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WINE LIVES

1st Life: Vineyards

The organic vineyards are where wine is “conceived” and play a critical role in making the finest wines, which is why we provide them with the best care possible. Miljenko “Mike” Grgich likes to say that wine has five lives, and, that we treat our different wines like our children—we pour all our love, attention, and artistry into nourishing their exceptional character and flavor.

Overview: A season in the vineyard

      • Pruning → Beginning of February
      • Bud Break → Typically the beginning of April
      • Bloom → Beginning of May
      • Grape Set → Mid to late May
      • Veraison → Approximately 2.5 months after bud break
      • Harvest → Late August through October
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Maturation

White grapes mature first, then reds. In drought years, harvest is earlier than usual. In El Niño/La Niña years, harvest tends to be later.

Farming

Committed to natural wine growing and regenerative agriculture, we’ve cultivated our five estate vineyards (certified organic since 2006) without artificial fertilizers, pesticides, or herbicides to create healthy, balanced vineyards with an extended life. We also practice regenerative agriculture, a much more advanced form of organic farming, integrating three main principles: incorporating livestock, no-till soil management, and building organic matter to sustain microbial life. Learn more about our farming practices here.

Climate

Mild temperatures are optimum growing conditions during spring and summer. That means no frost or rain as frost can freeze buds and destroy crops for that vintage, and rain can cause diseases and prevent pollination or knock-off bloom, all of which can reduce the number of grapes. If it’s too cold, grapes will not fully ripen; later harvest risks rain. If it’s too hot, sugars ripen before the phenolics; the wine will be unbalanced.

Harvest

On average, we harvest 1,000 to 1,200 tons per vintage. Grapes are hand-picked at night and early morning to protect the delicate flavors and aromas from oxidation and stabilize the sugar and acidity then brought to the winery in half-ton bins. We use forklifts to empty the bins onto a sorting table to remove leaves and undesirable clusters. In our harvesting process, we avoid mechanical harvesters since they can damage individual berries and enable the juice to oxidize and contaminate.

To minimize the time that grapes sit outside, we press 20-tons at a time—that is the amount our trucks can deliver. We use membrane presses, which utilize the pressing action with a rubberized or elasticized cloth—a membrane—that hugs one side of the tank when loading.

First, we dump white grapes with stems (whole-cluster) directly into a crusher, then immediately into presses to reduce sedimentation and produce clearer, higher-quality juice. Air pressure inflates the membrane, forcing the fruit against the opposite side of the press. When the center is open, grapes enter without obstruction, and the axial feed allows for better distribution and “free-run” juice, which is ideal because it’s the least processed/pressed and is most aromatic. We use some pressed juice for its additional complexity and varietal character.

Next, we pump white juice into stainless steel tanks, where it settles for 24 hours. Natural settling prepares juice for fermentation through natural clarification. Jacketed tanks have double walls through which either cool or warm glycol circulates and controls the temperature adjusted for the wine at its particular fermentation stage.

The red grapes also go in the crusher / de-stemmer, in which metal fingers rotate within a perforated drum and separate berries from stems. Instead of going immediately into the press, a gentle, positive displacement pump moves red grape “must” (juice, seeds, skins) directly into stainless steel jacketed fermentation tanks. Red wines are fermented on their skins and seeds, which give red wine both color and tannin, and are pressed afterward.

Last but not least, we return pomace (seeds and skins) to the vineyard and conclude the first life of wine.

Up Next: Fermentation

The second life (fermentation) is where wine is “born.” Stay tuned!