Gail Benzler
June 14, 2018 | Gail Benzler

Vineyard Report - Petite Sirah and Volcanic Action in Sonoma County


Vineyard Report: Rockpile AVA, Branham Vineyard

Gary Branham’s fantastic petite sirah vineyard is hard to find, but well worth the effort.

The vineyard is located west of Lake Sonoma, over 1,000 feet above the Sonoma valley floor — it’s the most remote growing site we use. And with its steep, rocky terrain, crossing a seasonal creek (among other challenges) is required to access the vineyard.

Branham Vineyard is dry farmed and it produces intensely concentrated petite sirah. Water conservation and grape quality are two chief reasons dry farming is gaining more and more traction, even in drier climates like California. Right now, flowering is almost finished and we are already beginning to see the crop set.

2018 harvest — and incredible petite sirah — here we come!

Out in the Field

Mount Konacti is an inactive volcano in Sonoma's Lake County. The last time this volcano erupted, it created an incredible amount of obsidian and lava rock deposits. Today, those deposits have created extremely well drained soils that are perfect to stress grape vines, pushing smaller berry size and increased flavor, aroma and color in each one.


Time Posted: Jun 14, 2018 at 3:35 PM Permalink to Vineyard Report - Petite Sirah and Volcanic Action in Sonoma County Permalink
Gail Benzler
April 12, 2018 | Gail Benzler

Famighetti Vineyards Growers Mark and Sheila Farmer are Having Their Moment of Zin

Unique wine tasting events at locations around the country

Mark and Sheila Farmer's story is as much about passion as it is about growing incredible grapes. They packed up their bags in Minnesota a few years ago and made the trek to the rolling hills and vineyards of California to follow their dreams -- dreams they'd had for over a decade. They've worked hard to turn those dreams into reality.

Wine lovers through and through, Mark has a story he likes to tell about another famous Minnesotan with some winemaking pedigree. “You might not know that a guy from Minnesota put Napa and California wine in general on the world’s wine map,” he says proudly. “He’s one of the most influential names in wine -- Robert Mondavi from Virginia, Minnesota.” He laughs. “Beware of Minnesotans!”

Mark and Sheila purchased what used to be called Kemp Vineyard and renamed it Famighetti Vineyards in honor of Mark’s dad. They continue to grow the flavorful grapes that Adobe Road Winery sources to make award-winning zinfandel, syrah, grenache and viognier. Famighetti represents some of the area’s great terroirs. The property itself is quite dramatic, with its sweeping vistas, old-growth trees, vines for years and tree house, overlooking it all high above one of Sonoma County’s wine meccas, Healdsburg.

Zinfandel as we know it, is grown predominantly in California, having made its way to the state during the Gold Rush in the 1850s. The variety is grown in over 10 percent of California’s vineyards and only cabernet sauvignon and pinot noir are planted in more abundance. These days, the popularity of the grape is no surprise given its versatility and renowned ability to pair well with a wide variety of foods. “I really love zinfandel,” Mark says. “It can be a big, rich, ripe, high alcohol red wine with higher tannins, or it can be made to be light and fruity. I like both, depending on the situation. For me, zinfandel is a good alternative to cabernet because I really like its ability to deliver spicy, smoky flavors.”

Unique wine tasting events at locations around the country

On any given day, you’ll see the couple decked out in their dirt farming duds -- worn jeans and boots -- lovingly working the land. It’s all hands on here at Famighetti. Elsa, Mark and Sheila’s trusting vineyard dog, completes the picture.

Farmer was first introduced to zinfandel by his uncle Tom Maple, who with his wife Tina, cultivate 26 acres of prime benchtop land in Dry Creek. “Uncle Tom’s passion for zin rubbed off on me and inspired me to not only drink fine zinfandel wines, but to pursue growing this grape.” Mark and Sheila acquired Famighetti Vineyards in 2015.

Mark and Sheila picked the perfect “zin” spot; the jewel in the zinfandel crown. Dry Creek Valley is known for being one of the best places on earth to grow zinfandel. Famighetti’s vines -- all 2,500 of them -- are grown on a sharp slope, at an elevation of almost 1,000 feet above sea level. “We have this very steep, bowl-shaped terrace cut into the mountainside. There aren’t many vineyards like it. So, we get a few microclimates that produce really great fruit. The vines tend to retain the heat throughout the day, getting a little extra warmth and this makes the grapes thrive.” There are even a few Primitivo vines scattered around the vineyard, which add to the unique flavors produced from the fruit.”

The Farmers’ relationship with Adobe Road goes back over 10 years. “Adobe Road does a great job with our fruit, getting the most out of all four varietals we grow here and this has been reflected in many high ratings and awards.” Adobe Road’s 2015 Zinfandel -- the first vintage from Famighetti -- just scored an outstanding 91 points from Wine Spectator (May, 2018 issue). “The winemaker, Garrett Martin, is great to work with and he spends a lot of time in the vineyard with me, making decisions on how to keep improving things. It’s a great partnership.”

