Wineries of the Sierra Foothills: C.G. Di Arie Vineyard & Winery

Elisheva and Chaim Gur-Arieh. | Johan Martin

Once you begin to understand the processes that create wine, it makes eminent sense that a food scientist would be attracted to winemaking. Eminent is a good world to use here, because Chaim Gur-Arieh is among the food scientists who made new product history. Cap’n Crunch cereal. Power Bars. Pudding Cups.

He is a Ph.D. food scientist. He worked for Quaker Oats, Del Monte and for United Technology’s space program. His real passion, however, is making great wine. He and his wife Elisheva discovered that passion in the 1980s, but they had to bide their time to actualize it. Then in 2000, when Napa land was far out of economic reach, they found 209 wonderful acres of uncultivated land between the south and middle forks of the Cosumnes River in the in Shenandoah Valley region of the Sierra Foothills.

They developed the vineyard in two stages, first planting Primitivo, Syrah, Petite Sirah, Cabernet Franc and Zinfandel on 30 acres.

Chaim Gur-Arieh’s winemaking style features a fusion between New and Old World wines.

In the second stage, they planted 10 acres with Barbera, Tempranillo and Touriga Nacional. They planted two 1-acre blocks of Cabernet Sauvignon but were disappointed in the results. Further research led Chaim to a clone of Cabernet Franc, and he discovered that part of the vineyard was perfect for Cabernet Franc. He found that Cabernet Sauvignon would thrive in other parts of the vineyard.

“I like the synergy of taking two or more different varieties and creating an artisanal wine,” he said. “I am a winemaker who likes to make wine of a certain style, and that style is one that I thought about before actually making wine. I have a distinct preference for a style of wine that evolved over many years. The style of my wines is quite recognizable, and if you enjoy one of my wines a few times, and then you enjoy another one, you will taste the common denominator.”

Gur-Arieh’s winemaking style features a fusion between New and Old World wines. New World wines he believes are fruit-forward and have distinct varietal characteristics. Old World wines express their terroir strongly. New World wines, he says, are drinkable when they are young. Old World wines are more elegant, not highly alcoholic, and oak plays an important role, but is in the background.

Winemaking represents everything Gur-Arieh loves best, and his wines show that love. “I find winemaking very challenging. I can use my intuition and creativity, and I can showcase my knowledge and my hands-on food science know-how.”

To round out its wine program, C.G. Di Arie buys selective grapes from nearby vineyards, using grapes from one of the oldest Zinfandel vineyards in America, the Original Grandpere Vineyard established more than 140 years ago in the Shenandoah Valley.

The tasting room is open by reservation Friday to Monday at the winery in Plymouth. |

Editor’s Note: This is an excerpt from the second edition of the popular guidebook “Wineries of the Sierra Foothills: Risk-Takers & Rule-Breakers” available on Amazon. All sales support Tahoe Weekly.