Summary: A. Rafanelli is one of those magical wineries and vineyards nestled in a hi llside of Dry Creek Valley. Experience terraced hillside vineyards, wine tasting in a barrel room and see wine caves. To visit A. Rafanelli reservations are needed.
In the Dry Creek Valley AVA of Sonoma County, A. Rafanelli winery provides an old-world charm for wine enthusiasts. Call ahead and make an appointment to taste the wonderful wines that reflect the terroir of the hillside.
Alberto Rafanelli came to the United States and settled in Healdsburg with his family. He planted grapevines and soon started making wine. After Prohibition, Alberto's son, Americo, continued on with the winegrowing and winemaking tradition. Zinfandel was planted, however wines were not sold commercially until 1970. Today, Americo's son David and wife Patty own and operate the winery. Their oldest daughter, Rashell (Shelly), is the winemaker and fourth generation of the Rafanelli family to make wine. Shelly's husband, Craig Fehlman, manages the vineyards and sister, Stacy, is in charge of daily operations. This family owned and operated winery has 100 years in winegrowing and winemaking experience.
Vineyards of A. Rafanelli
The vineyards cover a hillside and the valley floor. Along the hillside the vines are terraced. A tractor can easily make it down a row however turning corners is a bit of a challenge. The 80 acres of vines are filled with Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon on the hillside, while the valley floor has plantings of Chardonnay, Merlot and Syrah. The valley floor grapes are sold to other wineries. Grapes on the hillside are used to make the A. Rafanelli wines. From bud break in the spring to harvesting in the fall all the hillside vineyard's grapes are touched by human hands three to four times.
Observing the vineyards from the winery, one notices an island of olive trees in the center of the vineyards. The view is reminiscent of Tuscany, Italy. Olives are hand harvested and sent to a mill for pressing and oil extraction. Grapes have been grown on this spot since the 1800s. During a November visit, the vineyards were showcasing their autumn foliage. Although there were still some green leaves on the vines, the yellows, oranges and reds were spectacular.
The tasting room is inside one of the several barrel aging rooms. Small groups can experience the small group setting, by appointment only. Enjoy the story of the history of the family and the winery that accompanies the wine while surrounded by barrels and large oak casks with huge airlocks. Small table tops sit on top of oak barrels providing a place to sit while tasting the wines. One unique tabletop is a large slab from a redwood tree.
Much of the electricity needs of the winery are provide by solar panels on the roofs of the structures. The winery produces about 11,000 cases of wine a comfortable niche for owners, David and Patty Rafanelli.
We had an opportunity to view the wine cave built into a mountain. About 5,000 square feet of caves house oak barrels, stacked one or two high. David commented that the temperature and humidity are perfect for aging wine in barrels. He loses about a case a year more in barrels aging in air conditioned buildings than the barrels in the wine caves. That case per barrel of saved wine can add up.
The entrance to the wine caves is along a tunnel that is a beautiful progression of red wood to stone. Thick redwood doors flank an end leading to the tunnels. The tunnels were built with a diamond tipped machine that could bore through solid rock. The surface of the tunnels were then covered with shotcrete, a mixture of sandy cement and pea gravel. A special event room used for family functions has an old-world feel. A long wood table and candlelight make this a romantic spot.
Two wines were tasted in the tasting room area. The 2008 Zinfandel, a lively wine, was a dark ruby to purple color. The wine was dark fruit on the aroma. The taste also had dark fruit and distinguishable raspberries. There were tannins on the crisp fruity finish with a hint of cocoa. The 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon was a dark purple to black color with a ruby rim. The fruity aroma and taste offered blackberries, raspberries and a touch of chocolate. Bold tannins accompanied the fruit forward finish.
Wines are usually sold out in the first two weeks of being released. Those who want access to the wine should signup for the mailing list. A. Rafanelli wines are shipped to several states and available at fine restaurants.
An old-world scene and charm await visitors to A. Rafanelli. Take time to observe the vineyards and delight in a barrel room wine tasting. Contact the winery for reservations to visit.
4685 West Dry Creek Road
Healdsburg, California 95448
N38º 39.164’ W122º 56.129’
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