It is interesting that in the English language our term for producing wine implies a very active role on the part of the people involved. I remember when studying French in college, I was frustrated by the lack of literal translation of the English word ‘winemaker.’ There were French terms that translated to ‘manager’, ‘cellar master,’ ‘grower,’ ‘enologist,’ etc. But the direct translation of our term remained elusive.
As the years passed, I began to understand that for me, winemaking is more about providing the right conditions for my desired outcome rather than ‘acting upon’ or ‘adding to’ the grape material. Lately, I have refined the way I go about things even more to allow the reds, rosés and of course, Chardonnays to remain on initial lees in barrel for the entire time between pressing and bottling. (The one exception is the Zinfandel where I make the actual blend before showing the barrels at the futures offering). The parts of the process I have refined are those prior to going to barrel: harvest timing, extraction/maceration strategy, pressing considerations, levels of solids, barrel choices, etc. Besides using less electricity, water and physical wear on my part, more importantly the wines really seem to respond positively to this. With a third vintage of Pinot Noir going to bottle this summer, I am pretty confident that this will continue as my long-term stylistic gestalt.
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