Throughout the summer we visit the vineyards and talk with the viticulturists about the progress of the grapes and the plans for harvest. As harvest draws near we are in regular contact, discussing the sugar and acid levels in the grapes. When the decision is made to harvest, we load our harvest bins into a rental truck and head for the vineyards. The grapes are picked for us by the vineyard crew and we hurry home with our raw material.
At the winery we fork lift the picking bins up to the mezzanine where we can hand sort the grapes to ensure that only good clusters fall to the destemmer below. Stems are removed, the berries are crushed and the grapes fall into a stainless steel vat ready for fermentation.
We inoculate the crushed red grapes the following day with yeast chosen to bring out the varietal characteristics of grapes. The fermentation generally lasts 7-10 days for the red grapes. Twice a day we punch down the “cap”, the skins that are pushed out of the liquid by the carbon dioxide generated during fermentation.
When all the sugar is converted to alcohol, we pump the juice into barrels. The remaining grape pulp is then transferred to the press to extract the remaining juice. Malolactic bacteria are added to barrels for the secondary fermentation. These bacteria convert the malic acid in the juice to lactic acid. The barrels are kept warm during this period to keep the bacteria working. Secondary fermentation lasts weeks to months.
Once secondary fermentation is finished the wine is transferred out of the barrel, the lees are washed out of the bottom of the barrel, and the wine is returned to the barrel. Potassium metabisulfite is added to the wine and the barrel is moved to barrel room (55°F) for the wine to age. The barrels are sampled and topped monthly.
After a year, we begin experimenting with different blends of wine from the various barrels and grape varieties. When we find the best combination, we blend the wines to prepare for bottling. Bottling generally occurs 20 months after harvest.
White grapes are handled slightly differently. The grapes are destemmed and transferred immediately to the press where the juice is removed from the pulp. The white grape juice is pumped into tanks to settle. The following day the juice is pumped off the settled lees into another tank for fermentation. The fermentation temperature is controlled to extend the fermentation for 3-4 weeks. When fermentation is complete, the wine is chilled to precipitate out excess tartaric acid. The wine ages in the tanks for several months and is then filtered and bottled.