Small vineyards can produce powerful statements of wine! As we spend a little extra time in our backyards these days, we wanted to highlight some of the historic “backyard” vineyards that Biale cherishes. These mini-vineyards could be categorized as the historic, hidden gems of Biale and Napa and Sonoma Valleys. These single vineyard bottlings from land under an acre in size may be small, but they are mighty in importance to the diversity and expression of Zinfandel that we strive to produce. The Falleri Vineyard, Guadi Carli Vineyard, and the Valsecchi Vineyard are three of our favorites. Bob Biale is not shy when it comes to searching for Zinfandel and other heritage varietals in Napa and Sonoma and these relationships usually start with a knock on the front door and a handshake agreement.
Valsecchi Vineyard by Dave Todd
The Falleri Vineyard has been a single vineyard Zinfandel bottling in the Biale lineup since 1993. It is about a half-acre in size, planted with head-trained vines located at the eastern edge of downtown Calistoga. This vineyard has been preserved through several generations of the Falleri family since the 1920s. Argentina Falleri was an immigrant from Italy who moved to Calistoga from the logging camps of the Mendocino coast in 1924 and took over the young vineyard. The family also farmed chickens and operated a gas station on the site. After this matriarch, her daughter Olivia Heitz assumed stewardship of the family vineyard. Today, Sonya Spencer, Olivia’s daughter, proudly and dutifully continues the women’s tradition–minus the eggs and gas. The vines sit on the loamy clay soils at the base of Mount St. Helena in the warmer northern half of Napa Valley. This area tends to produce wines that are concentrated, ripe, and flavor packed–all while maintaining beautiful elegance.
While Bob was walking through the Falleri Vineyard, he could not help but notice the small vineyard just across the street. The Gaudi Carli Vineyard in Calistoga is a little patch of the only “old vine” Barbera we know of in Napa Valley. We have the Torrigino family to thank for stewarding this 100-year-old vineyard for the last 80 years. Gaudi Carli planted this unique vineyard in 1920. Marie Torrigino, Gaudi’s daughter took over the reins and now son, Steve, daughter-in-law, Joyce, and great grandson, Joe Vanni, are the stewards of the land. Barbera is one of the classic varieties of northern Italy and produces some of our favorite wines to serve with meals. Biale debuted the Gaudi Carli Barbera with the 1995 vintage and it has been the perfect fit for our Italian heritage since then.
The Valsecchi Vineyard is one of Biale’s little gems–a beautiful Zinfandel from a small inconspicuous site just outside the town of Sonoma. Technically, this vineyard lies just within the northern boundary of the Carneros Appellation, which makes it very rare indeed–one of only a few Zinfandels and certainly the oldest existing vineyard within this AVA (American Viticultural Appellation). Eagle Eye Bob was driving back from checking one of several of our other vineyards in Sonoma and happened to notice the old, gnarly vines in Ron Mick’s backyard. Once again, a knock on the door by Bob resulted in a big score of discovering another small Zinfandel vineyard. It just so happened that the Mick’s previous grape contract just ran out. The Valsecchi Vineyard is named for John Valsecchi, who retired to farm the old Zinfandel vineyard after a lifetime of dairy work. The vineyard was originally planted around 1900. Under the proud and loving care of Valsecchi’s grandson, Ron Mick, the vineyard has thrived and its bounty of one or two tons of prized Zinfandel has been delivered to Biale since 1995.
To learn more about the historic vineyard sites that Biale helps preserve, visit www.biale.com.
Written by Rebecca Tschauder