This morning Celeste and I bottled our 2013 wines. I’ve been making wine for a long time for my family and friends, but the whole texture of it has changed since we planted our vineyard and moved to the Russian River Valley.
Currently, we have three wines percolating at Gantz Family Vineyards: a Thorn Ridge Pinot Noir, a Charles Smith Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon and a Sangiacomo Vineyard Chardonnay. While we do not sell our wines, winemaking is what led me to become a vineyard grower, and I enjoy continuing to practice and perfect this art in our recently renovated winery.
So, This year, I’m back to a winemaking style that I am familiar with from my studies at UC Davis and that I have employed with great success in the past. I am going to emphasize “clean” winemaking over “natural” winemaking, in the hopes that I can better capture that beautiful fruit in the bottle.
Last fall, we had the incredible opportunity to pick Pommard Pinot Noir fruit from Ted Klopp's Thorn Ridge Ranch, the same Russian River Valley vineyard where Inman Family Wines, Freeman Winery and buyers of our fruit, Kosta Browne Winery, get their grapes. We've tracked the winemaking of this fruit through the crushing, fermentation, pressing and malolactic fermentation process. Finally, last weekend, Clay was ready to do the bottling.
Now that we have moved to the ranch, he has struggled to find a location on the property that would serve the same purpose. We finally decided to take a small barn once used for kiwi harvesting and turn it into a dedicated winery for his work.
The juice became wine when it completed the alcoholic fermentation, so we'll refer to it as wine from now on. It's now going through malolactic fermentation.
Clay has a lovely little hand-operated basket press that we bought when we were making wine in our garage down in Moss Beach. Clay pours the juicy must into the basket and as it is compressed, the juice flows out through the openings in the basket. This kind of press has been in use and relatively unchanged for almost 1,000 years.
We’re so excited about the opportunity to make wine out of the beautiful Pinot Noir grapes from Ted Klopp’s Thorn Ridge Ranch vineyard (renown wineries such as Kosta Browne Winery, Freeman Winery and Inman Family Wines make wine out of these same grapes!) that I’ve decided to write a grape-to-glass diary from the perspective of a winemaker’s wife.
After a month experiencing the buzz of the harvest season but not being able to enjoy it ourselves because our grapes will not be ready until next year, we were finally going to get to participate in a harvest of our own.
His garage was a home gourmet’s dream. He had three big barrels of ageing wine. He let me have a sample. A glass-lined refrigerator ran along one wall of the garage and in it were homemade hams and sausages, curing. I came to learn later that this wasn’t any regular guy. This Paul, who invited a complete stranger into his food and wine laboratory, was chef Paul Bertolli, Alice Waters’ chef at the world-renown Chez Panisse and co-owner and chef at Oliveto.