Vintner Profiles is a post series that puts a spotlight on one of our East Bay Vintner Alliance winemaker members.
Since its founding in 2005, Carica Wines has been making wine of extraordinary character from small lots of premium grapes. With a focus on single-vineyard designated wine grape varieties, Carica produces Petite Sirah, Syrah, Grenache, and Sauvignon Blanc. Carica also makes a proprietary, Rhone-style red wine, blending Syrah, Grenache, and Mourvèdre. A Rosé is also included in Carica’s portfolio. Because Carica is very much a “hands on” winery, production is extremely limited.
The winemaking philosophy at Carica Wines is to create the highest quality wine whose characteristics reflect a sense of time and place. Great intensity is a hallmark of these wines, but never at the expense of the critical balance among fruit, acid, and tannins.
For this Q & A we spoke with its winemaker Charlie Dollbaum.
Charlie, tell us how you got started in making wine?
Our first commercial harvest was in 2005. We were making wine from Sonoma county grapes, from Kick Ranch vineyard, Rhone varietals (Syrah) and Grenache. In 2009 I took over and became the main winemaker.
I also hold a staff position at UCSF as a part-time oncologist. I started at UC Davis then Berkeley and got a Masters in biology and went to UCLA to get a medical degree. I wanted to get back to the Bay Area, so I then went to UCSF for a fellowship.
From where do you source your fruit?
We source from Sonoma and Mendocino County, producing approximately 1,000-2,000 cases a year.
What was the first wine you made?
Sauvignon Blanc. Not really a Rhone varietal but the original vineyard had really good Sauvignon Blanc grapes. We had been making it for 5-6 years before producing commercially. At home it is easier to make red wine because of temperature control. Our Sauvignon Blanc is like a trademark now.
What makes Carica Wines different and/or special?
There is a lot of good wine available in the area but a winery like ours offers not only really good wine but also consistency. We put a lot of effort into making good wine. If it isn’t to our standards we don’t bottle it. We have a personal relationship with everyone in our wine club. Small wineries like ours can offer consistency and personal relationships, along with wines of really high quality.My wife Margaret and I own the wine and I also make the wine. Pleasure comes from actually making the wine. Being a little OCD is good for winemaking. I like being hands-on.
Do you have a visit-able winery?
Currently tastings are by appointment, as we are between tasting rooms at this time. We are making wine at the Rockwall facility in Alameda.
What is your philosophy on enclosure: screw cap versus cork?
There was a big swing toward screw top (enclosures for wine) and for high-end wines there is an understanding they should be using cork. But for certain whites screw cap can be good but we don’t use them. It can depend on the wine we are making. High-end reds need cork to get some oxygen.
In your opinion, what is it about the East Bay that makes it a great place for your winery and as a place you call home?
The food and restaurant scene in Oakland is amazing. The beer scene is growing and there are new wine bars in this vibrant restaurant scene. I have lived in Oakland since 1986. From a winemaker’s point of view we can source the best grapes in California from all over, meaning we can have diversity. Right now the small winery scene is growing.
Having the EBVA (East Bay Vintners Alliance) is so great because most of us are small. For a small winery the hardest part is getting exposure. Banding together helps everyone in the Alliance, and it is nice to have a formal association of all the winemakers here. We are able to discuss where to get the best grapes and to contact each other for advice. It is like a mini trade association; similar problems and similar successes.