Location is everything. Soil is king. What’s a winemaker to do?
Quite a lot, as it turns out.
Don’t get us wrong; Place matters a great deal when it comes to winegrowing. The climate, elevation, exposure and drainage of a plot of land make all the difference. As does the soil itself. If you’re a vine, there’s simply no getting away from the dirt you’re rooted in.
But sooner or later, on the path of turning fruit into wine, man must intervene. Here at Italics, that man is Steve Reynolds. He calls all the shots. Like how much to water, when to pull leaves and when to drop fruit. Most important, he’s the guy who calls the pick.
When the fruit comes into the winery, the cellar crew goes about the painstaking process of sorting it. They are there not merely to separate the grapes from the MOG (material other than grapes: leaves and twigs and bugs and such), they are there to meet Steve’s demand for ripe berries and only ripe berries –nothing green, nothing shriveled, nothing damaged.
The next step, fermentation, would seem to be a simple matter of getting the yeasts “on and off the dance floor,” as one writer put it. But no, here Steve’s restless nature has the winery involved in all kinds of experiments, from custom fermentation vessels to exotic yeast strains. A few years ago Steve’s trials reached a zenith with the introduction of ozone treatment to keep the wines stable without the use of sulfites. Not only do the wines seem fresher, they have elevated levels of antioxidants as well. (We’ll share more on this topic as the story develops.)
After fermentation, the R&D continues with different fining and filtering techniques and a range of cooperage and toast levels. Then comes the endless blending trials, mixing vineyard blocks with different varietals, clones and rootstocks to achieve the right balance of approachability and ageability.
If all this sounds like a technical tour de force, it’s not. It’s simply Steve harnessing all the forces of Nature – in the vineyard and in the cellar – to get the most out of the fruit. It’s analogous to the shipbuilder who uses a supercomputer to design sleek hulls to slice the water and high tech sails to capture the wind. The tools may change but the challenge remains the same.