No Rule Book and Years Ahead
Kathleen Kohn Fetzer was a farm girl living on a cattle ranch when she decided to move in with her sister in Oakland California.
She met Bernard “Barney” Fetzer a merchant marine at a dance and they were married in 1945.
The couple grew grapes and converted the vines to Vitis vinifera varietals which they sold to small winemakers in the area and as the family grew bigger so did the farm with the children being educated by a vinter about viticulture after school, learning everything there was to know.
In 1968 Barney decided to try out making his own wines and converted a barn into a winery with a successful batch of commercial wine consisting of 2500 cases of Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel.
Barney also had a plan to make white wines and hired a winemaker by the name of Paul Dolan, who helped expand the wine collection by adding two white wines.
Before Barney passed away 1981 he bought the Sundial Ranch with 1100acres and an intention to grow Chardonnay grapes which were becoming popular in America.
Barneys children followed through and planted the varietals in order to make the white wines and in 1982 Sundial Chardonnay was produced as well as Bel Arbor a second white wine and bought the Valley Oaks ranch in 1984 with 1300 acres of land and they built a state of the art winery which focused on producing red wines as well as educational centres and the building was complete in 1988.
After Barney’s death, Kathleen and her 11 children took the company by the horns and built it into a 2 million case producer, one of the largest in the county and the state.
In 1985 the family produced their first reserve wine, converted 5 acres of their north coast winery into experimental vineyards with sustainable farming methods and by 1990 were fully sustainable with zero waste earning them an award for their efforts in conservation with their buildings made from recycled materials, ultra violet watering systems which eliminate chlorine treatment of well water and in 1993 created the Mendocino Cooperage.
The Fetzers sold their winery to the Brown Forman Corporation with an eight year non- compete clause, but kept most of the vineyards and many of the kids today are back in the business.
In 1999 winemaking transferred from Redwood Valley to north coast winery in Hopland, where they became the first estate in California to operate on 100% renewable energy winning them numerous awards for energy and water conservation as well as waste reduction.
In 2006 the Hopland winery installed the largest solar energy array in the wine industry, reducing carbon dioxide emissions by the tons and in 2015 they became the largest wine company in the world to receive the B Corp certification.
The Vineyards and Organic Farming
Fetzer farms organically for the Bonterra brand and use the same principles that have been used for their farming for the past two decades making them the largest organic wine grape producers.
The pruning and canopy management are done to achieve balance between the vines and the fruit, leaves and shoots are removed with air circulation, flow, light and pest control in mind.
Drip irrigation is used and strict controls are managed including soil monitoring, erosion control and pest control as well as ensuring that the right kind of pest visits the vineyards.
Compost is natural and cover crops are in most of the vineyards.
You would never think that California would have wines produced there but being the largest environmentally friendly winery with the fresh and crisp flavours it would be an interesting visit to see just how strict the controls are in order to produce a zero waste farm that has been sustainable before the world even thought about becoming organic.
The wine collection consists of 11 bottles
Cabernet Sauvignon Valley Oaks comes from the warmer climate and the foothills of the valleys in California with aromas of black fruit such as cherry, blackberry, vanilla and a hint of herbs with oak and flavours of black cherry and chocolate, toffee and vanilla
Chardonnay Sundial is made in the vineyards where there are warm days and cool maritime breezes with rich sandy loam soils. This wine has a crisp and fresh flavour of pears, apple and tropical fruit
Gewurztraminer Shaly Loam comes from the foggy central coast vineyards with aromas of tangerine, mango and orange spices as well as flavours of honeyed apricots, cinnamon and peach
Merlot Eagle Peak comes from where the weather is warm and the valley cherry orchids are where these varietals grow with aromas of red liquorice, toffee and mocha and flavours of black cherries, plums and dark fruits with a hint of caramel
Moscato Valley Oaks has a burst of passion fruit, peach and mango on the palate with aromas of rose petals and lychee
Pinot Grigio Valley Oaks comes from a cool air climate with aromas of mango, pear and orange spices as well as flavours of tropical fruits with hints of citrus
Riesling Goose Foot Road from the Monterey Coast with rich floral flavours
A photo posted by Fetzer Vineyards (@fetzervineyards) on
Editor-in-Chief and Wine Writer
Michael is an online enthusiast, with a lot of knowledge about online marketing. Traveling around the world to hunt for the perfect wine. Latest on Sicily, where Etna has a huge impact on the taste, which is strong with a bitter aftertaste for the youngest wines, but older wines are fantastic. Drinking wine, and writing about them, are one the passions. Remember to drink responsibly 🙂