As a young boy, Ron Donati grew up in South San Francisco, the son of a first generation Italian-American family. One of his fondest memories was the sights and smells of his grandfather making wine in his basement. Like most Italian immigrants, Albino Donati made his own wine for the family dinner table. As an adult, Ron became a successful entrepreneur with a penchant for making quality products that were attainable to all, not just a select few. This same passion serves as the foundation and guiding mission of Donati Family Vineyard today. It is their goal to produce wines of exceptional quality regardless of budget.
The Donati Family Estate Vineyard site enjoys a variety of soils from limestone to decomposed granite to clay loam, and access to the cooling ocean breezes of the Monterey Bay. Like much of southern Napa, Sonoma, and Monterey counties, Paicines has long warm days followed by cool nights. “It’s a lot cooler than people think it would be here”, says Matt. “On the UC Davis scale of growing areas and heat where Region I is the coolest and V the warmest, Paicines is a cool Region II.” The vineyard is planted to various select clones of Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Syrah, Pinot Grigio, Pinot Blanc and Petit Verdot. Vine selections are carefully screened for viral diseases prior to planting, ensuring that the future of the vineyard is secure, and that vine health and fruit integrity remain intact from planting through harvest.
Matt Donati believes in hands-on year-round vineyard management to create an environment where the grapes themselves can be left alone to thrive during ripening. Regular, judicious thinning of shoots during the growing season, attention to every detail of vine canopy training and light management within the fruiting zone, pre and post-veraison green fruit removal, along with scientific analysis of soil and leaf moisture throughout the growing season ensures that every aspect of the Donati Estate viticultural program contributes to the success of the vintage.
Primary efforts are directed at sustainable farming, allowing for natural predators and reduced use of pesticides to provide a clean, hospitable environment for vine growth and fruit maturation. Of course, this path of action requires extreme diligence in scouting for possible problems. But, with active personnel regularly hand-tending each and every vine, the family is gradually learning that effective and efficient sustainable practices can indeed make a significant difference in both the local environment and in the ultimate grape and wine quality.