Lazy Creek Vineyards is named for the meandering creek that runs through the 95-acre ranch located four miles west of Philo in Mendocino County’s bucolic Anderson Valley.
A pleasant detour off Highway 128, Lazy Creek’s narrow, dirt road — overgrown with rambling bushes and ferns, towering redwoods and oak trees — opens onto the rustic farmhouse, barn, cottages and winery outbuildings with its menagerie of animals, gardens, fruit trees and vineyards. It’s one of the smallest wineries in the valley, and the second oldest.
When Don and Rhonda Carano discovered Lazy Creek Vineyards, the quiet simplicity and charm reminded them of when they first started in the wine business more than 30 years ago as grape growers on a small ranch in Sonoma County’s Alexander Valley. That’s where they established Ferrari-Carano Vineyards and Winery.
The Caranos purchased the 95-acre Lazy Creek ranch in 2008 from Josh and Mary Beth Chandler. Planted to roughly 40 acres of grapes — including Pinot Noir, Gewurztraminer, Riesling and Chardonnay — it was love at first sight for Don and Rhonda. Their true passion has always been for the land and all that it brings.
Prior to the Chandlers, Hans and Theresia Koebler operated Lazy Creek for 26 years, after they purchased the property from the Pinoli family, the founders of the ranch in the early 1900s. The Koeblers undertook the arduous task of planting additional vineyards, including Gewurztraminer, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Hans established Lazy Creek as a producer of award-winning Alsatian-style wines.
The Caranos honor the philosophy and tradition of producing the Alsatian/European-style of wines that Lazy Creek enthusiasts have come to enjoy.
“We truly believe that great wines begin in the vineyards, and we feel honored to carry on the tradition of superbly-crafted, artisan wines established by those before us at Lazy Creek,” says Don.
Also believing whole-heartedly in allowing the vineyards to express themselves is Lazy Creek’s winemaker, Christy Griffith. A true outdoors woman, Griffith grows her own organic vegetables, and will tell you that winemaking is all about the senses.
First attracted to the industry when she was an intern at Murphy-Goode Estate Winery, Griffith became passionate about winemaking because it is art and chemistry combined, and a very hands-on profession. After receiving her enology degree from Cal State Fresno, she spent five years as assistant winemaker at Jordan Vineyards & Winery, then joined Ferrari-Carano as assistant winemaker, focusing on Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
Now, it is her goal to allow the land to express itself in the wines, with minimal intervention.
“We have such a great diversity of clones and some unique vineyard sites that allow for complex, concentrated, multidimensional wines,” Griffith says. “The Lazy Creek wines are true terroir-driven, and I plan to convey that by letting the land speak for itself in the finished bottle — balanced, rich and delicious wines.”
Blessed with a temperate, cool climate, the Anderson Valley is classified in viticulture terms as a Region 1 growing area, a designation for the coolest climate in which grapes can be commercially grown. The combination of warm, sunny days with foggy nights and mornings allows the grapes to mature slowly and reach their full varietal characteristics.
Lazy Creek’s 92-acre ranch is planted to only 52 acres of grapes, including the oldest Gewurztraminer vines in the valley, planted by Hans Koebler in 1970. The yield for these vines is extremely low, producing stunningly concentrated fruit.
The majority of the ranch is planted to Pinot Noir, including an 8-acre block said to be the oldest Pinot vineyard in California.
In addition to Lazy Creek’s award-winning Gewurztraminer and Pinot Noir, a small amount of Riesling is produced from a 2.4-acre vineyard block, as well as Syrah from a 3-acre block.
Lazy Creek’s rolling, well-drained terrain in such a small area — ranging from 15 to 30% slope with gravelly, sandy loam, to terrain with a 5 to 15% slope of brown loam derived from weathered bedrock sandstone — give this estate its unique character and beauty.
The entire ranch has been sustainably farmed for more than 40 years. Recycling all organic matter for use in the vineyard and the gardens around the winery, as well as the integration of farm animals, continues to this day.
Don and Rhonda Carano have always believed in letting the land speak for itself through as little intervention as possible to create the most natural conditions possible in producing wines that are truly born from the Earth. The wines of Lazy Creek Vineyards represent this philosophy deliciously.
4741 Highway 128, Philo, CA 95466
Call for visitor hours: 888-529-9275 or 707-895-3623