Cani, (Italian-pronounced Con e) Amante grew out of a love of the land, family, and of course wine. The owners, Debbie and Ed Guerra, took one look at the 38 acre parcel in 2005 and fell in love. The views were stunning looking up from the flat 4-5 acres which would naturally become the vineyard. One side, the striking Topa Topa Mountains, the other, the hills of Nordoff Peak on the edge of Los Padres National Forest; another, Ventura in the far distance with a sliver of Lake Casitas, and the crowning jewel, a knoll on the property which captures the infamous Ojai Pink Moment every waning afternoon. The Pratt Trail runs along the entire length of the vineyard so a walk down from Nordoff Peak drops you right into the middle of this majesty of nature. In the Spring you may even hear a seasonal spring racing below you as you walk alongside the rows of vines.
Records showed this property had never been farmed and the land proved this true. So began the clearing process. With the love of wine in mind, no fear of big projects, and a confirmation from soil testing that this land was waiting for grapes, the rock removal began. The task at hand began in early 2009; clearing 5 feet of rock above and beneath the ground. Debbie’s father, eager to buy the backhoe and tractor he wished he had as a kid growing up on a farm, made a seemingly impossible task only somewhat impossible. Then Debbie’s Uncle Stan, who grew up on that same farm, didn’t let the 80 years behind him slow him down. He volunteered his tractor skills. Ed and Stan went to work pulling boulder after boulder out of the earth, some the size of a small car. By late summer, it was Debbie’s turn on the backhoe. From 8am-5pm every day, Uncle Stan was ready. She couldn’t wait to get on the tractor and what seemed like an insurmountable task now was a pleasure to share each day with her uncle and father. The feeling of pride as they all looked over the acres of flat, beautifully groomed dirt after a year of hard work is a moment they’ll never forget. Ed and Debbie will always be grateful that their land was prepared with such love; the perfect bed for planting.
After speaking with numerous people throughout the valley, one name always came up as the man to manage the vineyard. Martin Ramirez, owner of Vineyards of Ojai, was the premier vintner’s choice for farming wine grapes in the Ojai Valley.
After meeting Martin, they knew he was a perfect fit and in April 2010 the first vines were planted. Cani Amante grows Riesling for a dry white, Cabernet, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and Petit Verdot for a Bordeaux type blend and then the majority of the vineyard is a few select Italian red varietals; Montepulciano, Sangiovese, Nebbiolo and Barbara. The first day of planting was a mix of Martin’s highly skilled crew, friends and family that came to help, the owners, and of course their dog Sara. After 12 years together, Sara could now add “vineyard dog” to her long list of accomplishments. She was right alongside the entire process, sometimes riding with Dad on the tractor, sometimes helping Uncle Stan eat his lunch, and during planting, right there sniffing the vines to make sure they were up to her owner’s high standards.
Sara is now watching over Cani Amante and was the inspiration behind the name; “dog lovers,” a loose translation from Italian. Her 16 years of love and devotion made an indelible mark on their lives. Joy and love are two emotions that dogs bring to our lives and are such a guiding force for living life. Cani Amante hopes to be able to help other dogs live as blissful a life as Sara and to share such joy with families throughout Ventura County by donating some of the profits from sales of Cani Amante Vineyard wines towards various dog advocacies in the area.
This is one of the many reasons Cani chose to partner with Four Brix Winery. Not only did they share the owner’s love of animals, but their skill and enthusiasm for the young vineyard made the decision easy. We shared the same vision. The years ahead will be filled with “extreme harvests” (Gary’s term, one of the owners of Four Brix, for having to backhoe the grape bins out of the vineyard), farm to table wine-member parties in the vineyard, jeep tours, and dog fundraising events.
The Guerra’s look forward to sharing these events with family, friends, and other wine enthusiasts that appreciate the land, the love of family and friends, and hopefully dogs; because dogs are always welcomed and encouraged to run to their heart’s content at Cani Amante Vineyards.
Debbie & Ed Guerra- owners, Cani Amante Vineyard