Forchini Winery: A True American Success Story

dry_creek_zin_2012From estate-grown to estate-bottled, Forchini Vineyards & Winery is a small, family owned and operated winery committed to making distinctive wines from historic vineyards in the Dry Creek and Russian River Valley appellations of Sonoma County.

Having been grape growers in Sonoma County since 1971, the dream of creating wines from their own vineyards finally became a reality for the Forchini family in 1996. That year, in a small barrel room, 425 cases of wine were produced. Annual production today is limited to 3,000 cases of wine, which are consistent medal winners in major wine competitions.

“You will taste the love of the land and grape in every bottle of Forchini wine,” a family spokesperson says.

Dedication to the environment is a top concern at Forchini. Sustainable vineyard practices that minimize pesticide usage are employed in all of the family’s vineyards, and composting of winery pomace has been a tradition for decades. Solar power is generated for winery buildings and vineyard pumps, while goats and sheep are pastured in the vineyards during winter for cover crop control and soil rejuvenation.

Owners Jim and Anita Forchini first came to Sonoma County in 1963 from Southern California, where Jim had been working as a mechanical engineer, writing contracts and executing procurements for NASA spacecraft programs.

From 1963-1976, he worked in Sonoma County, performing product development for two major manufacturing companies. It was during this period that he gradually developed an interest in viticulture — the result of his Italian heritage, being exposed to the surrounding vineyards, and making wine with friends.

With this growing interest, in 1971, Jim and Anita invested in a 24-acre ranch in the Russian River Valley, which had a mix of old grapevines and prunes. They soon became immersed in the renaissance of the Sonoma County wine industry, which was upgrading from generic vineyards and prune orchards to premium varietal winegrapes.

After acquiring an additional 20-acre vineyard property in Dry Creek Valley in 1973, Jim was approaching a career crossroads. Torn among the demands of private industry, a growing family of three children, and operating two vineyards, he decided to make a career change in 1976. He became a full-time winegrower, with the dream of one day building a small winery.

The family traded up to acquire 67 acres in Dry Creek, maintained its 24 acres in the Russian River Valley, and devoted extensive time and effort in replanting both vineyards to premium varietal grapes, while preserving some of the older Zinfandel vines.

In 1996, the time was right to build the long-desired winery. Jim took several courses at U.C. Davis and did extensive self study. The family’s first year production of 425 cases of estate Dry Creek Zinfandel won a gold medal in the West Coast Wine Competition, and the winery was on the map.

Over the next four years, production increased to 3,000 cases, a level at which it remains today. Forchini Vineyards & Winery now produces six estate-grown and bottled wines.

The Chardonnay is crafted from grapes grown in the Russian River Terrace vineyard, located near the river. This site provides a cool climate with late-breaking summer fog that promotes extended hang time for optimum balance in grape sugar/acid ratios.

“Papa Nonno” is a unique blend of varietal grapes fermented together with a small amount of heirloom whites to produce a dry, fruity wine in a style similar to the Chianti wines of Tuscany.

“BeauSierra” is a Bordeaux-style red table wine made from multiple varieties.

“Old Vine” Zinfandel is produced from 100-year-old, non-irrigated, head-pruned vines grown in the family’s Dry Creek Bench Vineyard. These stubby, gnarled vines are a living testament to their endurance, resulting from the unique combination of an old clone grafted to St. George rootstock.

Cabernet Sauvignon is grown on the elevated eastern bench land of the valley, and is hand picked to ensure quality.

And Pinot Noir is produced from the Russian River Terrace vineyard, where the microclimate is ideal for this early-ripening varietal.

In an ever-more-corporate wine world, Forchini Vineyards & Winery remains family owned and operated. Jim is the winemaker, Anita handles the office, son Andrew (featured in the photo above) is the vineyard manager, and other family members help out part-time.

It’s a real American success story.

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Forchini Vineyards & Winery is located at 5141 Dry Creek Rd., Healdsburg, CA 95448. It’s open Friday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and other days by appointment. Call 707-431-8886 for directions or other information.

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