After hand picking, the grapes are sorted both in the vineyard and at the winery. The small vineyard lots are put into open-topped fermenters designed specifically for Pinot Noir. We let the fermentation begin slowly in the cool conditions under which the fruit arrives at the winery.
All of our Pinot Noirs are produced using "whole cluster" additions. Usually, 20 percent of the clusters go directly into specially designed fermenters with no de-stemming or crushing at all. The remaining 80 percent will be carefully de-stemmed only. In this way, we allow the intricate fruit flavors and aromas of Pinot Noir to begin developing during fermentation. To further extract color and flavor components, we use a proprietary "punch-over" device to thoroughly break up the cap two to three times per day. Then, when fermentation is complete, we empty the tank with care to capture just the free run juice. The press wine is only incorporated after James evaluates it, rejecting it if it is coarse or overtly astringent.
The new wine is racked into French oak barrels where it undergoes malolactic fermentation. Oak is an important component of the finished wine, but must not overwhelm the delicately layered symphony of flavors and aromas we work so diligently to create. The percentage of new barrels varies between 50 and 70 percent and is arrived at with great deliberation.
We love making Pinot Noir! Perhaps no other wine expresses such a range of flavors—from fresh ripe berries and cherries to intriguing earthy, meaty flavors and dozens in between, all depending on the vineyard, the grower and the clone.