● By Sandie Tillery
Story: Sandie Tillery Photos: Bret Christensen
Ringtail Vineyards and Winery in Manton Named for an elusive nocturnal visitor that samples the ripening fruit, Ringtail Vineyards sits in the western foothills of Lassen Peak. At a comfortable elevation of 2,500 feet, grapes flourish during warm days and cool nights in nutrient-rich volcanic soil. A picturesque setting in the heart of the vineyard is well-suited for small weddings and events. The tasting room, designed for relaxing and conversation, invites visitors to linger over a glass of fine wine.
Open weekends from noon to 5 pm, wine-tasting visitors occasionally bring picnic lunches and enjoy their visits at a leisurely pace under a canopy of trees in the rustic picnic area with a clear view of the vineyard all around. A guest room awaits people desiring a private bed-and-breakfast experience. Harvest parties and other events fill the calendar, making Ringtail Vineyards a treasure waiting to be discovered in Manton.
Ringtail Vineyards benefits from four generations of Carrillos, vineyard managers and winemakers who continue to work with such recognizable names in the industry as Fetzer and Saracina. Ever since the great-grandfather arrived in Sonoma Valley from Spain, they have worked in orchards and vineyards, now designing, managing and consulting with a variety of large vineyards and wineries in Sonoma and Mendocino counties.
Far from their original stomping grounds in the well-known California “wine country,” Rob Carrillo bought five acres in Manton in the early 1990s. It happened to be across the road from 140 acres he managed for Fetzer Vineyards. Carrillo planted his carefully chosen stock, nurtured its early growth and began to harvest. By 2004, his own vines produced fruit for a small sampling of varietal wines that he shared with family and friends. 2005 yielded the first commercial harvest, and wines showcasing the unique Ringtail Vineyards label were developed with Donna Delgado, one of eight partners.
The small vineyard’s award-winning varietals please the palate and rival even its well-known competitors. The grapes grown in Manton are sent to Hopland in Mendocino County, where winemaker Alex MacGregor advises the Ringtail vintners, then produces the unique qualities in their wines. At the 2010 San Francisco Chronicle wine competition, Ringtail Vineyards’ Sweet Petite won the gold medal and the 2006 Petite Sirah won bronze, along with bronze for their Late-Harvest Chardonnay. Yet, most guests’ hands-down favorite is the Gewürztraminer, whose stock comes from the Alsace region of France. Also a late-harvest wine, the semi-dry, semi-sweet “G-wine” is a wonderful after-dinner sipping wine, according to Delgado.
Among their signature wines: • Chardonnay Viognier is a 50/50 blend of two varietals providing a bit sweeter flavor that compliments salmon, shrimp and pasta. • The Petite Sirah’s hint of pepper and allspice pairs deliciously with stews, steaks, lamb and anything with marinara sauce. • Sweet Petite includes a hint of brandy and goes nicely with anything chocolate. Delgado uses it to make a wonderful reduction to glaze pork loin. Her tantalizing dessert of vanilla ice cream with fresh berries is drizzled with Sweet Petite and layered with a few dark chocolate shavings. • Late-harvest Gewürztraminer grapes hang on the vine a while longer to sweeten, making this wine a perfect partner to any dessert, especially crème brulee and cheesecake. • Late-harvest Chardonnay offers a more complex flavor, described by one guest “like fall in a bottle.”
Delgado has experimented with this sweet wine in Caprese salad dressing and mixed in lightly with whipped cream. It beautifully compliments dark chocolate.
This year, Ringtail Vineyards will celebrate their fourth anniversary with a new release of Gewürztraminer. Visitors are welcome to celebrate with them on Sept. 15 from noon to 5 pm. Their Cat’s Den Wine Club offers a variety of benefits along with their wines. Two harvest parties open to the public will be posted on their website with dates. Guests will help with the harvest and be rewarded with lunch and beverages. •
Ringtail Vineyards wines can be purchased at the vineyard and the following locations: California Kitchen Store in Red Bluff • Kent’s Meats in Redding • Shingletown Store • Manton Store • Mary’s Pizza Shack (summer only)
www.ringtailvineyards.net • (530) 474-5350