Keeping it in the family with Ryan Alfaro’s Farm Cottage wines

Ryan Alfaro is adding another branch to the family tree with his Farm Cottage Wines.
(Via Ryan Alfaro)

Sticking with the family business wasn’t always the plan for Ryan Alfaro, but a late-teens course correction has him not only head winemaker at Alfaro Family Vineyards but also branching out with Farm Cottage Wines, which you can sample April 1 at a Soif event.

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Ryan Alfaro grew up on his family’s vineyards, and like many kids who grow up in a family business, he had no interest in following suit. A trip to Dijon, France, at age 19 changed that, and he came back to California ready to learn about winemaking. Since then, he’s also studied winemaking in New Zealand and now works as head winemaker at Alfaro Family Vineyards.

He also started his own label a few years ago. Farm Cottage Wines’ first vintage was in 2019, and he’ll be pouring his five 2021 releases at Soif on April 1. That includes three different pinot noirs, a chardonnay and a syrah.

Farm Cottage spawned from the ability to work with pinot noir grapes from Trout Gulch, a dry-farmed vineyard near Aptos, Alfaro said. He’s particularly interested in a technique called stem inclusion — which means the grapes aren’t de-stemmed before fermentation.

“All of my reds are fermented whole cluster,” he said. “That’s a technique I love to use.”

In addition to working with grapes from Trout Gulch, he’s bought fruit from Lester Family Vineyards and the Alfaro family’s Ryan Spencer vineyard. He works solely with estate fruit and is hoping to expand to other Santa Cruz Mountains vineyards in the near future, including working with other varietals.

The name Farm Cottage was inspired by the home he lives on his family’s property, the same house his grandparents lived in. It’s an homage to the property and his upbringing, he said.

In addition to Soif, Farm Cottage wines are available locally at Mentone and Deer Park Wine & Spirits in Aptos. Alfaro is expanding his label’s distribution, so expect to see these wines in more places soon.

Tickets for the April 1 tasting at Soif, held from 3 to 5 p.m., are $20 ($10 for Soif members). Ryan Alfaro will pour Farm Cottage’s 2021 Trout Gulch chardonnay, Trout Gulch pinot noir, Santa Cruz Mountains pinot noir, Lester Family pinot noir and Ryan Spencer syrah.