For thousands of years, caves have been the best and simplest way to store barreled wine. We followed this tradition and drilled caves in the hills next to the winery in 1994. There, the ground maintains a constant temperature (63° F), eliminating the need for cooling or heating. Thanks to the constant 85% humidity in the caves, we save several hundred cases of wine annually by reducing evaporation. Other than changing low energy light bulbs every ten years, no maintenance is required in the caves, making them very sustainable.
There are two reasons to age in oak barrels: the most obvious is to impart subtle oak flavor to the wine. Generally a new barrel adds flavor for three years before dissipating and becoming what is called a “neutral” barrel.
The second is because the addition of oxygen aids in the development of the wine. There is a constant, albeit slow, evaporation of wine through the pores of the wood (reduced by the higher humidity in the caves). This evaporation amounts to about a half a cup of wine over the course of two weeks.
Twice a month we pull the bungs and “top” the barrels by pouring wine into them. This incorporates a small amount of oxygen into the wine which aids in its development. We use oak barrels for flavor extraction for three years and as storage vessels for five to six years.
Each year we buy barrels from about twelve different coopers to add complexity to the wine. 85% of our barrels are made of French oak and 15% are American oak.
Besides the rare mouse, scorpion and frog, the only challenge is having seasonal leaks of water when the ground is saturated.
Patrons enjoy visiting our wine caves where we often taste barrel samples and discuss the importance of aging. To learn more about visiting, click here.