Bella Luna Estate Winery » Profile
Come enjoy 35 years experience producing dry-farmed, ultra-premium red wine. Total production limited to less than 2,000 cases. Our wild yeast fermentation style yields unfined and unfiltered wine of immense character and boldness. We invite you to taste our hand-crafted estate super-Tuscan blend, Tempranillo, Barbera, Estate Sangiovese, and world-famous "FIGHTER PILOT RED" Zinfandel. Open Mon-Thu 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Fri-Sun 10 a.m.-5 p.m. 1850 Templeton Road, Templeton, CA 93465. 805.434.5477. www.bellalunawine.com
It's not unusual to find dry-farmed wines in the Paso Robles area, but it is a bit unusual to discover dry-farmed Sangiovese, the varietal at the heart of Bella Luna Winery's flagship wine - their Super Tuscan Estate Riserva and Bellicaia.
For Bella Luna owners Sherman Smoot and Kevin Healey, this is certainly no gimmick. Healey has spent his "entire adult life in local vineyards," and Smoot calls him "probably the best dry farmer in the country." Both men believe that dry farming develops a greater complexity in the wines, with more concentrated flavors and colors, and the Bella Luna "Estate Riserva" seems to be proving them right.
"We took a barrel to the Cal Italia tasting in San Francisco a few years ago," said Smoot, "and people were coming up to us asking if this was really Sangiovese. They couldn't believe the flavor." The Riserva is a proprietary blend of the dry-farmed Sangiovese and Cabernet Sauvignon grown on the estate vineyard, where Smoot also lives with his family.
The vineyard is just over four acres and contains only 1880 head-pruned vines, but despite its small acreage, the Bella Luna vineyard offers winemakers Healey and Smoot a wide palette of growing conditions. There are four very distinct soil types in the tiny Templeton vineyard - clay loam, sandy loam, loam, and an alluvial rocky patch that they fondly call "the rock pile". The vines are planted at medium density, about 12' x 7' apart, because "we don't want them competing with each other for nutrients and water," explained Healey. Because of the lean soils and the dry-farmed method, the vines get enough stress to concentrate the flavors and colors.
Some of the estate Sangiovese also goes into the bottle as a single varietal. The "Fighter Pilot Red", is 100% organic dry-farmed Zinfandel sourced from Bailey Family Vineyards. Because "our game is quality, not quantity," said Healey, total production from the winery is currently at about 1100 cases, and will reach a maximum of only 1500 cases someday. Healey and Smoot want to keep the project manageable, and focus on producing their new ultra-premium Super Tuscan blend "Bellicaia", dedicated to their parents who "instilled in us a passion for living life each day as if it was our last."
Both clearly remember the other's parents, since the two are longtime, childhood friends. They grew up in the Templeton area, attending the same schools and playing on the same baseball and football teams. Both also served in Vietnam, though at different times. Healey was part of the ground forces, while Smoot flew F-4s from aircraft carriers - hence the "Fighter Pilot Red" label -- and is now retired after 28 years flying B-777 for Continental Airlines.
"I used to fly to Europe, drink wine, and bring them home for us to drink and compare - I prefer ours." Indeed, it was just such an occasion that prompted the creation of Bella Luna. "I think one night we sat around and drank way too much wine," remembers Smoot. "I owned this property, so Kevin and I put in a vineyard in 1998, and then I figured what the heck, we might as well have a winery too. There's no way, though, that I would have gotten into this without Kevin. We have some pretty spectacular debates behind closed doors regarding techniques and styles, but in the end, Kevin is the main man in the winemaking department!"
1850 Templeton Road
Mon-Thu 10 - 4: Fri-Sun 10 - 5
Large Groups, $5/pp
Red Tuscan-Style Blend
Rosé Tuscan-Style Blend