The aim of my winemaking is an activity; or more properly, a set and series of activities. The first set of acitivites is the winemaking itself, from studying and attending to the vineyard, to imagining when to pick the grapes, to smelling the fermentation begin . . . and on to bringing the wine to bottle. The making of the wine is, in this sense, an end in itself.
But wine has the remarkable ability to preserve within itself not only the character of a vineyard, a growing season, a fermentation– but it does so in a way that is portable. You can put it in a bottle and give it to a friend, or set it adrift in the vast sea of the market, so that it finds itself eventually in the hands, on the table, of a perfect stranger.
This possibility raises a second set of activities– those that are separate and beyond the making of the wine iteself. These are the activities that the wine can inspire and engender in others who drink it.
Beyond the essential bacchic activities that almost any wine can inspire, I have three particular ones in mind: the wines should make one feel and think of complexity. Not the complexity of arguments or syllogisms, but this kind of complexity: imagine the flat asphalt of a new mall's parking lot. Imagine the same asphalt cracked and broken after years of weathering, traffic, ground shifting underneath it. The pointless complexity of these cracks can be a feast for the eyes, even if it means nothing. The wines should present a similar complexity for their consumer to feast on.
The wines should make one sense decay, decomposition, transformation. The wines should be so distinctly wine and not fruit that one can sense both the yeast and the bacteria, on the one hand, and the passage of time, on the other hand, that transformed the unspoiled fruit into a new substance. The wines must capture and preserve decay and age.
The wines should make you happy that you are drinking them.
Specificity of vineyards: our fruit comes from the small vineyards of individual farmers. These vineyards offer sites or farming practices, or both, that cannot be duplicated. For this reason, each wine is a single-vineyard bottling and bears the name of its vineyard. We work very closely with each farmer as partner rather than client. The winemaking is inevitably guided by the fruit that the vineyard produces; but the winemaker may reciprocally influence the farming of the vineyards. But much more important than influencing, or much worse, shaping, the vineyard to the winemaker's needs– much more important is to discover excellence in the vineyard and then attend to and exalt it.
Husbandry of microbes: once we have harvested the fruit, our prime task is husbanding the microbial population of our wines. We do this by interfering as little as possible in the spontaneous development of a natural (if invisible) ecology in our fermenting wine. We do not sterilize the must, we do not add commercial yeasts. If the developing system veers toward winemaking disaster, we intervene. If not, we add and take away nothing. We observe the developing system through the signs available to our senses: we taste, we smell, we measure temperature. We punch down, pumpover, and sometimes chill the must to delay or slow down a given activity–but outside of these activities, we do nothing to interfere in the development of a stable and complex living system in our wines.
Undisturbed maturation: in general, the flavors that we seek in our wines come from ripe fruit, long macerations, and long maturation in barrel. When one of our wines demands by its own nature a variation from these principles, we vary (see the 2004 Glos). Otherwise, we seek to transmute the fruit, not to preserve it. We seek not the primary aromas of the freshly-sliced apple or the just-bitten plum, but the secondary and tertiary aromas of rose petals, chocolate, roast coffee, dried fruits, hung game, old leather, dried mushrooms, a broken firecracker. These aromas depend most of all on the undisturbed elevation of the wine in barrel. No sulfur is added in barrel, the wines are topped seldom, and they remain in barrel until they develop a ripeness that is peculiar to wine, not fruit. During this period of maturation, the microbes reach equilibrium and the wine become used to air. The result are wines that are sturdy and prone neither to bacterial spoilage nor to oxidation. They are used to, and have overcome, these threats before they ever make it into bottle. The wines that did not survive this rigorous elevage never see a bottle. They disappear.
Vineyard designation: the foundation of these wines is the vineyard that produces each one. The winemaking is very much the same for each wine. The character of the vineyard and the microbiology of the barrels each dwarfs the range of possible characteristics suggested by various varietals. For this reason, varietal designation has seemed insignificant for this project. A given wine is not a "cab" or a "merlot" in this project; it is a Tenbrink or a Hudson. Typical designations of appelation are not useful here for similar reasons. One wine is not "Napa" in character, while another is "Monterey." The specificity of the vineyard is so much more significant than the appelation that we avoid such a general (and non-specific) designation. On the other hand, the realm in which all of the project's vineyards are found is the dream-world of California. For this reason, all of the wines bear the California appelation and a single vineyard designation.