We started our day at Frei Brothers Ranch. Frei is one of Gallo's many producers in California. While many may view Gallo as just simply another large producer I've always viewed them in a different way. Yes they are one of the largest wine companies in the world. Yes they produce some very bottom shelf bulk wines. However, they are still family owned & they are not publicly traded. Additionally they are very focused on making a positive impact on the environment.
Their 50/50 program sets aside an acre of land to protect & enhance wildlife for every acre of land under vine. But their positive environmental doesn't stop there as you can see from the link above.
Their Frei Ranch property is set amongst the gorgeous rolling hills of Dry Creek Valley. On this quite large property they grow merlot, chardonnay, zinfandel & a few other grape types.
We were taken all over the property by our gorgeous greek tour guide. She was very personable, very knowledgeable & super nice. At each stop on the tour of the grounds she had a different bottle ready for us to drink. What really stuck with me was our view into the production facility & the barrel cave. They were massive facilities. MASSIVE. If they were set in a warehouse park it would come off as a wine "Area 51" but set amongst the Valley it softened the hard edges. There was a beautiful row of redwood trees that bordered the outdoor production facilities. We were informed that Gallo actually spent the cash to uproot them from their original spot & move them to make way for new tanks. The fact that they even considered, not to mention actually doing it, as opposed to just getting rid of them is shocking to me. I commend them for that.
As you can see their barrel room is gargantuan. As is my smile. I can't help but be happy when I'm surrounded by wine.
After Frei we drove over to Ridge Vineyards-Lytton Springs. Ridge has always held a soft spot in my heart. The estate vines are old, gnarled & almost menacing looking. Richie & I remarked that they looked like something out of a Tim Burton movie. They could almost reach out & grab you & devour you. The wines themselves straddled the gap between elegance & bold power.