizenship. He also pursued higher goals and formed a vineyard management company where his work ethic and well-earned reputation as a grape whisperer landed him contracts with a who’s who of wineries.

In 2004, he took another leap and founded his winery, which has met with equal successes and accolades — including being served at The White House. I am a huge fan of their sophisticated and powerful Zinfandels or any of their low-production offerings. If you haven’t tried one, please, fix that tout de suite.

A master’s art. | Courtesy Giacosa Winery

Although the late Don Carano did quite well for himself in the hotel and gaming business in Reno, Nev., he was decidedly not one of the lifestyle winery owners who never gets their hands dirty. He and his wife Rhonda were hands-on from Day 1 in the winery game. They built Ferrari-Carano Vineyards and Winery from the ground up and became one of the largest vineyard holders in Sonoma, as well. As anyone who ever visited the winery will attest, Don and Rhonda are known for amazing hospitality as much as for their wonderful estate-grown wines at their elegant setting on Dry Creek Road in Healdsburg.

Speaking of the wines, Ferrari-Carano paints a large palate of wine possibilities from a fan favorite and quality bargain Sauvignon Blanc to various Chardonnays — try the Tré Terre to Bordeaux varietals to their Spirit of Italy Pinot Grigio and Dry Sangiovese Rosé and Siena. Don will certainly be missed; Rhonda is doing a stellar job of keeping their dream alive.

Another wine icon we lost is Bruno Giacosa from Piemonte, Italy, who was known as a master of the region’s indigenous varietals. In addition to wizardry with Nebbiolo — think Barolo and Barbaresco, Dolcetto, Barbera, Arneis and even sparkling wines — he was also a leader in quality advancements in the region. Giacosa had and has a large hand in the current skyrocketing reputation of Barolo in particular.

Next time you are wine shopping, keep an eye out for the wines that were the life work of these people. Cheers.