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A California Family Winemaking Tradition Spanning Three Centuries
We acknowledge that “great wine is made in the vineyard”, and we strive to farm our vineyards to optimize the intensity of flavor and varietal characteristics of the grapes. In the winery, we combine traditional winemaking methods with technologically advanced winemaking equipment and techniques. As a result, the wines show a depth of flavor, complexity and richness that bring enjoyment every time you sit down to enjoy a glass.
Our white wines are made using “whole cluster” pressing techniques with clear separation of “free run” juice from all “press” juice to maintain the most delicate balance in the finished wines. We employ cold temperature fermentations with specialty yeast that maintain aromatics and promote varietal character retention. Barrel fermentation is used on our dry whites using only the finest French oak casks, in combination with “Batonnage” (a gentle weekly stirring of the yeast sediment, or “lees” during aging).
Winemaking starts in the vineyards, and here we strive to harvest all of our grapes at peak flavor development and maturity, followed by time-honored winemaking techniques such as hand-sorting the grape harvest, “punching-down” our red wines in open top tanks instead of pumping must, oak aging in small French barrels in the desired humidity and temperatures found in underground caves and cellars, all designed to maintain and promote the natural flavors and characteristics of the grapes.
All red grapes are transported and handled via belts to provide the gentlest processing possible. We hand-sort much of our red grapes to ensure that only fully ripened, whole grape clusters make it into the crusher. Our goal is to move must and wine via gravity, with as little pumping as possible, and our small-lot open top fermenting tanks allow us to fill the red tanks without the use of pumps. After fermentation we use a gentle transfer method to bring the pomace (spent skins and seeds) to the wine press, assuring limited extraction of harsh flavors and promoting silky smooth tannins. Again, ‘free run” is often separated from “press wine” and aged separately, with a goal of targeting a perfect balance of tannin and flavor in the finished wines.
The new red wines are allowed to settle briefly and then racked to barrels with “light yeast lees” and grape solids to promote a natural secondary, malo-lactic fermentation in barrel. This slow, secondary fermentation enhances the integration of the oak and grape aromas and helps to fix the red wine color. Barrels are selected based upon stylistic goals for each varietal and also to enhance the varietal, vineyard character and flavor profiles of the wines. After malo-lactic the wines are racked and the first of many opportunities for blending and consolidation of small individual lots take place. The wine is then returned to barrel for the extended barrel aging process.
The cave and subterranean cellars provide ideal aging conditions for our wines, with year-round, stable temperatures of 58-60 degrees F and naturally high humidity of 80%. The barrels are “nested” on runners in the traditional manner of many fine French chateaux and the castles of Italy. The multitude of small rooms in the cellar allow us to maintain numerous small lots separately to observe their evolution and flavor development during aging, and to carefully assemble the blends closer to their final maturity and bottling date.