What is in this article?:
- Six decades of grape growing for Los Alamos, Calif., farmer Joe Carrari produces compelling history.
- Carrari was awash in an acre foot of wine and going broke when he created Dago Red California coastal red wine.
- Dago Red was far ahead of Two Buck Chuck and has a gold medal to prove it.
- Bulking wine not for faint-of-heart growers.
Joe Carrari spends his time at Rancho Alamo, a 3,600-acre ranch at Los Alamos. He leases out 400 acres for vegetable production and the rest is foothills where cattle are grazed.
Failure brings opportunity
Joe and his father later farmed on their own. Eventually, their vineyards reached 1,400 acres. One of their vineyards was planted in 1906 and was farmed continuously until 1984.
“We shipped grapes all over the U.S.” One year the Carrari family shipped 4,500 tons of grapes to home vintners.
Joe made spending money in high school delivering grapes to Southern Californians for homemade wine. He once rented a stall at the Los Angeles produce market where he sold 145 tons of grapes one season, all hand-picked in lug boxes.
His father was born in Argentina, and Joe tried his hands at farming there after leaving the Cucamonga area in the mid 1960s. That was a disaster. He came back to the U.S. broke with a wife and four children. Fortunately, his viticultural skills quickly landed him jobs with some of the 1970s pioneers, as the state’s grape industry was evolving into a new era.
He was working for Masson when the Central Coast wine grape planting boom of the 1970s began. He was involved in both the successful and the failed. It was a failure that opened the door for him to start his own vineyard management and consulting business and plant his own coastal vineyard.
He became involved in a proposed 2,200-acre vineyard development/bulk wine marketing project that went bankrupt. Carrari stayed with the project for another year afterward to work with creditors. “We eventually paid off unsecured creditors 90 cents on the dollar. That’s unheard of in a bankruptcy.” That established Carrari’s credibility and helped him obtain credit to plant his own vineyard in Los Alamos and bolster his fledgling Videco farm management business.
His company was one of the first to mechanically harvest grapes on the coast. He also owned a nursery that supplied rootstock for new plantings.
Carrari loves to tell stories about the people and projects from his six decades in the business, but at heart Carrari is a grape grower. He beams when he talks about his vineyard adventures.