Letting the Land Speak for Itself

The winery makes limited quantities of hillside estate red wines from its own sustainably-farmed vineyards.

It’s a family-owned estate in Healdsburg, within the beautiful Dry Creek Valley.

The wines are aromatic, complex and elegant.

And the name of the winery comes from the waterfall that’s situated below the estate’s Zinfandel vineyards.

This is Collier Falls, which wasted no time in making a name for itself in the wine world when its first-ever vintage—a 1997 Zinfandel—earned a 90 rating in Wine Spectator magazine.

“Each year, we strive to grow outstanding fruit and make world-class wines,” said Collier Falls co-founder Barry Collier. “We hope they express the true flavors and characteristics of this wonderful winegrowing region.”

A trip to wine country in 1992 changed Barry and Susan Collier’s future together. That weekend encouraged them to sell their home and move to Sonoma County. By 1996, they were growing grapes and making wine under the Collier Falls name.

For Barry and Susan, this was quite a risk. But they saw it as a chance to enjoy the outdoors together as winegrowers, and challenge themselves as farmers following decades of city life.

Susan was the first to move to Sonoma County, where she studied viticulture in Santa Rosa and looked at dozens of properties throughout the area. She liked many of the sub-appellations, but she fell in love with Dry Creek Valley.

“The valley was intimate and the people were so friendly and genuine,” she said. “It just felt right.”

Today, the Collier family farms 20 acres in the northwest corner of Dry Creek Valley, at elevations exceeding 1,000 feet. These steep vineyards of rocky, clay soil produce mountain fruit with great color, character and intensity—exactly what winemakers love in order to craft distinctive wines.

The vineyards also sit above the fog line, so while morning fog cools the valley floor, Collier Falls’ hillside fruit enjoys plenty of sunshine. And during the warmer parts of the day, these southeast-facing vineyards get early shade, creating an ideal temperature balance for the grapes—lots of sun to develop ripe flavors and varietal characteristics, and cooler periods to help the fruit achieve balance and complexity.

Sustainability is taken seriously at Collier Falls, and involves the integrated management of land, water, vegetation, animals and insects.

“We seek exceptional quality in our fruit, and feel a responsibility to preserve our part of the ecosystem for future generations of Sonoma County winegrowers,” Barry explained.

Natural springs and creeks in the mountains of Dry Creek Valley created the 30-foot waterfall that inspired the name Collier Falls. Just a few steps south of the hillside Zinfandel vineyards, the dense forest suddenly transforms into a truly beautiful scene.

The waterfall runs year round, and at its peak during the rainy season spills more than 5 million gallons of water per day. Each year, steelhead trout arrive to spawn. The water creates Fall Creek and feeds into Dry Creek, which flows into the Russian River and connects to the Pacific Ocean.

“In winemaking, the natural scenery around us provides inspiration,” Barry added. “When nature cooperates and water, soil and sunshine are in harmony, we can capture some of that beauty in the bottle. This is a special place to make wine.”

It’s a point not lost on Collier Falls winemaker Marco DiGiulio, who shares the family’s philosophy.

“We want our wines to express the unique characteristics of our vineyards and our fruit, so we take a minimalist approach in the winery,” DiGiulio said. “Great wines are all about the vineyard. The goal is to extract and retain the most of what each vineyard has to say about itself.”

Sadly, Susan Collier was able to enjoy only about a decade of the estate’s success. She died from ALS in 2007, but her passion for agriculture and wine, her appreciation of nature, and her infectious love of life, people and Sonoma County are represented in every bottle of Collier Falls wine.

“Our ‘Syrah du Soleil’ is in her honor, and comes from vineyards she helped plant,” Barry noted. “One hundred percent of the proceeds from this special wine are donated to ALS research.”

When it comes to winegrowing, Barry is as passionate and proud as ever. You’ll still find him tending to the grapes with his two Labradors close by. And now, his two sons, Adam and Josh, are excited about building on the growing tradition of Collier Falls.

Posted in Wineries of Distinction
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