For over a quarter of a century, the Morey family has owned the 600-acre Casey Flat Ranch in Capay Valley, which is home to a Longhorn cattle operation. In 2004, proprietors Robert and Maura Morey planted vines on the property. Today, they sustainably cultivate a small vineyard, producing grapes for their Sauvignon Blanc and proprietary red blends.
As the winery’s managing partner, Alison carries on the family’s impassioned vision for making great wines. Here, we ask her all about the ranch, the family’s wine making philosophy, and her favorite way to enjoy wine at home.
What’s special about the ranch where your grapes are grown? What else goes on there?
Casey Flat Ranch is located in the Vaca Mountains, just across the border from Napa Valley. Our vineyards sit 2,000 feet above the Capay Valley, one of Northern California’s hottest emerging winegrowing regions.
Established in Yolo County in 2002, the Capay Valley is one of the lowest production AVAs in the state, with less than 100 acres devoted to vineyards. Originally part of the Berryessa Spanish land grant, the area was settled in the 1850s during the California Gold Rush. The first vines were planted a decade later, making it one of the pioneering winegrowing regions in California.
Our vineyards are the highest in the AVA. This creates growing conditions that are radically different from the rest of the appellation. The soils here range from sandy to rocky with a sub-layer of fractured sandstone. The climate is similar to northern St. Helena, with daily temperature fluctuations of up to 40 degrees — perfect conditions for both Bordeaux and Rhone varieties.
To capitalize on our remarkable mountain terroir, we use the same low-yielding (three tons per acre), sustainable, vine-by-vine viticultural techniques employed at many of the top wineries in Napa Valley.
Tell us the story of how Robert and Maura Morey came to the ranch and began making wine.
The ranch has been used as a retreat by our family for decades. We first discussed growing grapes up here around 2003. To see if the idea was feasible we hired Tom Prentice, one of the most knowledgeable viticulturists in California. Tom dug soil pits and set up weather stations to better understand of our soils and climate. His conclusion was that we had the capability to make world-class wines at Casey Flat Ranch. In 2004 we planted our first vines and have been extremely pleased with the results.
You’re committed to environmentally friendly and sustainable practices. How does that affect your work?
My family is dedicated to preserving the ecosystem and natural beauty of Casey Flat Ranch. No more than 5% of our 6,000 acres will ever be developed. We use sustainable farming methods for both our wine and cattle operations. In addition to the minimal footprint these techniques leave on the land, they also guarantee that our wines more accurately reflect their high mountain origins.
Our Casey Flat Ranch wines come entirely from our estate vineyards. They are true mountain wines with all the depth and concentration you’d expect from a high elevation site. Our CFR Sauvignon Blanc is wonderfully aromatic, extremely rich and beautifully balanced. Our CFR Estate Red Blend (Bordeaux and Rhone grapes) delivers blackberry, thyme, sage, cassis and cedar in the nose and a palate that is rich and juicy with soft supporting tannins.
Our Open Range wines feature estate grapes and fruit from a handful of our favorite vineyards in Northern California. The Sauvignon Blanc is lightly herbal with grapefruit, green melon, lemon and jasmine. The Red is ripe and lush with blackberry and blueberry with hints of cedar spice.
Which one do you go to most often?
It depends on the circumstances. For everyday meals, barbecues and casual get-togethers, we serve the Open Range wines. For dinner parties or special occasions we have our CFR wines.
What’s your favorite way to enjoy your wines? With what foods?
Both Sauvignon Blancs are wonderful as aperitifs. They also match up well with seafood and poultry. One of our favorite combinations is chicken basil sausages with the CFR Sauvignon Blanc. Both the CFR Red Blend and the Open Range Red are wonderful with pork, steak and lamb. They are right at home with hearty barbecued meats.
What does a typical day at the ranch look like for you?
I live about two hours from the ranch, but I get up there quite often. The grandeur of the property and the incredible views never cease to amaze me. No two days are ever really the same at Casey Flat Ranch – which I love. Most typically, though, I’ll either meet with our ranch manager or review the vineyards with Laura Barrett, our winemaker, and whenever possible I’ll taste barrel samples of the new wines to monitor their progress.
What do you love most about your job?
First off, I’m in an incredible industry with a rich and storied history. I’m very fortunate to have the opportunity to work alongside a really great team of talented people. I also get to travel around the country and make new friends from all walks of life who are passionate about wine.