Winemaking begins in the vineyard. There are several winemaking decisions that must be made each year as the grapes mature:
- Winter: Pruning removes most of the prior year's cane to preserve nutrients for a few shoots that will ultimately bear fruit.
- Spring: Bud Break typically occurs in late April in the Valley.
- Summer: Flowering typically begins in late June or early July. This starts the unofficial countdown to harvest, as a rule of thumb is that a vineyard may harvest 105-110 days after flowering. We set crop load goals at this time, which means that some of the grapes are dropped to allow more nutrients to go to those that remain. Veraison, or the turning color of the grapes, generally occurs in August.
- Fall: We typically begin harvest in late September or early October. Grape clusters are harvested by hand.
We convert the harvested grapes into wine at our three story winery designed to utilize gravity as wine is transported from one stage to the next. The grape clusters arrive on the top floor and are processed on the crush pad, where our Crush Crew sorts the grapes by hand to remove anything that is not perfect fruit. Crush Crew consists of Club members, friends, and family who donate time to ensure that only the best grapes make it through.
We cool the grapes down in small 1.5-2.5 Ton fermenters and let them soak to increase the time the skins are in contact with the juice, as skin imparts color and flavor to the wine. After several days, we warm the grapes to induce fermentation with inoculated yeasts and some spontaneous fermentation. Yeast drives fermentation by converting the grape sugars into alcohol and carbon dioxide. This release of carbon dioxide is so strong that it lifts the skins above the juice. We push the skins back down into the juice by hand three times a day to increase contact of the juice with the skin. We also take daily samples for quantitative analysis of brix (sugar), temperature, and acidity. This fermentation stage usually lasts from 5 to 15 days.
Once fermentation is complete, the wine is pressed to rid it of skins, seeds and other organic matter. After allowing the wine to settle for a few days, we rack it into barrels on the bottom floor of the winery using gravity.
We select our barrels from five French cooperages (barrel manufacturers) and choose forest wood, aging time, and toast level to match our vineyards. The wine rests in barrels for many months, where it completes secondary fermentation when malic acid is converted to lactic acid. We make blending decisions together and then blend various barrels together in a tank before bottling.