Dry Creek Valley AVA
The family farms 20 acres on their Dry Creek Valley land
What do you do for your 50th Birthday if you are a successful Hollywood film producer? Well, if you are a person named Barry Collier, you take your wife Susan to the Napa Valley and celebrate at the swank Auberge du Soleil hotel with a candlelight dinner on its magnificent porch that everyone concedes possesses the finest view in the entire valley. The rest you leave to a combination of ambiance and fate. “As we sat and smelled the fermentation I must say it was suddenly contagious,” Collier recently recalled. “That was in 1992 and Susan and I made a promise to each other to attempt to make a dream we had actually shared come true.”
The couple started looking for property, not only in Napa Valley but also in Sonoma and other plausible locations. The process was slow and produced little success. Each time they found a property they liked, the red-hot real estate market dictated it was gone before the Colliers were able to act. Finally, Susan Collier suggested they sell their Los Angeles area home and at least have the money ready if they found something plausible to buy.
Susan also suggested she stay in Sonoma and get her viticultural degree while Barry would return to the film production business that had done so well for them. He could make the trip up north monthly and continue the process of locating a desirable property.
In December of 1996, a piece of land in the Dry Creek area that was owned by the prestigious Ferrari-Carano Winery suddenly became available. Barry Collier literally jumped at the chance and bought the 100 acres that included eight acres under vine and a cabin built in 1929.
The first release of Collier Falls was produced from the legendary 1997 vintage that followed the Colliers’ purchase of the property.
“We actually sold almost 80% of the fruit we produced during the first three years,” Collier added. “The remainder we made into our first wines (500 cases), which we were able to designate estate bottled. It was nice that everyone appreciated our first releases.”
Appreciated would be a gross understatement. The critics and periodicals went wild, awarding extremely high marks to the first public wines of Collier Falls Winery.
For the record, Collier Falls is derived from the fact that a 60-foot waterfall that runs throughout the year is the dominant feature of the Dry Creek Property. The falls feed a creek (Fall Creek) on Collier’s land that eventually empties into Dry Creek and thence to the Russian River itself. Part of the creek system also involves a steelhead trout run that is federally protected.
“The thirteen years I spent making movies were a real treat, but what we are doing now is a gift,” states Barry Collier. “My sons Joshua and Adam love the winery and are excited to build on the growing traditions we’ve built.”
Sadly, Susan Collier was able to enjoy only about a decade of the estate’s success. She died from ALS in 2007, but her passion for agriculture and wine, her appreciation of nature, and her infectious love of life, people and Sonoma County are represented in every bottle of Collier Falls wine. Barry began crafting a ‘Syrah du Soleil’ in her honor, produced from grapes she helped plant on a nearby Sonoma Coast property. One hundred percent of the proceeds from this special wine are donated to ALS research.
Barry Collier now works closely with his sons, Joshua and Adam, and winemaker Marco DiGiulio to keep Susan’s dream alive and continue the Collier Falls tradition.
Marco DiGiulio has become one of the country’s most sought after winemaking talents, first achieving widespread notoriety during his work at Lokoya in Napa Valley. There, his 1997 Cabernet Sauvignon earned an astounding 98 Points from Wine Spectator. He now works as a consulting winemaker for a number of high end boutique producers in the Napa/Sonoma area. Marco’s decision to work with Collier Falls is a testament to the character of this hillside property, and speaks volumes of the winery’s vineyard and fruit quality.
Today, the Collier family farms 20 acres on their Dry Creek Valley site. Each of their wines are considered estate grown with the exception of their ‘Syrah Du Soleil’ which comes from the vineyard block Susan Collier planted at Du Soleil Vineyard on the Sonoma Coast. It is now sourced exclusively by Collier Falls.
“We have set a realistic goal of around 3,000 cases for Collier Falls Winery,” Barry concluded. “Most of it will be Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon, with small amounts of Primitivo, Petite Syrah, and a Late Harvest Primitivo.”
All things considered, Barry Collier can do as he pleases. He has gone from one successful career to another and possesses tremendous upside for the present. Who could ask for anything more?
The wine you’re tasting is from our family owned 20-acre vineyard tucked away in the northwest corner of Dry Creek Valley. By now it’s no secret that our appellation is well-suited to producing world class Zinfandels, and we’re proud to have our 2009 Collier Falls Zinfandel contribute to our valley’s stellar reputation.
Dry Creek Valley Zins are known for having an abundance of big, red fruit flavors along with plenty of pepper and spice, and this offering is no exception. However, since our very first vintage in 1997, we’ve noticed a certain softness, restraint and elegance from our hillside fruit that beautifully balances the high alcohol and big flavors found in many Zins.
Our vines benefit from their location on a hillside with southeastern exposure. We sit above the fogline so our fruit enjoys lots of nice morning sunshine to ripen those berries, and some welcome late afternoon shade to soften some of the big Zin characteristics. I’ve farmed each and every vine for nearly 20 years now, and it’s always extremely rewarding to share our finished product and have others enjoy it as much as we do in our family! Cheers to you and yours.