Amidst all the chaos we’ve experienced this month and as much as we would all like to say goodbye to March of 2020 for good, a friendly reminder that it is still Women’s History Month. A good excuse to continue to highlight women who inspire us.
My husband and I discovered A.Rafanelli Winery almost ten years ago, a recommendation from a friend. After tasting their wines we fell in love and immediately asked to get on their mailing list so we could partake in their spring releases. They are a small production winery, where the focus is on quality not quantity. Tastings and purchases are by appointment only and all the wine is sold direct. They are known for their exceptional Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, which are the only wines they produce.
The Rafanelli family emigrated from Italy and Alberto Rafanelli founded the family winery in 1911 in the town of Healdsburg. From the stories we’ve heard over the years, Alberto’s wife was very unhappy that she was not allowed to work in the vineyards in Italy and was excited for the opportunity to assist with the winery operations once they were established here in the U.S. That is one lady I would have loved to have sat down with, wine in hand, to listen to her stories.
After prohibition, Alberto’s son Americo showed interest in the family business and soon carried on the tradition where he moved the winery to the Dry Creek Valley. Since then, Americo’s son David and his wife Patty own and operate the business. David and Patty never pressured any of their daughters to go into the family business but after returning home from graduating from Cal Poly, Rashell (Shelly) Rafanelli-Fehlman, ran the marketing and production needs at the winery. Since then she has taken over all production, with the help of her husband who manages all of their vineyards. Working hand in hand with her father, and always having a passion for agriculture, Shelly has since taken over as the fourth-generation winemaker at the family owned and operated winery.
Shelly has always had a strong tie to the wine industry and she always planned on staying in the business. In addition to learning from her father, she continues taking winemaking classes at the University of California, Davis, and also attends seminars to refine her winemaking skills.
Over the years it has been fun getting to know this family. Shelly’s sister, Stacy, manages the daily operations at the winery and handles most of the tastings. It’s always a treat when David is around. He is so down to earth and happy to spend time in the tasting room telling stories that never get old. Each time we’ve had the opportunity to go back in the wine operations room, Shelly is running around busy (especially around harvest time) but always takes a few minutes to say hello and answer any questions we have.
It’s an exciting time to see so many female winemakers excel in a male dominant industry. The future is bright, the sky is the limit. Next time you are in Healdsburg, make an appointment for a tasting at A.Rafanelli. The wines are amazing and the company is genuinely fun to be around and if you’re lucky enough, you’ll have the opportunity to meet Shelly!