Spanish-Californian Fusion at Gloria Ferrer Caves & Vineyards New Visitor Center

By Kathryn Holland Besser
Photography by Michael Woolsey

On a warm afternoon in late June, we received an intimate look inside the newly remodeled Visitor Center at Gloria Ferrer Caves & Vineyards in Sonoma. While their wines are authentic California, their culture is a charismatic blend of vibrant Spanish tradition and understated Sonoma County gracefulness. Led by Gloria’s son, Pedro Ferrer, and his serene and gracious wife, Begoña, the tour covered the evolution of Gloria Ferrer in California. Along the way, guests sipped Gloria Ferrer Blanc de Blanc, made from 100% Chardonnay and a truly delightful 2004 Carneros, which is half Pinot Noir, half Chardonnay grapes. Made exclusively from Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes and taking anywhere from three to ten years to make, both sparkling wines were crisp with light fruit and a long finish. They were a perfect accompaniment to the lively stories that unfolded.

According to Pedro, the original building was created in the Catalan style but was rather dark and heavy. Today, the new Visitor Center is light, airy and reminiscent of modern Barcelona, where the Ferrers live. It is full of history, both near and far, providing fascinating insights into a unique dynasty, led by the indomitable Gloria Ferrer.

Begoña Ferrer shared the charming story of her Mother-in-Law’s famous glassware collection. Gloria began collecting cava (champagne) glasses around the time of her marriage to Jose Ferrer. In Gloria’s recounting, her passion for collecting began rather innocently, “It was in Venice, in 1956, that my uncle gave me the idea while sitting at the dinner table in the Piazza San Marco. My father quietly got up and went into an antique shop near the Cathedral and returned with a beautiful red Murano crystal glass with a golden dauphine in the stem. He gave me the glass and a kiss. The collection had begun.”

Currently, there are over 2,000 pieces, predominantly housed in Spain and varying in age and color. Some are engraved and cut; some are painted or enameled. The stemware ranges from simple to ornate, from transparent to opaque, from molded to blown and from antique to modern, all stemming from Gloria’s belief that a collection should be a little bit of everything. It is estimated that the oldest vessel dates back to Ancient Syria (B.C.E.). Although Gloria particularly favors glasses with braided stems or those with a teardrop of air at the base, one of her most prized pieces is a humble glass commemorating the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona. It came to Gloria as a gift from Pedro and Begoña’s son, who insisted upon using his own money to purchase an offering for his grandmother’s collection. Filled with pride on her grandson’s thoughtful gesture, Gloria declared it to be one of her all-time favorite acquisitions.

The renovation of the Visitor’s Center allowed Gloria Ferrer winery to triple the glassware collection on display in the Tour Alcove Room; the collection housed in Sonoma now numbers more than 100. As Gloria is still actively browsing antique shops all over the world, it is likely the Sonoma assemblage will continue to grow.

The aptly named Vista Room, which is adjacent to the main Tasting room, features sweeping views of the Carneros winegrowing appellation and a long table to feast on a brand new tasting menu. A glass of Gloria Ferrer sparkling or estate varietal wine may be paired with savory and sweet local artisan delicacies including a local cheese plate (featuring Cow Girl Creamery Mt. Tam Triple Cream, Redwood Hill Terra Goat Cheese, Cypress Grove Purple Haze Goat Cheese, Marcona almonds, Early Girl Tomato Jam, seasonal fruit and water crackers), a Spanish cheese plate (featuring Montcerda, a creamy cows’ milk cheese, Manchego, a 12-month aged sheep’s milk cheese, Idiazabal, a subtly smoked sheep’s milk cheese aged 8 months, quince paste, Marcona almonds, seasonal fruit and water crackers), a charcuterie plate (Serrano ham, chorizo, fennel salami, Gloria Ferrer Estate Grown olive oil, whole grain mustard, caper berries and water crackers), truffle potato chips, olives and house-made spicy almonds (Gloria’s Almonds). For wine club members, a complimentary food-wine pairing is offered once a year.

The Gloria Ferrer Visitors Center is open daily from 10 pm to 5 pm, with wine service until 4:45 pm. or more information visit them online at www.gloriaferrer.com or join the conversation at www.facebook.com/gloriaferrervineyards.