Mary Elke planted Donnelly Creek in 1991. Just west of Boonville and adjacent to Ferrington Vineyard, Donnelly Creek’s fruit forms the backbone of FEL’s Anderson Valley Pinot Noir cuvée. On its own, this property delivers the most muscular of FEL’s vineyard designate Pinot Noirs.
Mary has farmed Pinot Noir since 1978 and makes wine under her own Elke Vineyards label. With her husband Tom, Mary planted their first vineyard in Napa Valley’s Coombsville region, and bought an apple orchard halfway between Boonville and Philo in 1980. Soon after, Mary and Tom moved their family to Anderson Valley full time while commuting to Napa to tend their vineyard. The apple orchards were converted to organic farming and Mary Elke’s Organic Apple Juice company was founded. The juice was sold throughout California until 1986, when the discovery of an invasive apple pest resulted in a State quarantine and the loss of two harvests. Drawing on the success of their Napa vineyard, Mary decided to plant Pinot Noir in place of the apples on their Anderson Valley home ranch.
In 1990, just a half mile down the road from their home ranch, Mary fortuitously discovered the Donnelly Creek ranch and planted the vines for her third vineyard. By 1996, Mary was farming over 50 acres of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Pinot Gris. Originally most of the production went to sparkling wine producers, but Mary began making her own Pinot Noir under her Elke Blue Diamond label, and soon other Pinot producers were knocking on her door.
Mary continues to oversee the farming and can often be found during harvest behind the wheel of her favorite tractor. Donnelly Creek is a certified Fish Friendly Farming vineyard.