A "Quick" Overview of Production
All of the grapes we use come from vineyards planted to calcareous (limestone) soils in the hills west of Paso Robles.
Roughly 95% of our grapes are from dry-farmed, head-pruned vineyards located on steep slopes.
By virtue of the soils and the vineyard cultural practices, the grapes at harvest show good maturity, with the added advantage of having very low natural pH and high acid.
The above conditions and ultimate “chemistry” of the grapes makes it possible for us to ferment our wines without use of sulfite or other additives.
By extension, we do not inoculate the grape must with yeast or other microorganisms, and microorganisms that would normally be killed or stunted via sulfite addition tend to flourish. All of our fermentations can thus be described as “natural.”
We ferment our reds and our whites in low profile open top tanks that have an approximate ratio of being 2 times as wide as tall (four foot high by eight foot wide). The white grapes are fermented on their skins just like the red grapes, and the main difference between red and white wines is that the whites typically enjoy four years or longer in barrel, rather than the three years typical for red wine aging.
The low-profile tank approach, though terribly inefficient in terms of square footage of floor space required per ton of grapes processed, results in quick extraction of color, flavor & fine tannins from the skins. As a result, we typically gravity drain the fermenting juice to barrel at roughly 1/3 of the way through fermentation. Thus, all of our wines, both red and white, are essentially barrel fermented.
All wines remain in the barrel in which fermentation was completed without racking off the lees for at least two years. The very heavy lees are stirred, and the barrels are topped no more than twice a year.
A wine’s first racking will generally take place just prior to the second year following harvest, with some wines staying on the gross lees for five or more years.
The first sulfite addition is made at the time of first racking, which in most cases takes place approximately two years following harvest. The wines are then returned to barrel for at least one additional year of barrel aging before bottling.
In terms of sulfite, it has been our long-term observation that wines made without use of sulfite have much lower potential for oxidation than is the case with wines made using sulfite. Though this is counterintuitive, we have a large wine library that supports our contention that wines made in this manner age well beyond 25 years to significant benefit. In addition, we believe that a broader array of yeast types and other microorganisms participate in the fermentation and during the long barrel aging of our wines to significant advantage, specifically resulting in a much broader spectrum of flavors and aromas by comparison with “normal” wine processing.