Grassini Family Vineyards: A Jewel of Happy Canyon

grassini“Instead of joining the rest of the family at church on Sundays, my grandfather, Articondo Grassini… was more religious about keeping a garden,” recalls Larry Grassini, who owns Grassini Family Vineyards and Winery with his wife, Sharon.

“He’d stay home to make that evening’s ravioli from the green bounty of his garden, while enjoying a glass of wine (or two),” Grassini continued. “He also kept chickens. As a nod to Grandpa Articondo, industrious fowl roam our vineyard while sustainably fertilizing the vines.”

Articondo Grassini had come from Pisa, Italy, in the early 1900s with his wife, Afiora Tinucci. Their son (Larry’s father), Leo Peter Grassini, although he did not make ravioli on Sundays, was equally passionate about keeping a garden to grow much of the family’s food. He shared his love for the soil with his children and grandchildren.

This firmly entrenched tradition has been lovingly passed on. A vegetable garden has been planted at the Grassini Family Vineyards, providing the family with many of the treats they serve with their wine.

And now, these earthy traditions have been entrusted to the third and fourth generations.

“From day one, my wife Sharon, and daughters Katie, Corey, Mandy and Molly, have been there in support of this exciting and enriching undertaking,” Larry Grassini says. “Different blocks of our recently planted Cabernet Sauvignon clones proudly bear the names of all of our children.”

That vineyard is located northwest of Santa Barbara, within the 40-mile-wide Santa Ynez Valley. At the valley’s eastern edge is the appellation known as Happy Canyon, an area blessed with warm days and cool marine influences with few variations. Nestled on ridge and valley, Grassini Family Vineyards and Winery has found a tranquil refuge where all the conditions necessary for great wine happily converge.

When the Grassinis decided to plant vines on the property that they had owned for decades, they called upon Jeff Newton and Larry Finkle, the creators of Coastal Vineyard Care, a full-service vineyard management company that applies sustainable, organic and biodynamic principles to help grape growers and winemakers realize their dreams.

Once planted, the vineyard would be placed in the best, and most experienced, of hands. Ben Merz, the vineyard manager, provides daily direction to the entire team. Merz planned and helped plant the vineyard in 2002.

Vineyard foreman Manuel Cardoza and his dedicated crew do all the heavy lifting that makes it all possible. Cardoza and his team had a hand in planting every vine on the estate, and it is their dedication that has helped create one of the vineyard jewels of the Santa Ynez Valley.

In keeping with the Bordeaux-inspired tradition of the estate, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Petit Verdot varietals complement the Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc. In fact, unique Cabernet clones, tended by hand, enhance the exceptional wines produced on the estate.

What makes a great wine? According to Grassini, it is, and always has been, a blend of complexity, balance, finish and finesse — a bit of alchemy and a bit of luck. Truly memorable wines are a marriage of vineyard and winery.

That’s why Grassini’s vineyard management team works tirelessly and closely with the winemaker to ensure that every vine in the vineyard gets the kind of personal attention that will allow each precious berry to ripen to perfection.

High-density planting, vine crop reduction, hand-training and careful timing of the pick come together to produce the soft tannins and overall balance of the structure, acid levels, beautiful aromatics, and elegant mouthfeel in the resulting wines.

Each lot from the various vineyard blocks is fermented separately in small batches to ensure proper fermentation temperatures. As in the vineyard, patience in the wine caves pays off. Both red and white wines are allowed to spend leisurely and generous amounts of time in barrel in order to mature and reach the sought-after balance.

“When all goes well, our wines accurately express the unique character of this special estate and those who work here,” Grassini says.

In the Cabernet-based wines, this approach results in the inherent power and richness of the Cabernet grape being balanced with the finesse and elegance that define its character. With Sauvignon Blanc, all of this work is intended to capture the typical freshness and liveliness of the variety, and balance it with concentration and depth.

The passion shared by the Grassinis and their extended family make any bottle bearing the Grassini Family Vineyards and Winery label something special.

“It’s our hope that all will enjoy the poetry of the wine and its sense of place and tradition with friends and family,” Grassini says. “Grandpa Articondo would have been proud.”

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Posted in Wineries of Distinction
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