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Bellacana Vineyards

Dry Creek Valley AVA

The goal at Bellacana Vineyards is to create the finest Sonoma County wines possible using the most sustainable and beneficial methods.

This month's Pinot Noir feature comes from a rather unique new venture, Bellacana Vineyards, which was established by the Dry Creek Rancheria Band of Pomo Indians. The Tribe's Pomo and Wappo ancestors occupied the Russian River and Dry Creek Valleys continuously and successfully for more than five thousand years. Their success was due to their sophisticated knowledge of the environment, refined arts and technologies, and participation in complex trade networks, with strong family and community bonds. Today's Dry Creek Rancheria has approximately 1,000 members and has successfully operated its River Rock Casino in Alexander Valley since 2002.

In 2011, the Dry Creek Rancheria purchased 310 acres of land surrounding their River Rock Casino property. The Alexander Valley land included 130 acres of premium vineyards, which the Tribe saw as a valuable asset to their organization. This purchase promptly made the Dry Creek Rancheria one of the largest vineyard owners in the Alexander Valley. They named the vineyard 'Bellacana,' which combines the Italian word for 'lovely' and the Pomo word for 'river.'

With the help of winemaker Alfonso Alarcon (Kendall Jackson, Charles Krug, and Murphy Goode), Bellacana Vineyards produced its first two wines, a Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay, in 2012. The production was tiny (just 600 cases overall) and the wines were exclusively available at the Tribe's River Rock Casino. Since 2012, production has grown just slightly, and the large majority of Bellacana Vineyards' fruit continues to be sold to nearby wineries and other producers. Today, winemaking operations are overseen by Luke Stanko (formerly of Ram's Gate Winery in Carneros).

The Dry Creek Rancheria hope to build Bellacana Vineyards' presence in relation to other Alexander Valley wineries, many of which are world-renowned brands with wines that are even exported to other countries. The Tribe knows this is an ambitious plan, but they are passionate about Bellacana Vineyards and they know the potential for greatness is there.

The goal at Bellacana Vineyards is to create the finest Sonoma County wines possible using the most sustainable and beneficial methods. They currently produce Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and Cabernet Sauvignon, all of which are made in very limited quantities. We are happy to share this up-and-coming producer with our Pinot Noir Wine Club members. Enjoy!

Map of the area

Luke Stanko - Winemaker

Picture of Luke Stanko - Winemaker

Trained in Canada but originally from Michigan, Luke Stanko is the talented winemaker behind the Bellacana Vineyards operation. Luke officially began his winemaking career at the esteemed Ram's Gate Winery (Sonoma County) as a harvest intern in 2012, a role that grew into cellar master, then assistant winemaker, and ultimately head winemaker. He oversaw the grapes in every step of the process, from vine to bottling, and produced exceptional, award-winning wines during his time there.

Today, Luke is the production manager at Grand Cru Custom Crush, where he oversees a talented team dedicated to helping small, independent winery brands. He is also the winemaker for select clients, including Bellacana Vineyards. His winemaking style can be described as minimalist and terroir-focused, producing expressive, balanced wines that speak of the vintage, varietal, and vineyard. Luke is a welcome addition to the small but mighty team at Bellacana Vineyards.