Berkeley’s first natural winery, crafting wines from sustainable (& more) vineyards since 2004.
We only work with a handful of growers because it allows us to better focus. We go to great lengths to find growers that will truly partner with us on our winemaking voyage. We are hugely interested in biodynamic farming and all of our growers follow sustainable agricultural practices. While we certainly monitor the typical metrics (sugars and acids) we believe the only way to call a pick date is by examining the plant and its fruit in the vineyard, tasting the berries, evaluating the skins and seeds, and ultimately going with our gut instinct.
From our very first vintage, we have always fermented in wood. We were among the first to pop the head off 550L Hungarian Oak Puncheons to turn them into 1/2 ton upright small lot vats for skin macerated fermentations (red and orange wine). For whites, we have generally barrel fermented with exceptions in Stainless (like our sparkling Pet Nat wines). Today we employ wood, handmade Italian Clay, and concrete for our skin ferments and barrels and stainless for skinless (white) wines. We find our wood vats to be superior for insulation, dimensions for cap formation, and permeability of oxygen. And we feel good about the fact this metabolic process, which interacts with the vat, is happening in a vessel with no potentially nasty chemicals leaching into the wines.
We only allow wild or native yeast to make our wines. Or we do NOT add cultured yeasts for our primary fermentation or inoculate for malo-lactic fermentation. We believe that by letting the native yeasts do what they’ve been doing for thousands of years our fermentations go dry with little to no problems during fermentation and most important, the flavor profile is superior. We also generally like to follow the guideline that if we can not ingest it then we don’t put it in the wine which means we do not add enzymes to enhance color, tannins, or any other characteristic. Our wines include what Mother Nature gave them.
Every grape that goes into our wine goes down the sorting table where we examine the grapes and remove MOG (material other than grapes) like leaves, twigs, frogs, lizards, spiders, and occasionally buttons?!?! If we do have any issues on the sorting table (like rot, bird damage, diseased plants, etc) the whole cluster of questionable grapes is placed in a bin destined for the triage table. After the primary sort is completed we sort back through the triage bin at a much slower pace.
We like skin contact on many of our white wines and we love the influence of varying amounts (depending on varietal and vintage) of whole cluster grapes in our red wines. When we do remove the stems that is it – we do not use the crusher part of our destemmer. If we need more juice in the vat we foot stomp (pigeage à pied). It has worked since the Romans and still works just fine today. We like the results better than that of the crusher and our helpers have a huge amount of fun each year channeling Lucy.
We are extreme in our limited uses of sulfur, often getting an earful from lab technicians about the risks we face with such low levels. They are correct but we think we can mitigate our risk with extreme care and cleanliness and to date have been rewarded with superior wines.
We try to never say never because while we pontificate with the best of them the reality is we are trying to build a small business built on making the best wine possible and that invariably saying “never” may come back to haunt us. However, I think we can safely say we never have and never will cold or heat stabilize our wine. Not that it is a terrible thing. We just think prioritizing clarity above flavor and aroma is the wrong thing to do. As a result, our cloudy Chardonnay will always lose a clarity contest but boy does it taste good! We do not say “never’ when it comes to fining or filtering. We do operate on the assumption that we are not going to fine or filter but occasionally there are good reasons to do so in order to make the best wine possible. You can always tell what we’ve done because those wines that were not filtered advertise that fact on the front label.
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