I have always enjoyed looking at things from different angles. By shifting my gaze or literally stepping back, I found new perspectives. Perhaps it all started with art. For as long as I can remember I have been attracted to modern art, but I found it difficult to pursue growing up in 1970’s country Australia. There was, however, another area of creativity that was fully celebrated in my small agricultural hometown, winemaking. Sitting around our big table, my parents, aunts, uncles and their friends would debate the merits of various wines. It made an impression on me. On more than one occasion, I was reprimanded for “blending” my parent’s wines while still in primary school. After graduating from high school I jumped right into cellar work for two years and then found my way to Roseworthy College, Australia’s equivalent of UC Davis.
Fast forward 20 years, after running wineries and vineyards in both Australia and the US, I had the opportunity to move to Barcelona, Spain and take up the role of Director of Winemaking for Grupo Codorníu. This was my dream job directing the winemaking of whites, reds and cava at 8 wineries in Spain, as well as one in Argentina and one in Napa. The learning curve was steep, beginning with the fact that I did not speak a lick of Spanish or Catalan. The larger challenge, however, was how to implement change at a company that had been in the wine and cava business for 450 years, making it the oldest family-run business in Spain and among the oldest in the world. The ideas I suggested were often met with exclamations of, “that’s not the way we do it here” or “it’s not traditional.” It was the old photos on the walls of the wineries that provided a map back to the future. The key was rediscovering a unique traditional fermentation process called “tecnica de capas.”
In Spanish capas means layers or steps, and that is exactly how our wines are made. Before the introduction of refrigeration to winemaking, tecnica de capas was the standard process for conducting fermentations. The term refers to the technique of cooling a fermentation by adding fresh must (freshly crushed fruit juice containing skins, seeds and sometimes stems) to the tank. Historically it was too large a task to harvest a vineyard in one day. Instead, a vineyard owner would pick the grapes over multiple days. The fermentation would begin with the first day’s grapes and then new crushed fruit would be added overtime. Each addition of must diluted the yeast population and cooled the tank, slowing the fermentation rate. However, cooling is not the only benefit of the capas technique. Perhaps of equal importance is the ability to harvest grapes at different ripeness levels, which in turn reveals a more diverse range of fruit flavors, as well as higher natural acidity and tannins. The resulting wines give a full expression of the terroir of the vineyards.
We filled our small cement tanks and open barrels a third full of must and let the fermentation begin naturally. Five days later, we added another third and three days after that we added the final third. We love the longer, softer, mouth feel and texture that results from slowing down the process.
I used to watch and wait for the exact day when the fruit was going to be at its most perfect ripeness. What I now realize, after playing with tecnica de capas, is that there is not just one perfect day to pick the grapes. If you start the winemaking process with multiple expressions of a vineyard, you begin with a wine that already has more layers than when you pick it all in one day. I gave up the pursuit of making perfect wine years ago, as there is no perfect wine. For me the goal is to create beautiful wine that can enhance a perfect moment with friends and loved ones.
Over the years I have been particularly taken by the Roberts Road vineyard. The Petaluma Gap site delivers extremely bright and intense fruit. I chose the Pommard Clone, as I love the plum and berry fruits, combined with the rich textural qualities it exhibits. This vintage offers a beautiful combination of clone and site. Aromas of ripe Santa Rosa plum and floral violet high notes, with hints of licorice and brie. On the palate there is more Santa Rosa plum, raspberry and mulberry followed by hints of licorice, brie and wet tar. The wine is underpinned by generous silky tannins that create a wonderful textural experience in the mouth. It finishes soft, yet tight with dusty floral notes. This is a living piece of art that benefits from decanting. Take the time to enjoy watching the flavors develop in your glass.
Aromas of bright raspberry and cranberry greet your nose. A second pass includes hints of licorice, wet pavement and rose petals. On the palate you will find vibrant cherry, red berry fruits and Santa Rosa plum, followed by earthy rose petal florals and baking spice. Supple tannins go on and on in the mouth. This is a living piece of art that benefits from decanting. Take the time to enjoy watching the flavors develop in your glass.
I started making art 20 years ago and found myself creating circular or rounded pieces. We chose the name Rondure for our wine brand to reflect my creative direction for both art and wine. The art on the front label is one of my least rounded pieces but represents the beautiful curves of nature vs man’s straight lines. This is a painting of a special spot you can view as you fly in to land at SFO. This National Wildlife Reserve changes in color each year and most months, which is one of the joys of flying home.
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