Local Wine Country
LOCAL WINE COUNTRY
GROWERS IN LAMORINDA POUR SERIOUS SIPS
By Fran Miller
Wine lovers are likely familiar with California’s varied AVA’s (American Viticultural Areas), each characterized by a unique climate, suitable soil and good grape growing conditions. Carneros, Howell Mountain, Mount Veeder, Oakville, Rutherford, Stags Leap District, Yountville and Lamorinda are all AVA’s. Yes – Lamorinda. It became an AVA in 2013 as a result of the Lamorinda Winegrower’s Association’s (LWGA) lobbying efforts. They asserted that the East Bay territory’s cool climate and hillside vineyards make it an ideal winegrowing region. With topography and conditions much like neighbor Napa, Lamorinda’s temperatures are moderated by its hilly terrain and cooling fog that rolls in during hot summer days.
The Lamorinda AVA boasts approximately 125 vineyards producing mainly Chardonnay, Syrah, Cab Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Sangiovese. Most vineyards are located in backyards on under an acre. Only a few are visible from public roads. The LWGA and its members promote their status as a winegrowing region and seek to enhance marketability of Lamorinda grown grapes and wine. Members also support each other with the exchange of vineyard maintenance and sustainability tips. Five LWGA wineries are bonded, and another dozen are overseen by hobbyists. Here’s where to find their goods:
Captain Vineyards: Family-owned and operated by Sal and Susan Captain, this Moraga based winery blends upwards of 35 reds, available at the winery or online. Join the ‘Captain Club’ and take part in harvest, bottling, labeling and wine releases. “We take pride in every step of our production process: energy conservation, dry farming, zero waste, and reduced carbon footprint,” says Susan. “Our goal is to grow grapes for everyone's favorite beverage in a manner that doesn’t cause environmental damage.” captainvineyards.com
Deer Hill Vineyards: Located in a quiet suburb of Lafayette, Deer Hill has been family-owned and operated since 1998. Bill and Alissa Scanlin take pride and care in producing small batches of smooth, bold, and flavorful Cabernet Sauvignons that are less filtered than commercial wines, giving them more character. Every grape bunch is carefully handpicked to ensure great taste and quality wine. Find it at Total Wine in Pleasant Hill. deerhillvineyards.com
Los Arabis Vineyards: The Ward Family planted 1500 Pinot Noir vines in Lafayette in 1999. Their grapes continue to thrive on a southwestern facing slope just past the coastal fog belt where days are warm and nights are cool. The steep hillside dictates that the vineyard is completely hand farmed. Dry and silky, with flavors of cola, nutmeg and mace, Los Arabis Pinot has a sweet finish. Named for the Arabian Horses that ran the hillside for years, their wines can be found in fine local restaurants, Total Wines, Diablo Foods, and Jackson’s Liquor. losarabisvineyards.com
Meadow View Winery: Bill English began making award-winning wine in 1976, but it wasn’t until 2016 that he sold his first bottle. Now, his wines can be found at Jackson’s, Wine Thieves, Total Wine, Diablo Foods, Postino and Orinda’s Cine Cuvee. He makes Chardonnay, Rose, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and a Super-Tuscan style blend, with partners Doug Spear and Isabelle Ord, who provide Meadow View grapes from their Moraga vineyard. meadowviewwinery.com.
Vicenza Ranch: Tony Inzerillo converted a horse barn on his Moraga property to house 20 barrels of wine from which he produces 150 cases per year of awarding winning varietals. He works directly with local grape growers to make Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Meritage, Petite Syrah, Sangiovese, Super Tuscan Blend and Zinfandel. His wines can be found at Amoroma in Moraga, La Coco in Berkeley, and a few Italian delis. Inzerillo is also known for his exclusive Pear Wine, made annually for the Moraga Pear and Wine festival. vincenzaranch.com.