A far cry from his adventures as a child, Dick Handal grew up in Brooklyn trying to germinate seeds from 2 cent packets he bought with his pocket money. Dick’s wife, Lisa Denier, comes from a family of farm experts. Fast forward to the 2000s, Dick and Lisa have become successful winemakers and vineyard farmers, growing acres of sustainable grape varietals in Sonoma County, California at the farm that he and his wife Lisa recently sold to Juice Beauty.
The Juice Beauty staff heard the story as Dick and Lisa poured their favorite wine for Juice Beauty founder, Karen Behnke and her cardiologist husband Howard Luria, and listened as Dick talked about how he started making wine during his years in South America.
Dick bought his first Northern California vineyard in Alexander Valley and originally commuted between Sonoma County and Ecuador and eventually settled on the West Dry Creek Road in Healdsburg, Sonoma County, now the Juice Beauty Farm.
The Juice Beauty Farm's Worldwide Roots
Dick first gained his taste for wine growing as a young man while volunteering for the Peace Corps in Bolivia. He later invested in farmland in Ecuador, planting strawberries and flowers in addition to grapes.
He purchased the land from an Ecuadorian farmer, Don Angel Duran, who as a young man was sent by his “patron” to Argentina to learn grape growing and the production process of Pisco (a local grape-derived brandy). With Don Angel’s help, Dick found a Vinifera grape already growing in Ecuador and after producing rudimentary wines, started dreaming of creating more sophisticated wines with different grape varietals.
For years, Dick traveled from Ecuador to study at UC Davis with Professor Carol Meredith who specializes in ampelography, the field of botany concerned with the identification and classification of grapevines. The UC professor identified the grape Dick found in Ecuador as Palomino, the white wine grape used in Jerez, Spain to produce Sherry so Don Angel and Dick could start the winery producing a white wine with the Palomino grape.
Once the vineyard started producing, Dick decided to experiment with other Vinifera grapes. With the help of a California Nursery, several different classic grape varieties were imported into Ecuador, with its atypical grape-growing climate of eternal springtime with no dormant season.
Dick and Lisa still own the ChaupiEstancia vineyard near Quito, which produces wines served in local Ecuadorian restaurants.
Passing the vineyard knowledge
During the years when Dick visited California to study viticulture and enology and to collect additional varietal cuttings, he often went to Healdsburg for the grape harvest and fell in love with the area. He and Lisa made their home on the amazing property that is now Juice Beauty’s farm on West Dry Creek Road.
The property, not only stunningly beautiful with vineyard views in all directions, provides the perfect conditions to grow grapes and olives. Lisa and Dick spent years reconditioning the older vineyards on the property and planting new vines in a sustainable manner. In addition to the French Cabernet Sauvignon grapes, and the Italian grapes Sagrantino (originally from the Umbrian town of Montefalco) and Falanghina (traditionally grown in Naples), there also table grapes.
Lisa and Dick also planted approximately 300 olive trees – as a nod to his grandfather’s farm in Bethlehem – as well as orchards full of pears, peaches, nectarines, apricots, figs, apples, loquats, pomegranates, oranges, lemons, grapefruits and plums.
Karen and Howard has been busy learning the art of vineyard management.
Great story about real people who care about farming the right way.