As a winemaker, I have a philosophy that guides the style of my wines. First, I make wines to enjoy with food. Although it might seem obvious that wine goes with food, many New World winemakers have gravitated toward producing wines that deliver immediate appeal. These wines are often initially tasted by consumers and wine writers in the absence of food. This is accomplished by emphasizing power, richness, fruit, and oak. While these might be positive attributes in a wine, when taken to the extreme they usually create a wine that does not work well with food because it lacks balance.
Interestingly Old World wines that are unremarkable by themselves are able to create wonderful memories. This happens because they integrate perfectly with a regional cuisine. Charmed, we buy these wines, take them home, and then wonder why it is not the same wonderful experience. Without the meal, they are no longer perfection.
My goal is to create wines with balance. I want the aromas, flavors, and textures to integrate and create a complete “personality”. The fruit, spice, earth, acid, tannin, and alcohol interact with food producing an experience where both the wine and the food taste better together. The nuances of both are accentuated by their pairing.
One aspect of the personality in wine that fascinates me is the ability of wine, especially Pinot noir, to express the place where the grapes grow. The French call this “terroir”. This expression is not found in how big the fruit is or in the sweetness of the oak the wine was aged in. It is mostly expressed in the secondary notes: spicy, floral, earthy, and savory facets. Texture is very important. The way a wine feels on your palate, where you taste it, how it lingers, its density or lightness are all an expression of a specific place.
The variety of vineyard sites creates distinct personalities in my wines. This is a large part of their appeal to me as a winemaker. It enables me to make distinctly different wines from the same varietal. The type of soil, the orientation to the sun, the altitude, the relative daytime and nighttime temperatures all affect the way the vine grows and the way the grape matures.
I work with new oak. However, I find that the sweet and smoky oak aromas and flavors from a barrel can obscure terroir. Modest use of oak can help support a wine and create a clearer expression. Usually very great sites can integrate a higher percentage of new wood without the oak flavor dominating. It is my intention that you taste the wine and not the oak.
Vintage is another expression of personality: some are more flamboyant and others more charming. I believe it is my job to make lovely wines in every vintage. I do not see a particular vintage as “good or bad”. It is harder to make lovely wines when the conditions are difficult. However, some of my favorite wines came from vintages that were challenging. For more details on the style of specific vintages, see our Ageability section.
Below are broad descriptions of the “personality” of my wines. My hope is that it will serve as a guide for you to explore the wines I love to make.