The Crinella Vineyards were created by Frank Crinella and his sister Ramona Crinella on family lands in Sonoma County's
Russian River Valley. Born into an Italian-American family that stressed patience, attention to detail and hard work along with an
uncompromising passion for excellence in all things, their childhood training gave them the foundation needed as adults to plant
outstanding Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir vineyards.
"Ramona and I have always had a deep connection and respect for the earth which was taught to us by our parents and grandparents" says Frank
Crinella, "and maybe that reaches thousands of years back in the collective memory of our family and the pieces of land they treasured and cared for
in the old country."
"My first bond with plants came when I was four years old," Ramona Crinella says. "I was running across my grandmother's porch and
noticed a beautiful carnation flower that had just bloomed in a little clay pot. I was awestruck by it. My grandmother showed me the
bud next to it and explained that in a few hours it would also become a flower . I sat there riveted the rest of the day watching the miracle as another
The flower also made a profound impression on Frank Crinella. "Seeing our curiosity, our grandmother gave us each seed packets so we
could plant our own garden," he recalls. "We worked for days, digging, making straight furrows and patting the seeds into the earth. As we
needed to water by hand, we decided to plant as close to the water source as possible. Unfortunately, this put our garden
under the shade of a huge English Walnut tree and not one seed grew." It was a lesson the brother and sister never forgot. "Before we planted
one vine for Crinella Vineyards we spend years researching the soils, exposures and microclimates.:
That Ramona and Frank would grow up with a love of the land is part of their tradition."It is the dream of every Italian, especially those who emigrate,
to own a little land," says Frank of his family's heritage. "All of our family who came from the old country, worked hard, saved money and bought land within a few years of arriving in America."
Their Italian - born father, Marino Crinella, was destined to achieve the American dream. When he was four years old, Marino moved with his family to Minnesota. In 1926, at the urging of their friends, the Mondavis, Marino, his parents and two brothers moved to Sonoma County. The move proved fortuitous for the young Marino, who would soon meet his future wife Marian Zurlo, a native Californian with Italian - American parents.
In 1944, Marian and Marino Crinella acquired a 72 - acre Forestville ranch that was part of the old El Molino Rancho, a Mexican land grant dating back to 1838. Marino, an avid outdoorsman and accomplished athlete, took great pleasure in walking his dogs on the property's rolling landscape dotted with heirloom fruit trees.
Marino eventually became a real estate developer, sharing his dream of land ownership with others through the creation of housing for young families in Sonoma County. Over the years, he and Marian acquired many parcels of land, including two rice farms totaling 640 acres in the Sacramento Valley, which Frank manages today.
For more than a half - century, the 72 - acre Crinella ranch remained much as it had been the day Marino first saw it. "In 1988, my brother and I inherited the parcels of land our parents had acquired, and over the years we sold off a few pieces," says Ramona. "I felt sick every time - Italians parting with their land - I just didn't like doing it. So I started to think of ways we could keep the land."
Planting vineyards appealed to Ramona and Frank's love of gardening and farming, but when Ramona first went to the agricultural extension service for advice on planting a vineyard on the Forestville ranch, she was given a pamphlet that said flat lands with deep, fertile soils and a lot of water were best for grapevines, as the plants should not struggle. She was told the characteristics of the Forestville property, which featured southeast facing slopes with shallow Goldridge soils, were not good for cultivating grapes.
The brother and sister tabled the idea of planting vineyards. But a few years later, Ramona, an avid researcher, began an extensive study of Bordeaux and the similarities between its microclimates and that of a second Russian River Valley property owned by the Crinella family. In 1999, they planted the land with two distinctive
Sauvignon Blanc clones. They named
Marino Vineyard after their father whose favorite varietal
was Sauvignon Blanc.
In 2000, Ramona and Frank returned their attention to the Forestville ranch. Ramona began researching the great vineyards of France and Italy and found that many of them were planted on slopes similar to those found on their family ranch. By this time, there had been a dramatic shift in the viticultural views of California's highest quality grape growers. While growers had been previously concerned with tonnage rather than taste, they now knew that the most intensely flavorful grapes came from vines with low yields that struggled to survive.
The Crinella's Forestville property is located in Green Valley, a unique sub - appellation of the Russian River Valley, known for its exceptional
Pinot Noir. Enthusiasts of the sultry red grape, Ramona and Frank loved the idea of cultivating
Pinot Noir on their family land. But the experienced gardeners were determined to investigate every aspect of the land's potential from the soils to the clones to the climate. After more than three years of exhaustive research, the first vines were planted on the property.
Today, the Crinellas farm two vineyard properties in the famed fog - cooled climate of the Russian River Valley. Located in the heart of Forestville,
Crinella Estate Vineyard is still home to many of the heirloom fruit trees that Ramona and Frank enjoyed as children, but the land also nurtures 20 acres of
Pinot Noir from six different clones. The family's
Marino Vineyard, which lies 10 miles southeast of the estate, is planted to 20 acres of
Both vineyards were carefully planted with clones matched to the specific conditions and microclimates on the properties. "Our parents were sticklers for doing things the right way," recalls Frank. "Whether playing a sport, musical instrument or studying, there was no substitute for excellence. We were also taught to have patience and to take the time to do things right the first time. We have this approach to our vineyards and winemaking - to make the best wine possible from the best grapes possible."
Recently Wine Enthusiast Magazine selected Crinella Sauvignon Blanc as the Editor's Choice, noting that it is "a real sommelier's wine."
The early lessons were learned well by Francis and Ramona.