Open Hand Ranch is a small, family-run organic vineyard and farm located in southern Mendocino. The vines grow on eleven acres within a 100-acre property surrounded by oak trees and a diverse landscape of native plants and fruit trees. STC sourced the hand-harvested Chardonnay, Pinotage and Merlot for the 2020 FKA! Field Blend. We interviewed owner Mark Rogero.
Let's start with the basics. What’s the meaning behind the name Open Hand?
Open Hand is an ongoing theme that I adopted as the symbol for my company Concrete Works, that I started in 1991. It's extracted from something that inspired me while studying architecture. Le Corbusier, a French/Swiss architect, developed a project for Chandigarh, a state capital of India. The project included a large sculpture of an open hand. The fundamental concept was "with an open hand I give, with an open hand I receive". When we bought the ranch I wanted to preserve the inspiration and guiding principle.
What’s the history of your journey into growing grapes?
We’ve been at Open Hand for five years. My wife and I bought the property in the spring of 2016 as a retreat of sorts for our family. We were looking for a place to get away, have some space, and have some land. Growing grapes was not part of the original plan. It was a circumstance of the place that we found. While we were researching properties to purchase, and saw that Open Hand came with 20 acres of grape vines in various states of health and wellbeing, we asked ourselves “Well, are we comfortable being grape farmers?”
So you weren’t planning on being grape growers?
The original decision wasn’t like we’re picking up and moving and going to go deep into this farming thing. You read those kinds of stories where people are moving to remote areas and living off the land -- it wasn’t like that for us. It took a little while to fully understand that, and we are still unraveling what we’ve got, what it means for our family, and for the land.
How did you and Alex cross paths?
I met Alex in 2017 at a restaurant in Oakland. I was friends with the owner and the wine buyer, who invited me to a tasting that Alex happened to be pouring at. As it turns out, Alex was already purchasing fruit from several of my neighbors. I had never really tuned into the natural wine world, and was inspired by Alex’s passion and vision for it. We decided that we wanted to create something together, even though at that time we weren’t entirely sure what that would be.
What does the future look like for Open Hand?
As of right now we have 1.5 acres of Chardonnay, 4 acres of Merlot, and 4 acres of Pinotage. We’ve been planting cover crops and Alex and I have been talking about what to plant and when. There hasn’t been a sense of urgency -- we decided we’d rather take our time and make the planting worthwhile. Personally, I want to plant Grenache and Chenin Blanc. Alex vacillates between what he’s inspired by and it’s fascinating to watch his thought process. It’s almost like a laboratory of sorts.
I do want to make the business of the farm viable. Making it as sustainable and as Old World as possible so that we're treating the land with respect and asking it what it wants to be. We have some side projects we’re excited about, like planting indigo for dyeing fabrics. I’m also interested in Amaro, so we are planting botanicals and have discussed distilling vermouth. With so much land, you can do a lot!
What's your go-to libation?
Well before I met Alex, I was a Russian River Pinot guy, and was also getting into more nuanced French Burgundies. After getting the vineyard, and tuning into everything happening in the winemaking world, I tend to drink chilled reds that are have a little more tannin and pucker.
Having said that, my palate and tastes are always evolving. We drink a real range. Everything we purchase is a more informed decision. Paying close attention to how others make wine, and having that play a larger role in what they purchase to drink. Constant discovery mode. Life is short, there’s a lot of wines out there, give yourself a chance to branch out.