Interview By Lisa Gmur, CSW
The U.S. domestic sparkling wine category has seen pretty staggering growth over the last dozen years. According to Impact Databank, domestic sparklers crossed into the $28 million-case territory in 2020 in the U.S. and progress has been solid at the premium end, with the market’s six largest domestic brands priced above $15 collectively growing. Nielsen says the same. That the sparkling wine category has been the fastest growing wine sub-category, growing by over 13% in 2021.
Gloria Ferrer was the first sparkling wine house established in Carneros and has gone on to become the most awarded California sparkling wine producer. Gloria Ferrer has received over 500 Gold Medals and more than fifty scores of 90+ ratings in the last few years. The winery does make some still wines, but sparkling wines will always be their signature.
The winery was founded in 1986 on a 250-acre estate in Carneros. As the story goes, it was one of those crazy coincidences that sealed the deal. Jose had narrowed the search down to a handful of properties and while walking one of them, a bull started charging at him. He was wearing a red sweater. Well, when this happened, he immediately thought of Spain and the “running of the bull” and knew he had found the perfect spot for their winery. And Gloria was smitten. It reminded her of their home in Catalonia.
We talked with Harry Hansen, Director of Winemaking at Gloria Ferrer about his recent return to the winery and what he’s got in store to keep Gloria Ferrer fresh, current and as delicious as ever.
Harry Hansen, Director of Winemaking, Gloria Ferrer
You’re back. How absolutely fabulous. How long has it been?
I actually began my career at Gloria Ferrer in 1986 as an Enologist and then became Assistant and Associate Winemaker, working my way up over 15 years. This past June, I returned to Gloria Ferrer as Director of Winemaking, and it feels like I never left at all!
Such a wonderful story. What brought you back?
My goal is to introduce our wines to the next generation of sparkling enthusiasts with our fresh style, estate emphasis and sustainable approach.
I am really thrilled to come back to Gloria Ferrer. The heritage and history of the estate inspires our winemaking style.
So where are you starting Mr. Director of Winegrowing? Love the title.
We are using a regenerative model to take Gloria Ferrer into its next 40 years.
This includes looking at the sustainability of all parts of our business. 2022 is our third year of no herbicide use, and we’re using organic practices in the vineyards.
Last year, we joined the IWCA (International Wineries for Climate Action), with a goal of zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.
My return last June was perfectly timed as the team was focused on the upcoming harvest.
I am dedicated to producing bright and fresh sparkling wines, which allow us to highlight the traditional method while allowing the distinctive Carneros terroir to shine through.
You had me at bright and fresh. Really loving all the sustainable practices and commitment to climate action. Gloria Ferrer is such a beautiful story of love and perseverance. And the history is so rich and intriguing. What from the past is most important for the future?
One of the most important parts of our past and future is Mrs. Gloria Ferrer herself.
She is a strong woman, who fearlessly traveled the world, passionate about quality and experience.
We have taken inspiration from her as we create new experiences and wines for our portfolio.
How has this history guided the winemaking?
Shortly after Gloria Ferrer was established, the winemaking team began to research the various Champagne clones.
Establishing Gloria Ferrer in a new AVA, we understood that more work would be required to develop complex sparkling wines.
With few clones of Pinot Noir and a single clone of Chardonnay between 1984 and 1986, the team began to experiment in different soil types and vineyard locations, setting the benchmark for clonal experimentation for generations to come.
What new plans are there for Gloria Ferrer?
We are working on several exciting projects including new and innovative wines highlighting the fresh and bright style that has become synonymous with Gloria Ferrer. As of last year, we have introduced new luxury experiences available both at the winery and virtually that offer each of our consumers a chance to experience our fresh and bright sparkling portfolio.
The “Bubbles and Bites” is my absolute favorite experience. And Gloria’s crystal collection. Can you please elaborate on these experiences for our readers?
We are really focusing on providing regenerative experiences, both virtually and in-person. Our experiences include local & seasonal menus paired with our sparkling wines while enjoying our excellent vineyard views. We offer a variety of experiences ranging from light bites, cheese, charcuterie and caviar to proper meals including lunch and weekend brunch. During the spring and summer, the Oak Grove picnic is one of our most popular experiences, which includes sweeping views of our vineyards leading to a relaxing and memorable time at Gloria Ferrer.
We love coordinating VIP hospitality experiences for our buyers.
If you are reading this, please reach out to me.
The Gloria Ferrer experience is spectacular! The crystal collection. The vineyards. Everything.
Gloria Ferrer was founded by the Ferrer family in 1982 and named after Mrs. Gloria Ferrer, who served as a driving force within the family business. She strived to find beauty and balance within all experiences. Fueled by her passion for innovation and quality, these two pillars remain the focus for the brand today.
And Gloria Ferrer was the first sparkling wine house in Carneros. Such a cool legacy.
Yes. Gloria Ferrer has over forty years of experience in making quality sparkling wines in Sonoma, California. We were the first sparkling winery to be established in Carneros, even before it became an established AVA. Originally totaling 50 acres in 1984, today we have over 300 acres. It has been amazing to be part of the growth. As the wine industry evolves, our history and experiences within the region are integral to our efforts to deliver exceptional sparkling wines and experiences.
Gloria Ferrer has had some amazing press lately in the New York Times, Forbes wine of the week, etc… That must help get the story out, right?
Media coverage helps raise awareness of our portfolio and estate, and it also gives our staff a sense of pride and recognition as their efforts have helped build our reputation.
Which is so important. That sense of pride. What do you think distinguishes Gloria Ferrer from the rest?
We have 40 years of producing unique sparkling wines, driven by the Carneros terroir and augmented by longer ageing on the yeast.
The sweeping vineyard views from our Terrace are unlike any other in the region and we are honored to have our guests choose to spend their time with us enjoying their favorite sparkling wine.
And your homecoming. How has it been?
My return to Gloria Ferrer has been exhilarating so far. Not many people in this industry are fortunate to have a second time around where they began their career.
I am excited to work on the next vintages and other projects that I know will entice even more sparkling enthusiasts to choose Gloria Ferrer.
Any final thoughts?
Gloria Ferrer is not just one person, though Mrs. Gloria is our muse – it is also a very passionate, experienced team in winemaking, vineyard management, club management and hospitality experiences.
We aim to deliver the best experience from Sonoma, California whether in person or virtually, every time you enjoy a glass of our sparkling wine.
Which is exactly what I plan to do as soon as I post this interview. Thank you so much.
Thanks for reaching out this has been great!