For more than twenty years, Crane Family Vineyards has grown grapes and crafted wine on this hillside, the Don Raffaele Estate, a vineyard nestled on the instep of Napa’s Mount Veeder. The vineyard was named for Ralph Chiarella, the late patriarch of the Chiarella family; and the brand was named for co-founder Frances Crane-Chiarella’s family. The microclimate of our small valley is one of the best kept secrets in the Napa Valley. Its terroir is similar to the well-respected vineyards of the Pomerol region, imparting intense and unique flavors to the grapes grown here. We believe our wines reflect the unique character and intensity of the terroir. It has been our great pleasure over the years to share with our family, friends and patrons, the best wines that we can produce from the land in our stewardship.
The careful pruning and nurturing of the vines on the Don Raffaele Estate virtually assures that we will consistently produce grapes that we can count on for flavor and aroma. Because of the large amount of fruit on the vine, we cut away a portion of the clusters early in the growing season to allow the remaining fruit to benefit from moderate crop size. This means that winemaker Alison Doran is able to extract a more intense juice from the grapes and craft it into a delectable wine. As always, we hand pick and sort each cluster on the day of harvest to ensure that only the dark, ripe fruit is included in the fermentation. Afterward, the wine is placed in an assortment of the highest quality French and American oak barrels to add the flavors of wood and vanilla. Very gentle handling of the wine from vineyard to bottle is employed, a process that is vital to achieving our high standard of quality.
The high hillside, diverse soils and sweeping exposure to the sun provide a wonderful combination: good drainage, a lot of warm sunlight and soil complexity. The result has been that our wine grapes effortlessly form the ideal chemistry for making a wine unique to the terroir. Our grapes have always developed the requisite sugars and chemical balance that is near perfect. A smokiness originating from the shale in the high ground is clearly discernable in the wine. So is the spice that is derived from bay leaves that fall from trees that line the vineyard to the west.