No Smoke. No Mirrors

– July 2018

There’s a constant barrage of new (or rediscovered ancient) techniques that come into vogue, promising to do ‘wonderful’ things for better wines. And then, after you’ve added things, you can add other things to undo any excesses left over from the previous treatments. Instead of following these new and shiny things, over the years I have tried to streamline our winemaking process. Rather than simply introducing more steps, additives, manipulations, etc. to ‘improve’ only one aspect at a time, I have tried to stand back and focus on as much of the whole picture as I am capable of to refine the process. From simply whole-cluster pressing and fermenting the Chardonnays and rosés, to aging all the red wines on initial lees for the entire time in barrel, I am often finding that less (work/stuff) is more. When looking at the whole, the process is dictated by the needs of the material at hand. It’s not an excuse to be lazy, the simpler processes only work when it’s part of a comprehensive approach beginning with the grapes. This transparent, minimalist approach is also apparent in how we ‘market’ our wines as well. No smoke. No mirrors. Just being up front with the way we see things.

Speaking of smoke, a common question we have heard since last October’s fires is how we were affected by the fires and smoke. Since all our grapes were in before the fires, the answer is easy: We are very fortunate to have not been affected from a wine quality standpoint. We never lost power at our winery and we were far enough from the smoke that intrusion into the building was a non-issue. We certainly were emotionally affected by this tragedy and how colleagues, friends and family needed to be evacuated, and in some cases lost their homes. Healing will take time. The consequences of inadequate coverage or unresponsive insurance companies and rebuilding issues are still quite with us all in the area. One take home lesson for us all is: check your homeowners’ policy if you have one, to see that coverage limits are still high enough to replace even foundations which can be destroyed with an extremely hot fire. ‘Replacement value’ means nothing if the limit is below the cost to replace. When the smoke clears, this is not something you want to worry about.

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