' Natural Winemaking - Renaissance Winery

Natural Winemaking

Some comments from the winemaker:

Minimal intervention
Our approach is "minimalist": No unnecessary processes or treatments. No commercial yeast inoculations. Levels of sulfur dioxide are kept to a minimum by extending the "sur lie" period, during which the wine is protected by its lees. We do not fine or "cold-stabilize" any of our wines, or filter any reds.

Gentler is better
Red grapes are de-stemmed and gently crushed into open-top oak fermenters. During fermentation we manually punch down the cap up to 6 times a day. Gentle peristaltic pumps are used to move wine into barrels, where they age on their lees often until the day of bottling. Some small lots are worked manually from foot crushing up to and including manual bottling directly from the barrel. Stabilization and clarification occur by natural sedimentation.

Expression of terroir
Renaissance wines are highly distinctive expressions of their micro-climate, soil, and varietal components. Our organic viticulture and hands-off style of wine making are aimed at preserving their authenticity.

Flexibility - "Listen to the grape"
In lieu of formulae or recipes, we strive to understand each individual lot of grapes. Our vinification methods are custom tailored to each lot's particular character in order to maximize its potential and balance.

No use of "makeup" in the winery
The unique character of our wine comes directly from the quality, concentration, and ripeness of our grapes. Cosmetic manipulations such as strong acid adjustments and the use of commercial yeast and bacteria strains are avoided. We do not leave residual sugar in the wine to "enrich" its body. New oak barrels are used with great caution not to mask the fruit. It is the essence of the grape itself that we strive to pack into every bottle.

Understanding the vineyard and its varieties
A vine may live for over a century and a vineyard for millennium. By comparison, our twenty-plus years of experience are very scant. With all our friends in the "New World" wine industry, indeed we are beginners. With every passing vintage, our knowledge of our vineyard and its myriad of micro-climate and soil variations increases, and with it, our understanding of each lot of grapes harvested and of the elusive "perfect" method of vinifying it. Our "Vin de Terroir" series focuses on the fascinating, subtle yet profound effect of each variation of soil and micro-climate on the individual grape varietal; sometimes on a field-blend of a few varietals.

Older vines
In relation to vines – as with so many other things – there is a trade-off between the quality and quantity of production. In Europe it is widely recognized that the older the vine, the better its potential for quality. As our vines move into their second quarter-century of existence, while we see their vigor and productivity decline, we also witness a parallel improvement in the wine quality. The wine's texture (or "grain") grows more and more refined as the vine matures, and its inner core of fruit becomes better defined and concentrated. One of the advantages of having planted our vines on their own roots--rather than on any rootstock--is the increase in their potential longevity, which, in turn, will keep raising grape quality over many decades.

The new Renaissance
During the 1980s and 1990s we have gradually acquired a thorough understanding of our original 365 acre vineyard, with its hundreds of individual varietal/soil/microclimate combinations. With the new millennium, we have revised and redefined our goals. We decided to sacrifice variety and quantity in exchange for focus and improved quality. We selected our finest 45 acres of vineyard sites and started taking the rest out of production. We now focus on two "families" of grapes: the Bordeaux and the Rhone and the following wines:
  • Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Roussanne
  • Viognier
  • Syrah
  • Granite Crown (a field blend of Syrah, Cabernet, and occasionally Merlot)
  • Claret Prestige (a red Bordeaux-style blend)

"Vin de Terroir" Series: very limited bottlings produced in the best vintages.

These will occasionally be supplemented with Late Harvest and experimental wines.