When she was 24, Annette Hoff Danzer decided to shape her career around a grape, specifically the Pinot Noir.
It wasn't a total surprise to those who knew her. There were the gardens full of mint and carrots and borage Danzer began cultivating when she was nine. And her interest in science. And the fact that when she attended UC Davis ostensibly to become a vet, she noticed her friends majoring in viticulture and enology (wine production) seemed to be having a lot more fun than she was.
“I realized making wine could combine a lot of my interests," says Danzer, as she sits in Cima Collina's chilly, open-air warehouse winery in Marina, Calif., where the winds blowing off the Pacific Ocean keep the wine at optimal temperatures. “And then there’s a lot of esprit de corps, a spirit inherent in working in a winery.”
Since 2004, she's been the winemaker of Cima Collina, which started that same year in the Carmel Valley, one of California’s emerging wine regions known for its Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays. Surrounding her are barrels made of French Oak filled with wine-in-the-making.
Each barrel is filled with years of hard work in addition to grapes. Over the past decade, Danzer has developed close relationships with a handful of grape growers strung across Monterey County from the Big Sur coastline to the dry southern tip of Arroyo Seco. The county’s diverse growing environments have opened the door for Cima Collina to produce Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Tempranillo, Cabernet Franc and Syrah in addition to Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.
“People think of us as growing cold-climate grapes, but we have such a diverse climate and we are able to express all those landscapes,” Danzer says. “One vineyard is at 2,000 feet with chalky soil. It’s high and hot and hardly anyone nobody knows about it. We’re able to produce Tempranillo.”
As an artisan winery, Cima Collina produces 3,000-4,000 cases per year, mostly Pinot Noir. Stop by its Carmel Valley tasting room housed in a charming historic landmark that once served as a milk barn, post office, stagecoach stop, art gallery and restaurant. After a sip, you may ask yourself the same question Danzer poses before she stands up to do some paperwork.
“What other fruit can you make wine out of that expresses all these elements that make up the world?” she asks. “If you make wine out of strawberries, it will taste like strawberries. Why is it that grapes are capable of so much more potential? I’m sure scientifically you can describe the fact its roots go deep and absorb minerals, but there’s something beyond it that science cannot explain.”
For more information:
Cima Collina Tasting Room
Tasting Room: 19-A East Carmel Valley Rd, Carmel, CA 93924
Central Coast Tourism