“Secure the Wine!”
Now that we have the best winegrapes possible sitting at our crush pad, it doesn’t mean it’s a slam dunk to make great and pleasing wines. Every vintage is a new journey and great winegrapes give you a solid foundation from which to start. As we mentioned earlier, it is very much possible to make bad wine from great grapes. This is why, at North Gate Vineyard, we pay particular attention to the winemaking process from the crush pad to the bottling. We believe in being meticulous in our facilities and actions, rigorous in our attention to detail, and in having a process that is repeatable, yet flexible, in the face of the changing conditions each vintage year. We also firmly believe that winemaking is a blend of science and art. You can make a good wine from a recipe, but you need to go beyond the recipe to make a great wine. One of the great challenges of winemaking is understanding all of the factors that make up a wine and how you can manipulate them as a winemaker. Trying to take what mother nature has given you and mold it into the outcome you have envisioned for your wine; knowing how and when to intervene in the process to improve the wine. That is the challenge of winemaking and it is one of the main reasons why we love to do what we do!
What is our winemaking style?
- Our goal is to make wines that show the character of the varietal that is making up a majority of the wine. For instance, we do not want to try to make a big Bordeaux red out of a Chambourcin grape.
- In general, we use less oak in our wines so the fruit characters of the grape show through and are not masked. The amount of oak we use depends on the variety and style of that specific wine.
- We like to make white wines as much as we like to make reds. Our whites tend to be crisp, fruit-forward, stainless steel fermented with varying degrees of oak-time, specific to the variety, to soften up and balance against the alcohol and acids.
- We believe that blending allows us to kick our wine up to another level and allows us to achieve our final goals on a wine. However, we are cognizant of #1 above and are careful not to overblend!
Our Vinting Rules
- Clean, Sanitize, Clean, Sanitize – did we say to make sure everything you use is clean and sanitized every time you are working with the wine. If some people were to see us make our wine, they might think we are pretty anal-retentive when it comes to cleanliness. However, if you don’t take the time for consistent clean practices in the cellar, you are asking for trouble.
- Before the vintage is harvested, know your style and where you want to end up with your wines. Big tannic red? Early drinking red? Crisp white? Creamy Oak’ed white? Sweet wine or Dry wine? Having a grasp of this will set your direction at the crush pad, perhaps even before the grapes even arrive as you order yeast, etc.
- Don’t overwork the wine – Don’t give your wine too much TLC! Every time you touch, move, prod, poke the wine there is more of a chance of affecting the wine in a negative way. Sometimes it is best to let nature and chemistry do its thing for a while. Strike a balance. It will be different for each variety and each vintage.
- Blending is the Art of Winemaking – blending, when done correctly, can only make wine better. If you have a firm grasp of what you want (#2 above) then during the winemaking season, you should be getting a feel for what you might be using for blends. This will be based on how each wine is progressing in your cellar. As one of our mentors put it, you are assembling different paints on a palette and the job of blending is to allow you as a winemaker to create your final product on a canvas using the palette you have assembled. Now is that artsy or what? Be sure to assemble your palette of paints so you can put together that final masterpiece! You will be surprised what even a few percentage points of a blend will do for your wine!
- Be open minded, always learning – Read about winemaking, attend seminars and lectures, talk to other winemakers. There are always new things to learn in this field. Every vintage is different and every winemaker is different. Keep good records each year and know what to “tweak” to improve your process or evolve your style.