Perlis Picks: THE OTHER WINE COUNTRY, PART V, Ferrari-Carano

When I think of Ferrari-Carano, I immediately think of Fumé Blanc. I’m sure I’m not the only one. Many years ago, I remember ordering a bottle of this delicious refreshing wine with the Ferrari-Carano label at a San Francisco restaurant. But this winery is about a lot more than that.

Photo courtesy Ferrari-Carano

The winery was founded in 1981 by Don and Rhonda Carano, The first wines were released in 1987 – the 1985 Chardonnay and the aforementioned 1986 Fumé Blanc. I’m pretty sure this was the same Fumé Blanc bottling I had enjoyed at that San Francisco restaurant; if not, then one from a vintage soon thereafter.  Now, about 30 years later, this was my first visit to the winery.

Those who read my columns on any kind of regular or semi-regular basis will know that I tend to favor smaller wineries and am just as happy tasting in a barrel room as in a fancy tasting room. But, sometimes you have to “go big”. And in the Dry Creek Valley, one of the best places to do this is Ferrari-Carano.

When Karen and I drove through the gates of the Ferrari-Carano property, we were immediately impressed by the spectacular winery building and the immaculate grounds. But, would the wines do justice to the beauty of the scenery?

Well, the short answer is “yes”.

Here’s the longer answer…

The Caranos first visited Sonoma County in 1979. They initially purchased a vineyard in Alexander Valley, but kept acquiring vineyards as the winery expanded, currently owning 19 properties, not only in Sonoma but in Napa and Mendocino as well.

In Alexander Valley, they grow Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Sangiovese, Merlot, Syrah, Malbec, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon. [The Ferrari-Carano Mountain Winery is in this AVA as well, but more on this later.] In the cool climate of the Russian River Valley, they grow Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, while in the warmer Dry Creek Valley they also grow Sauvignon Blanc but, in addition, Malbec and Zinfandel. Chardonnay is grown in Napa Carneros and Pinot Noir on Mendocino Ridge and Anderson Valley.

With all those vineyards, they do make an abundance of wines, which they have conveniently divided into “families” for easy reference:

The Classics – Fumé Blanc, Viognier, Chardonnay, Reserve Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Pinot Noir AV [Anderson Valley], Merlot, Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, Trésor [Bordeaux Blend].

Vineyard Selects – four Chardonnays [Emelia’s Cuvée, Fiorella, Dominique and Tré Terre], also the Sky High Ranch Pinot Noir and the Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon.

Spirit of Italy – Pinot Grigio and Siena [a Sangiovese dominant red blend].

PreVail – West Face [a Cabernet Sauvignon dominant blend] and Back Forty [100% Cabernet Sauvignon].


So we tore ourselves away from the views and went downstairs to taste some of these wines.

First up was the 2014 Fumé Blanc from Sonoma County. Brought back great memories. Fresh, clean and refreshing. Excellent quaffing wine.

Then we moved onto the 2012 Reserve Chardonnay. The wine had gone through 100% malolactic fermentation and had spent 13 months in French oak. I was concerned that it might be overly buttery, but it was extremely well balanced.

The above two wines, along with Ferrari-Carano’s other white, are made at the winery we were visiting, the Estate Winery in the Dry Creek Valley. The reds are produced at the Mountain Winery on RockRise Mountain in Alexander Valley. That was where we were headed next – not literally, but figuratively, as the next wine up was the 2013 Zinfandel.

At 83% Zinfandel and the rest Petite Sirah with a little Carignane, this was another very well-balanced wine. Great fruit with a little pepper at the finish, I could drink a lot of this.

We finished up with the big boys, the two PreVails, both from the 2012 vintage. Both wines spent 21 months in oak and had the backbone to handle it. Great fruit and structure. Hard to pick a favorite but in this case I preferred the West Face slightly over the Back Forty due to its healthy percentage of Syrah in the blend.

I’d be remiss to not mention that Ferrari-Carano also owns Vintners Inn in Santa Rosa. A beautiful 42-room inn, it is on 92 acres of vineyards in the Russian River Valley, just a little south of Dry Creek. With the culinary delights of the onsite John Ash & Co. restaurant, this is definitely our favorite place to stay in the area. Service is impeccable, rooms are charming, and [wouldn’t you know it?] there’s a bottle of Vintners Inn Sauvignon Blanc waiting for you upon your arrival. Perfect!


Michael Perlis has been pursuing his passion for wine for more than 25 years. He has had the good fortune of having numerous mentors to show him the way, as well as a wonderful wife who encourages him and shares his interest. After a couple of decades of learning about wine, attending events, visiting wineries and vineyards, and tasting as much wine as he possibly could, he had the amazing luck to meet Eve Bushman. Now, as Contributing Editor for Eve’s Wine 101, he does his best to bring as much information as possible about wine to Eve’s Wine 101 faithful readers. Michael is also Vice President of Eve Bushman Consulting (fka Eve’s Wine 101 Consulting) and President of MCP Financial. Michael can be contacted at or