Winemaking begins in the vineyard. Nearly every discussion on winemaking begins with that statement. And it should. There are so many variables that come into play prior to harvest, during harvest, even prior to the start of the growing season. Vineyard maintenance and management, like any farming effort, requires constant attention if the fruit is to be harvested and delivered to the winemaker at its full potential. Our growers are masters of their craft.
As the growing season concludes and wineries prepare for the often around-the-clock arrival of fruit, growers are monitoring their crops’ maturation for the perfect time to pick. Once underway, winery crush crews take over and process fruit as it comes in, often through the night. Our cellar crew often works around the clock for days at a time. The romance of a Wine Country harvest can fade dramatically under such pressure.
The processing of red and white varietal grapes varies greatly. Red wine grapes are pressed and left to ferment in open vats “on the skins” where color and tannins are imparted to the juice by circulating the juice through the “cap” of skins that collects on the surface.
White wine grapes are crushed and the juice and skins are separated immediately, the juice usually being pumped into stainless steel tanks for temperature controlled fermentation. In some cases, as with our Carneros Highway Chardonnay, a white wine will be fermented in oak barrels “on the lees,” or the sediment that falls out of solution. This adds richness and a fuller, more enjoyable mouth feel to the wine.
Both our Chardonnay and our red wines are aged in oak barrels where they’re monitored for development and loss to evaporation. Each of our thousand-plus barrels is kept filled to capacity to prevent damaging oxygen from collecting above the wine. Monthly loss per barrel can be as much as a full bottle.