That 2015 zinfandel crop -- the Farmers’ first -- was very challenging. “We were in the fifth year of a drought, so there was a lot of heat,” Farmer remembers. “I think generally, the zin crop was down about 40% that year and there were quite a few temps that reached 105 degrees, too. When the berries were picked, they were close to being shriveled and the brix was high. But despite all of the challenges, we ended up making a really good wine.”

Garrett Martin agrees. “We had some bad weather during flowering, too. 2015 was a challenging year, that’s for sure. It’s the great partnership between grower, winemaker and winery that makes the fruit the very best it can be.”

Wine to Try

The 2015 Adobe Road Zinfandel is packed full of blue and black fruits, fresh and vibrant. Cinnamon and baking spices play in the middle with a rich mouthfeel and details of cracked black peppercorns and licorice.




Time Posted: Apr 12, 2018 at 10:23 PM Permalink to Famighetti Vineyards Growers Mark and Sheila Farmer are Having Their Moment of Zin Permalink


Petaluma Star - Focus on Adobe Road Winery

Adobe Road is in many ways a luxury brand, which is not surprising given TRG’s affiliations with Porsche, Aston Martin, and Lamborghini. Several of its wines are priced in the $100 – $175 range, and the entire portfolio is crafted to wow the glitterati trackside at Le Mans or Daytona, or at exclusive events such as Wine Spectator’s Wine Experiences.


20 Best Sonoma Rosés to Drink This Summer

Adobe Road Winery 2017 Rosé - A fun and funky blend of pinot noir, syrah, grenache, zinfandel and petite sirah, Adobe Road’s rosé features grapes grown in the newly designated Petaluma Gap AVA...


Hollywood's Eco-Defenders Take Center Stage at the Environmental Media Awards

Before the show, some guests enjoyed wine from Adobe Road poured straight from the cask, and posed for photos in a digital photo booth...


Grand Tour Hosts World’s Greatest Wine Fans

Wine Spectator's annual series of tasting extravaganzas continued in New York with 244 outstanding wines from 15 nations


Outstanding Scores for Adobe Road Winery

Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate is one of the most iconic wine publications in the world. Adobe Road Winery is honored to be reviewed in this month's Sonoma and Napa wine issue



What do race car driving and California Cabernet have in common?


Petaluma is an eggscellent weekend escape from the Bay Area scramble

The Find: In the early evening, we were slowly spinning our wheels looking for somewhere to have a pre-dinner drink. We went from 0 to 200 mph when we found Adobe Road Winery Tasting Room (6 Petaluma Blvd. N.; [707] 939-9099), race car driver and vintner Kevin Buckler’s tasting room, which opened in the summer. We chose the “Showcase” pouring


How The Wind Is Making The Petaluma Gap California's Newest Wine Region

Located 32 miles north of San Francisco, in both Sonoma and Marin Counties, the Petaluma Gap is an inland valley distinguished by a 15-mile wide aperture in the coastal hills through which salty maritime wind and afternoon fog whisk in a chill.


Petaluma wine tasting room plans in fast lane

A long-awaited proposal for a state-of-the-art downtown Petaluma winery, tasting room and auto racing museum is gaining momentum, according to Adobe Road Winery’s CEO.


Petaluma Gap Is Wine Country’s Newest AVA
The newly designated region is known for its Pinot Noir and Chardonnay wines.

The new AVA includes about 80 winegrowers and nine wineries. One of our favorite wines released this year is an example of the quality of Pinot Noir grapes grown in the region—75 percent of the fruit planted is Pinot Noir—and the range of complexity that’s possible from multiple-elevation harvesting.


Petaluma California: A Sonoma County Hotspot

In the Great Petaluma Mill complex find Adobe Road Winery’s tasting room. Tasting excellent wines like their Big Pig Pinot and one labeled merely ”Red Wine” made me an instant fan.


Petaluma Gap becomes new Sonoma County wine appellation

The federal government on Thursday recognized the Petaluma Gap as the newest American Viticultural Area (AVA), giving Sonoma County its 18th such wine appellation and providing another reminder of its vast diversity of grape growing throughout the region.


All About Adobe Road Winery by James Knight (

Wine is not all about speed, and that was exactly why it appealed to champion GT racing team leader Kevin Buckler. At the Adobe Road tasting room in downtown Petaluma, I’m told that Buckler values the slow and steady process of making wine. As for high points and awards—it doesn’t hurt that Adobe Road wines have scored those, too.


9 Soon-to-Open Sonoma Restaurants, Wineries, Breweries & Hotels We’re Stoked About

Downtown Petaluma keeps getting hotter, and the hip-factor will only increase when Adobe Road opens their new 15,000 square foot winery and tasting room along the Petaluma River. And it's going to be more than just a winery - they'll have a motorsports museum (Adobe Road owner Kevin Buckler owns one of the most successful racing teams in the world), an event center and commercial kitchen. Guests can sip wine by the bottle, served alongside wood-fired pizza, on the riverfront patio.


