Back at last year’s Wine Blogger Conference, I met Kelly from Gallo Family Estates. She sat next to me at the speed dating/live blogging/whatever you want to call it first event where we were introduced rapidly to about 14 wines. At the time, I think she was a little bemused by the flurry of activity, everyone being on twitter, and all that was going on. But she must have liked what she saw as she will be attending again this year! We exchanged cards, and that was that. Several months later, she sent me an email and wanted to know when my next trip to the Sonoma area was going to be. She happened to be the first person to contact me, so my schedule was wide open and we settled on a day, she wanted to take me to see two of the wineries owned by Gallo.
Usually I would write up winery visit separately, but we visited both Frei Brothers and MacMurray Ranch, and the whole experience was completely intertwined–tasting Frei Brothers while at MacMurray, asking questions and learning about the Gallos at both, so I’ve decided to write up the visit as one big post. We headed first to MacMurray Ranch where we met up with Sally, a hospitality host. Sally promptly handed us a glass of the 2007 Frei Brothers Russian River Valley Sauvignon Blanc and got down to talking about all the vineyards the Gallos own in California and then focused her presentation to MacMurray Ranch, giving us a bit of the history of the vineyard.
2007 Frei Brothers Sauvignon Blanc: Melon, lemon, has that nice acidity you can smell on the nose, tropical fruits, lime, grapefruit, stone fruit, crisp and dry.
MacMurray Ranch is 1600 acres, with only 465 acres planted to vine. The Gallos purchased the property in 1996 from the MacMurray family and started the MacMurray label in 2001. The property is extremely cool…the old ranch where the MacMurray family lived is on the property and has been fully restored, including many of the original furnishing and memorabilia from the MacMurray family–Fred MacMurray was a famous actor and his daughter is very much involved in the brand and the winery. She helped with the restoration of the ranch and added the family touches to the decorations.
Kelly arrived shortly thereafter and accompanied us around the house. After touring the house and the immediate property, we headed to the porch for a leisurely lunch, where the chef had outdone herself! Cheese trays, brisket, fruit platters, macaroni salads, quite the spread for the 4 of us. We enjoyed several wines over lunch.
2007 MacMurray Ranch Pinot Gris: Lemon grass, vanilla, spice, oak, green apple, lemon, grass/hay, stonefruit, crisp, clean, very lemony.
2007 MacMurray Ranch Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir: Smoke, leather, earth, cherry, chocolate, raspberry, floral, nice red fruit, brown sugar, caramel, tart.
We headed from lunch up to the top of the valley to have a look at the MacMurray vineyards and the beautiful view as well as enjoy some of the wine amongst the vines from which is was made. I learned a lot of the Gallo family on this trip. Overall, the portfolio consists of 60+ brands and 18 members of the Gallo family still work for this entirely privately held corporation. I also had no idea, but the corporation follows a 50/50 giveback plan whereby of all the land they own, they leave 50% of it untouched, undeveloped, and wild. So at MacMurray Ranch, while the whole property is 1600 acres only 465 acres are developed. At Frei Ranch, the property is 1500 acres with 700 developed.
From MacMurray, Matt and I hopped in our red Ford Mustang rental car (somewhere I have a picture of this…when we picked it up it had 6 miles on it!!) and followed Sally and Kelly over to Frei Ranch, where a blending seminar was going on! Looked like lots of fun. Both Ranches were bursting with activity the day we toured…MacMurray had a bbq going on that smelled delightful! At Frei, we started on the porch by tasting some Barefoot Bubbly Chardonnay. Now, I will admit, I’m pretty skeptical of the Barefoot brand, but the Bubbly is $7 a bottle and shows yeast, lemon, nuts, sweet peach, and apple. It’s easy to drink, and for $7…well, you can’t really beat that price for a fun bottle of bubbly that would go great with a day at the beach.
After the porch, we headed on a tour of the property. First, we stopped at a pretty lake out by some of the vineyards. I took some pictures of the poppies in bloom and we tried some more wine!
2005 Frei Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon: Vanilla, cream, cedar, strawberry jam, spice, pepper, deep red fruit, some black cherry, nice structure with some tannins.
I must admit, I’ve never seen a production of this scale before. We checked out the tanks….there were so many! And so many different kinds. I couldn’t believe it. And then the barrel room! I believe they said it holds 50,000 barrels. 50,000 barrels??!!??! Holy cow.
I’m really glad I took Kelly up on the offer to come on this tour. I learned so much about the Gallo family and what they do, plus, I’ve just never seen anything like this. The two properties we toured were gorgeous, though I favored MacMurray Ranch…with the house and all the old barns, it just seemed so homey. I leave you with a string of pictures of the most barrels I’ve ever seen!