While our farming is high touch, our winemaking is very low touch. We know that great wine comes from great grapes.
Our winemaking program was launched by world-renowned winemaker, Jeffrey Patterson, of Mount Eden Vineyards. Jeffrey led our winemaking until 2009. In 2010, Jim Cargill, Dave House's son-in-law, took over as lead winemaker from Jeffrey, who continues on as Consulting Winemaker for House Family. Jim, like Jeffrey, believes in letting the wine express itself with a minimal amount of human intervention, a process that is paying off with wines that are beginning to rack up national and international awards.
Great winemaking begins at harvest. First the brix and acid need to be right, but there’s more than chemistry in the timing of harvest. The pips (grape seeds) need to be just right, brown and crunchy with a nutty taste to the bite. The feel of the grapes needs to be firm but not too firm. The winemaker’s final test is the taste of the grapes. It’s not just chemistry; the timing of harvest is also an art.
Once the winemaker declares the grapes to be ready, they are harvested very early the next morning. Our winemaking takes place on our estate property. Before the sun has warmed the vineyard, the grapes are in the fermenters at the winery. Fermented on natural yeasts in stainless steel temperature controlled fermenters and aged in a combination of new and aged French and American oak barrels to provide just the right flavors, our wines then develop in barrels until the winemaker declares them ready to bottle.
We enhance the complexity and flavors of our Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot by blending with other varietals produced in our vineyard. Our primary crop is Cabernet Sauvignon but we also produce Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot in addition to Chardonnay. Selecting the blend for each vintage is a key step in the winemaking process and occurs in January about 16 months after harvest. With our winemaker Jim Cargill taking the lead, we gather a panel of one or two sommeliers, some family members, Jeffrey Patterson and members of the winemaking team from Mount Eden to sample each block and each varietal. Then we start the long process of blending various combinations, changing as little as a single percent at a time. Once we agree on the blend, the wines are blended and put back in barrels in the cave where they continue to develop before bottling in the summer of that year.
Once bottled our wines spend at least a year bottle aging in tightly temperature controlled storage built for that purpose on our property. Only when we feel that they are ready are they released for sale. Our wines fully express the terroir of our mountainside vineyards.
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