Banfield Ranch – Russian River Valley
First planted in the early 1870s by the Banfield Family, most of the vines succumbed to Phylloxera within their first decade of life and were replaced. In 1903, Giuseppe Martinelli purchased the ranch and with help from his three sons, Leno, Domingo, and Fred, continued to care for the vines. Shortly after the repeal of Prohibition, Giuseppe split the property amongst his sons and daughter. This portion, the original portion to be planted, was given to Domingo. Two additional generations of Martinellis farmed the vineyard (Domingo's son Joe and Joe's nephew) until it was recently sold to the McWilliams Family of Arista Winery. The McWilliams are dedicated to preserving this historic old-vine vineyard.
Located on Martinelli Road between Forestville and Guerneville, it would be tempting to think this must be a very cool and foggy microclimate. But not so. While nights are indeed cool, day time temperatures are quite warm, much warmer in fact than many other Russian River Valley locations. As a result, deciding when to pick here is a delicate balancing act between sugar and acid. Pick at lower sugars and acids are off the charts. Wait for acids to fall and sugars are off the charts. We aim for a middle ground, just as we were told Domingo did, usually between 24 and 25 Brix. Interestingly, unlike most vineyards of this era, Banfield Ranch is nearly 100% Zinfandel. Out of the five acres of old vines, we have seen only two Mourvèdre vines, two Blauer Portugeiser vines, and one Chasselas blanc.
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