Bella Vineyards and Wine Caves: An Old Boutique Winery with a Twist

Bella Vineyards and Wine Caves

Ready for a new experience when it comes to wine? Bella Vineyards and Wine Caves is part of a growing trend: wineries that store their wines in caves. Bella’s horseshoe-shaped cave was dug right out of the hillside, and it now serves as a storage facility for up to 500 barrels of wine. Why a cave? The cave offers the perfect amount of constant humidity and temperature (it stays about 62 degrees year-round), according to Lisa Priest, marketing manager at Bella Vineyards and Wine Caves.

And yes, the cave is open for tours. In fact, Priest says the winery offers an exciting blending tour, in which visitors are led through the winemaking experience, including getting into the vineyard, barrel sampling, and learning how to make wine. At the end, guests get to make their unique blend in the winery.

Question: Can you tell us a bit about your vineyard? How old are the vines and any special bits about how the vineyard works/what you grow?

LP: Lily Hill is our estate vineyard. We have about 45 planted acres here, the oldest of which were planted 100 years ago (1915). That is our old-vine Zinfandel. While the majority of our estate is comprised of Zinfandel, we also have planted a small amount of Petite Sirah, which we often use for blending with our Zinfandels. A little Petite Sirah will add structure to the Zinfandel; in fact, we do a unique thing here: We sometimes ferment our Zinfandel on Petite Sirah skins for full integration. In addition, we also have planted some Syrah, and a bit of Grenache and Carignan.
We also own a vineyard called Big River Ranch, which straddles the Russian River and Alexander Valleys. Our Block 10 is 10 acres of Zinfandel vines that were planted in 1906! The other blocks at Big River Ranch include Syrah, Petite Sirah and Grenache. Oh, and these old vines are head trained, and we are a sustainable winery.

Q: You focus on small lots of high-quality wine rather than in mass production. Why did you choose this route?

LP: Oh gosh, I’m not sure if I will put this as eloquently as one can, but really we are not in this business to make mass produced wines. We are a small, boutique, family winery that values quality over quantity. We want our wine to showcase the vineyard it is sourced from. We want to have a heavy hand in the vineyard and a light hand in the winery, which means we let the wine speak for itself. This approach leads to interesting, complex, amazing wines that will not taste like each other or like any other wine in this world.

We are artisans, and believe in our craft, and want always to feel as proud of the outcome of our hard work as we do right now. We believe that people appreciate our small-lot approach and high-quality wine, so it’s a win-win situation! We want our wines to be a true testament to the Sonoma County terroir it comes from.

Q: Is there a particular wine you’re most proud of?

LP: This is a winemaker question. I’m asking Joe Healy, our winemaker this. He says: “I think the wine I can speak most to is our Barrel 32. This wine requires an extensive barrel selection process, where we seek out the very best barrels of the vintage. We find the perfect blend of these barrels, which creates the ultimate Zinfandel expression”. It’s also worth noting that this wine sells out very quickly, is very small-lot (last year we chose only 7 barrels to make up this wine), and was reared 95 points by Robert Parker.

Diana Bocco is a writer and author who writes for Yahoo!, the Discovery Channel website, Marie Claire, Poplar Mechanics, and more. You can find more about her work on her website

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