At Dane Cellars, our approach to winemaking champions quality at every stage of the process. From our partnerships with the finest vineyards to the hand made French and American oak cooperage used to age our small-lot Zinfandel’s and Cabernet Sauvignon’s, we bring together an array of artisan and cutting-edge techniques to create benchmark wines.
Located in the heart of Vineburg, California.
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My career in the wine industry began as a summer job. During that first harvest, my job was to deliver five tons of grapes at a time, down the mountain, in a one-ton truck. It was from that experience that I knew I wanted to be a winemaker. I began my professional career with Kenwood Vineyards in 1986, where we specialized in vineyard-designated Zinfandels and Cabernets grown in Sonoma Valley.
In 1998, I left my position as Cellarmaster for Kenwood and joined the wine-making team at Benziger Family Winery, just down the road in Glen Ellen. My focus was the production of wines for the Benziger Family Ranch including Tribute, Imagery Estate and Benziger vineyard designates, and in particular the Zinfandel wines for Benziger and Imagery Estate. It was at Benziger that I was introduced to biodynamics and organic farming. At the time, both practices were new to the industry and we developed winemaking methods to go along with the farming practices.
I loved the idea of bringing cutting-edge techniques to age-old winemaking processes. With a passion for creating small-lot, distinctive wines, I was thrilled to join the Lasseter Family Vineyards in 2007 and to have the opportunity to create premium vintages of Rhone and Bordeaux-inspired blends from organically-grown grapes. It was also in 2007 that our son, Dane was born, becoming the inspiration and namesake for the opening of Dane Cellars, that same year.
Estate Vineyards / AVA
Here, at Mission San Francisco de Solano, the Franciscan monks planted their last and most northerly vineyard in 1823. In 1857 Count Agoston Haraszthy, dubbed "father of the California wine industry" established Buena Vista Winery, launching the commercial wine industry in Northern California. Sonoma's rich history follows its unique terroirs.
The Sonoma Mountains reduce the Pacific's cool, wet influence on the Valley of the Moon. In the shadow of this range, Sonoma Valley’s annual rainfall is lower than in less sheltered areas. Still, cool air does penetrate from the south, off San Pablo Bay in Carneros, and from the north, through a gap into the Santa Rosa Plain.
Though the valley itself is compact, a range of growing conditions and soil types exist from south to north and from valley floor to mountainsides. Subsequent sub-AVA approvals reflect some of these more specific viticultural areas and their distinctive terroirs.
Los Chamizal Vineyard:
The first time I remember tasting a wine from Peter Haywood’s Los Chamizal Vineyard it was at the Sonoma County Harvest Fair in 1987. I knew that I was really interested in Zinfandel’s and was amazed at how different they were. That night one of my favorites was from Sonoma’s Haywood Winery owned my Peter Haywood and made by winemaker Charlie Tolbert Los Chamizal Vineyard was their Estate Vineyard.
One of California’s most highly regarded Zinfandel vineyards, Los Chamizal is situated in the mountains of southern Sonoma Valley, one mile north of the town of Sonoma. Its beautifully terraced vines are carved into steeply sloping hillsides reaching 800 feet in elevation. The vineyard’s 42 acres of Zinfandel, grafted with budwood selections from seven North Coast vineyards pre-dating Prohibition are planted in nine distinct blocks with soils ranging from well-drained sandy clay loams at the lower elevations to thin, shallow, fractured basalt soils at the highest elevations. Most vines are head-trained in the old style and planted on St. George or 1103 Paulson rootstocks, which help keep average crop yields to 2-3 tons/per acre.
The vineyard has a moderately warm climate (a Region 11-111 in the UC Davis heat classification system), but the vines enjoy cooler evening air, which preserves higher acidity levels in their grapes. Peter Haywood farms Los Chamizal sustainably, using compost and organic fertilizers to nurture the soil, permanent cover crops, and no insecticides. The grapes harvested over a six-week period, with individual sections of the vineyard often picked more than once.
We received 2 tons of Zinfandel from Los Chamizal from the Upper Weise clones on the western side of the vineyard. The grapes were destemed and then cold soaked for about 5 days. As the grapes started to warm the fermentation kicked in. When the wine was dry it was pressed directly into barrels. I selected one and two year old French oak barrels and a single brand new American oak barrel from Seguin Moreau Cooperage in Napa.
Getting grapes from this vineyard is very exciting, and the first of a list of vineyards here in Sonoma Valley that we will be seeking for our growing Zinfandel portfolio. I look forward to tasting this wine with you.