our fruit comes from the small vineyards of individual farmers.
These vineyards offer sites or farming practices, or both, that
cannot be duplicated. For this reason, each wine is a single-vineyard
bottling and bears the name of its vineyard. The remarkable exception
to the principle of size is is Lost Slough-- it is anything but
small, but it is farmed perfectly by one man whose care and understanding
of the vineyard are more than proportional to the vineyard's hugeness.
We work very closely with each farmer as partner rather than client.
The winemaking is inevitably guided by the fruit that the vineyard
produces; but the winemaker may reciprocally influence the farming
of the vineyards. But much more important than influencing, or much
worse, shaping, the vineyard to the winemaker's needs– much
more important is to discover excellence in the vineyard and then
attend to and exalt it.
once we have
harvested the fruit, our prime task is husbanding the microbial
population of our wines. We do this by interfering as little as
possible in the spontaneous development of a natural (if invisible)
ecology in our fermenting wine. We do not sterilize the fruit, juice,
or must; we do not add commercial yeasts, enzymes, acid, bacteria.
If the developing system veers toward winemaking disaster, we intervene.
If not, we add and take away nothing. We observe the developing
system through the signs available to our senses: we taste, we smell,
we measure temperature. We punch down, pumpover, and sometimes chill
the must to delay or slow down a given activity–but outside
of these activities, we do nothing to interfere in the development
of a stable and complex living system in our wines.
The exception here is in our production of white wines that do not
go through malolactic fermentation. We began making such wines as
a study project in 2005, and we found that they tasted very good--
and muc more important, they seemed to display the excellence of
some vineyards more clearly than if we had allowed the wines to
undergo this bacterial fermentation. For that reason, in some wines
we use relatively high amounts of sulfur dioxide to inhibit the
fermentation activity of malolactic bacteria. This is an immense
and maybe even violent intervention. We do it because we are fascinated
by and devoted to husbandry of the microbes, but we are not zealots.
The wine is OF the microbes, but not FOR them.
the flavors that we seek in our wines come from ripe fruit, long
macerations, and long maturation in barrel. When one of our wines
demands by its own nature a variation from these principles, we
vary (see the 2004 Glos). Otherwise, we seek to transmute the fruit,
not to preserve it. We seek not the primary aromas of the freshly-sliced
apple or the just-bitten plum, but the secondary and tertiary aromas
of rose petals, chocolate, roast coffee, dried fruits, hung game,
old leather, dried mushrooms, a broken firecracker. These aromas
depend most of all on the undisturbed elevation of the wine in barrel.
No sulfur is added in barrel, the wines are topped seldom, and they
remain in barrel until they develop a ripeness that is peculiar
to wine, not fruit. During this period of maturation, the microbes
reach equilibrium and the wine become used to air. The result are
wines that are sturdy and prone neither to bacterial spoilage nor
to oxidation. They are used to, and have overcome, these threats
before they ever make it into bottle. The wines that did not survive
this rigorous elevage never see a bottle. They disappear.
of these wines is the vineyard that produces each one. The winemaking
is very much the same for each wine. The character of the vineyard
and the microbiology of the barrels each dwarfs the range of possible
characteristics suggested by various varietals. For this reason,
varietal designation has seemed insignificant for this project.
A given wine is not a "cab" or a "merlot" in
this project; it is a Tenbrink or a Hudson.
Typical designations of appelation are not useful here for similar
reasons. One wine is not "Napa" in character, while another
is "Monterey." The specificity of the vineyard is so much
more significant than the appelation that we avoid such a general
(and non-specific) designation.
On the other hand, the realm in which all of the project's vineyards
are found is the dream-world of California. For this reason, all
of the wines bear the California appelation and a single vineyard