Race to the Top: A DITL with Kevin Buckler

Kevin Buckler is a man with two passions: fast cars and fun. And how does he bridge these two very distinct passions together? Through his two companies, Adobe Road Winery and The Racers Group. Running one successful business is a feat in itself, but Buckler is not one to shy away from a challenge. He rather flawlessly runs two, rotating between crafting award-winning wines and running his ever-expanding motorsports company.

NY Wine Spectator Wine Experience 2016

Adobe Road Winery has once again been invited to participate in arguably one of the most prestigious events a winery can attend, Wine Spectator’s New York Wine Experience, October 20 – 22. The event is attended by wine enthusiasts from around the world and only the top rated wineries in the world are invited to pour at the Critics’ Choice Grand Tasting.

22 Refreshing Sonoma Rosés to Drink All Summer by Sarah Stierch

Adobe Road has released the most unique Rosés of the season, in partnership with Lagunitas Brewing Company: a sparkling Rosé. Super-limited at a mere 60 cases, this primarily Zinfandel-based wine has the rich head of a beer and the sweet flavor of watermelon and maraschino cherry. A must try for those who like to balance their wine tasting with their beer sipping.


More room for wine: Adobe Road opens Petaluma's second wine tasting room

Dozens of people gathered on Tuesday to raise their glass to Petaluma’s newest wine tasting room, a venue for home-grown Adobe Road Winery to gain more face time with the public as it moves toward building a nearby hub for wining and dining on the edge ofthe Petaluma River.


Downtown Petaluma wine tasting room gets approval

The Petaluma Planning Commission voted swiftly and unanimously on Tuesday to approve a permit for Adobe Road Winery’s tasting room at The Great Petaluma Mill, 6 Petaluma Blvd. North. It will be downtown Petaluma’s second wine tasting room, and the first serving a wide variety of wines.


Adobe Road Winery Honored to be Invited to Wine Spectator New York Wine Experience

Adobe Road Winery has been invited to participate in the prestigious Wine Spectator New York Wine Experience, taking place the weekend of October 20-22, 2016. It is truly an honor to be invited to pour alongside some of the best wineries from all across the globe and adds additional excitement around the winery’s new project in Petaluma. The three-day event is every wine aficionados dream, with sit-down tastings of award winning vintages (all scored over 90 points), the Critic’s Choice Grand Tastings, and the exclusive black-tie awards banquet. This is the very best of the wine world. We hope to see you there.

Adobe Road Winery Facility: Progress Report

We are eager and excited to open the doors of our new satellite Tasting Room in the Great Petaluma Mill, in the very heart of Historic Downtown Petaluma. This will be our cozy home while development and construction begin on the new headquarters facility, just around the corner. Final licensing and approval are close to completion, and we can’t wait to see some new and familiar faces stopping by to taste some of the new releases. -expected to open late next month.

The Sonoma County Barrel Auction raises a record setting number with 90 one-of-a-kind wine lots
Allison Levine

Garrett Martin of Adobe Road Winery summed up their lot of 10 cases as “Petaluma Gap in a glass.” The Winegrowers of Dry Creek Valley represented all generations of Dry Creek by combining equal amounts of zinfandel from seven wineries, half who are the original producers in the region and the other half are newer producers of Zinfandel.

Petaluma leads Sonoma County in economic development

His decision was one example of many in recent years that have made Petaluma the leader in economic development in Sonoma County. It has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the county — 4.1 percent in March — and the second highest median household income, at $75,655 in 2015.
The business activity has rapidly reversed the fortunes of this city of almost 60,000, which was hit with a one-two punch at the turn of the millennium — fallout from the telecom bust of the early 2000s and the real estate crash some six years later. At its low point, commercial office vacancy rates were 40 percent.

Petaluma is Fertile Ground for "Cultivated, home-grown culture - Lori Varsames"

When Lori Varsames saw her dream job in her dream location pop up on LinkedIn one morning, she jumped on the opportunity and applied.

Adobe Road Winery setting up shop in downtown Petaluma

"When you’re starting to attract businesses that are relocating from the square in Sonoma — the heart of Sonoma Wine Country — to the heart of Petaluma, that really tells you just how attractive the area is, I think it’s going to be a great amenity for our local economy. It’s going to be a great ambiance for the downtown. It’s exactly what the downtown ought to be building."

Big Things Happening in Petaluma

Our exciting new State-of-the-Art facility in downtown Petaluma...right on the Riverfront, continues to progress! We are bringing together all of the “Best Practices/Best of the Best” in terms of Tasting Room, Visitors Center, Winery and state-of-the-art equipment, Corporate and Banquet Facilities, Food and Cooking classes, Private Tasting and Barrel Room, Ultra-Premium Custom Crush/Private Label and a Beautiful Automotive and Motorsports Museum - all rolled into one EPIC location, operated by a highly efficient and motivated team. No pun intended but we are going to CRUSH IT!

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