Winemaking

Our intent is to make the best and most interesting wines from our property with a willingness to work with Mother Nature rather than against her. This means planting grapes that are more expressive -because better suited to our site- regardless of the current market trends.

The same principles that guide our vineyard practices are applied to the way we make wine:

 

Harvest and Fermentation

We strive to pick our grapes at that ephemeral moment when they have the most to give. We try to steer the fermentation in a direction we believe reflects the inherent grape characteristics, the soil they are grown in and the weather of a particular year. To achieve that, the winemaking is shed of as many external influences as possible, i.e. commercial yeasts, acidity correction or fining agents. While chemical analysis of must and wine can be helpful, it is ultimately our senses and intuition that enlighten our choices.

Natural or hands-off winemaking doesn’t mean thoughtless winemaking. We stay away from technological or chemical tools but we do influence the fermentation dynamics, and the resulting extraction of grape compounds into the wine, through physical processes like temperature control, intensity of crushing, frequency of punch-downs and pump-overs, length of maceration time, etc..

In our quest for truer-to-their-roots wines we adopted the antique whole cluster fermentation method that is still widely used in the Rhone: meaning grapes are harvested very cold early in the morning, sorted and placed in shallow wood or stainless steel tanks where they are then stomped by foot. The fermentation starts naturally after 5 days of soaking thanks to indigenous yeasts. We started experimenting with whole cluster fermentation on Syrah in 2005 and have now extended the technique to Mourvedre and Grenache. The presence of stems and a higher proportion of whole berries in the fermenter seems to widen the aromatic profile of the wines (more peppery and floral notes) as well as providing them with a focused structure.

 

Blending

Every year, some wines may have some shortcomings or be slightly out of balance; Rather than artificially altering them to make them fit into a preconceived mold, we use blending as a shaping tool. Need a little more acidity? Try a few percents of Barbera. Need some structure? A bit of Syrah or Petite Sirah will do.

Blending also provides some wonderful synergies (when the combination of two wines is greater than the individual components) like Grenache with Syrah or Zinfandel with Petite Sirah.

If there is an art in winemaking (I think it is more of a craft personally), blending is where it is most apparent. Like a painter with colors or a composer with notes (metaphors are a dime a dozen), the winemaker has this unique opportunity to create a new wine out of sometimes 6 or 7 different individuals wine lots. We blend in the spring when wines have had a chance to settle down and are starting to show their real face. Not unlike a good host we sit some of them at the same table hoping that they will strike a lively conversation, sometimes deep, sometimes just entertaining.

 

Aging

Aging is a big part of winemaking and I do want to stress the importance that oak barrels have taken today.  Some well meaning winemakers will go to extreme lengths (gentle handling of the grapes, gravity flow, all natural winemaking, etc…) to respect the integrity of their grapes and then proceed to completely obliterate the personality of their wines with new oak. What a shame! Not that we haven’t erred ourselves on the dark over-oaky side of the force before, but we have learned, I think. We aim to integrate oak flavors and tannins by selecting barrels with a more subtle impact or by using Foudres (600 gallons barrels with a smaller surface to volume ratio) on our Grenache for instance.

 

Some of our wines showcase a unique site on our property, others reflect the influence of a certain clone or a winemaking technique like whole cluster fermentation. All are given the same care and attention. All are intended to give a pleasure that is hopefully as cerebral as physical.

Leave a Reply