Winemaking

We seek to take advantage of our superior sources of grapes, and traditional methods made possible by our limited production, to make wines of great varietal character, intensity and complexity.

Harvest
harvesting by hand
Sorting
sorting out unripe and damaged clusters
Destemming
pinot noir grapes are destemmed and fall directly into a fermenter
Primary Fermentation
punching down the cap on fermenting pinot noir
Pressing Grapes
shoveling pomice into the press after primary fermentation
Pressing
press wine from pinot noir fermentation
Barrel Aging
racking wine off the lees

After hand harvesting the pinot noir grapes, further selection at the winery is a crucial step to remove any unripe or damaged clusters. Next, the clusters are gently de-stemmed so that most of the grapes remain as whole berries which allows a slow fermentation process. Primary fermentation takes place in lots of 1.5 tons or less, so that small, special blocks of the vineyards can be vinified separately. We allow at least two days of “cold” maceration before inoculating with either wild or cultured yeast. As the fermentation takes off and the temperature rises to 90 degrees, the grapes begin to slowly break down and color and flavor is extracted from the skins.

The skins float to the surface, and twice a day are “punched down” by hand to keep them under the juice. After 12-15 days, the primary fermentation is nearly complete, most of the sugar has been turned to alcohol and the juice has become a deep garnet color.

The “free run” wine is drawn off and the remaining solids are pressed yielding the “press wine”. After settling for a few days, the wine is transferred to barrels for aging. At this stage, the free run and press wine from different vineyards and clones are kept separate.

Each year we use about 30 % new oak cooperage in the barrel-aging process. Several sources provide barrels made from French, American (mid-west and Oregon), and Hungarian oak. Each type of oak brings unique characteristics to the wines aged in these barrels which gives us considerable scope to create distinctive wines. Our best single vineyard and barrel-selected wines may be aged in up to 60% new oak. We never employ tanks for aging wines.

Primary fermentation continues in the barrel for a few more days until all the sugar has been converted to alcohol. A secondary fermentation also takes place in the barrels due to the presence of native malolactic bacteria and may require several months to complete. This step is important to allow the conversion of malic acid to lactic acid, producing smoother wines. After secondary fermentation is complete, the wine is racked once to clean barrels without fining, in keeping with our philosophy of minimal manipulation of the wine. After determining which barrels will be blended to produce various cuvees, bottling occurs with minimal filtration to avoid potential loss of color and intensity.
Production of white wines is an even simpler process. The grapes are hand-picked and sorted as for the pinot noir, but then immediately pressed to remove the skins and seeds from the juice. The juice is allowed to settle and then transferred to 60 gallon stainless steel or neutral oak barrels. Inoculation with yeast starts the fermentation which can take several weeks, due to lower temperatures achieved in the small volume barrels compared to much larger fermentation volumes used for pinot noir.