If one were to survey American wine drinkers as to which appellations (or more precisely which American Viticultural Areas - AVA) are foremost in their minds, Napa and Sonoma would certainly top the list. However, California remains a treasure trove of family vineyards and wineries from a plethora of less recognizable place names with no lack of quality wines to offer. One such distinguished family venture is Donati Family Vineyard, located in Paicines, California. Begun in 1998 by Ron Donati with the notion of growing grapes with his son Matt, Donati Family Vineyard has moved quickly from growing superior quality grapes to making award winning wines.
The Donati Family Estate Vineyard site enjoys a variety of soils from limestone to decomposed granite to clay loam, and access to the cooling ocean breezes of the Monterey Bay. Like much of southern Napa, Sonoma, and Monterey counties, Paicines has long warm days followed by cool nights. The vineyard is planted to various select clones of Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Syrah, Pinot Grigio, Pinot Blanc and Petit Verdot. Vine selections are carefully screened for viral diseases prior to planting, ensuring that the future of the vineyard is secure, and that vine health and fruit integrity remain intact from planting through harvest.
Matt Donati believes in hands-on year-round vineyard management to create an environment where the grapes themselves can be left alone to thrive during ripening. Regular, judicious thinning of shoots during the growing season, attention to every detail of vine canopy training and light management within the fruiting zone, pre and post-veraison green fruit removal, along with scientific analysis of soil and leaf moisture throughout the growing season ensures that every aspect of the Donati Estate viticultural program contributes to the success of the vintage.
Primary efforts are directed at sustainable farming, allowing for natural predators and reduced use of pesticides to provide a clean, hospitable environment for vine growth and fruit maturation. Of course, this path of action requires extreme diligence in scouting for possible problems. But, with active personnel regularly hand-tending each and every vine, the family is gradually learning that effective and efficient sustainable practices can indeed make a significant difference in both the local environment and in the ultimate grape and wine quality.