As you drive on Highway 108 you start to enjoy the scenic views of hills and little streams along the highway. You imagine what it would be like to escape the city and nature as it was intended, without the unnecessary noise and concrete jungles. Once you get to Jamestown, you might see winemaker Cody LePretche riding his four-wheeler between the winery and tasting of Gianelli Vineyards.
It all started with Giovani Rocca, who married into the Gianelli family in the late 1800s. After his marriage, Giovani purchased a large amount of acreage just outside Jamestown – land which today is used in part for the Gianelli vineyards. In Giovani’s day his property was the site for a working cattle ranch, gold mining camp, and was a major stagecoach stop for supplies coming into Jamestown. Giovani was quite a character, and was even reported to give food and aid to the infamous Joaquin Murrieta when he passed through town.
It was passed down for generations and eventually sold to new wine lovers. The current owners are Brett and Amy Noon who closed in the summer of 2018. LePretche looks after the vineyard and makes a large assortment of wine.
“My running joke is that we have so many wines here that I will have something that you will like,” he said. “We have 15 or 16 different varietals planted and with the blends and the champagnes, it’s like 20 different wines to try. We’re also one of the only vine to bottle estates around here, so we grow our grapes and bottle our own wine here.”
Currently Gianelli has 18 different estate grown varietals. From Vermentino to Fiano, Primitivo to Agliancio, the vineyard has varietals that are not only uncommon in the United States, but some have never been produced before outside of Italy.
Since the pandemic, the vineyards have become not as much of a secret because people are looking for a place to come and escape, according to LePretche. One of the biggest selling points of the vineyard is the view from the tasting room. The room sits at one of the highest points of the vineyard and there is a breathtaking view of the vineyard, mountains and more.
“That was a surprise to me,” said LePretche. “Being a winemaker you think people would come for the wine, but I realized it’s more for the experience. You still have to have good wine, but people are looking for more than that.”
Another thing that has been a revelation is the interest young people have in wine. When LePretche first started in the business he was catering to an older crowd, but lately young adults have been frequent visitors to the winery.
“It used to be the more established drinkers, but in the last five years, we have been seeing the millennials and Gen Z coming in,” he said. “For years we would have a lot of the same faces and that’s awesome, but the last few years we’ve been seeing all these new faces and that’s awesome.”
For LePretche, he doesn’t want people to feel like they’re an expert in wine to come and enjoy.
“People don’t want to feel like they’re stupid,” he said. “You don’t need to know all the terminology to come here, and I find people are curious to learn and they ask questions when they feel more comfortable.”
Some of their best sellers are the Montepulico and Nino. With the summer coming, the vineyard is expecting high demand for whites and champagne, including their pomegranate champagne. Currently the tasting room is open from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday through Sunday. In the summer Gianelli is expected to be open seven days. The vineyard is located at 12581 Algerine Road in Jamestown. Visit gianellivineyards.com for more information.