While the process of winemaking is bewitchingly complex, my philosophy is simple: I believe the land provides a sublime rendition of each vintage in the fruit that it produces every year. No amount of tinkering can improve what is given to us when we first separate fruit from vine – yet its integrity and voice can be distorted and muddled through over-intervention or neglect. I view my primary responsibility to be facilitating energetic movement, using my physical body and senses as both a guide and watchful sentinel as the fruit slowly transforms over time in the vineyard and winery, until it reaches its second birth into bottle.
The old cliché remains true: Without question, wine is made in the vineyard. The relationship we all have with the vines is inextricably connected to our past, present, and future, and we spare no effort in the meticulous cultivation of our land. We believe our vines are the instruments, their fruit are notes and chords, and our wine is the symphony we are ultimately able to experience and share. We remain curious, flexible, and adaptive throughout each vintage to avoid imposing our own intentions over the the land’s collective expression. We address every vine as the sovereign entity that it is, seeking to discover what individual song it has to sing and how we may gently help it maintain balance and harmony as each vintage unfurls.
Everything is done by hand, with each vine touched no less than 15 times during a season. We are patient and allow fruit to ripen slowly at its natural pace and yield, and we cultivate balanced and diverse ecosystems that foster sustainable and vibrant results, year after year.
The Alchemy of Expression
Among the many critical responsibilities we assume in tending our vines, I believe that the most impactful single decision that is ultimately reflected in the wine is the day and time I harvest each grape cluster and bring it in for crush.
I taste through the vineyard daily during harvest and decide when fruit is ready. Grapes are then gently hand-harvested during cold nights in accordance with the moon. We meticulously hand-sort every load.
White grapes are immediately pressed whole-cluster and then fermented to dryness in stainless vessels with no malolactic or oak influences. Bottling takes place the following spring.
Red grapes are carefully evaluated for sensory qualities and decisions are made about any whole cluster or stem inclusion possibilities. Lots are separated and carefully de-stemmed for whole intact berries.
Following a 5-9 day sealed cold soak, reds are then brought out to the sunlight and allowed to spontaneously begin fermentation with only native yeasts endemic to our vineyard. No lab-based yeasts are ever introduced so that our unique micro-terroir is kept pure.
Red fermentations are refreshed via punchdown and/or pump-over 2-3 times daily for extraction depending on the stage and vigor of sugar conversion as well as the fruit character.
When red fermentations are ready, free run and press wine are separately transferred to tank to settle out gross lees and then gently racked to barrel a few hours later to age sur lie for up to two years before blending and bottling.
All fermentation lots and press fractions are kept in separate barrels throughout elevage and serve as a comprehensive palette of flavors, aromatics, and textures as I ultimately decide on final cuvées and reserves usually about 4-6 weeks prior to bottling.
A Relentless Pursuit of Purity
My goal is to grow and craft wines that express a purity of character that is nearly impossible without personal control of the process from start to finish. Many of the decisions I make at Dovecote contradict tradition and conventional wisdom, and are unique to this estate. To preserve this freedom of approach, we are fully independent, self-contained, do not depend on any outside influences, and limit production to ensure I have the time to care for each individual barrel from crush to bottling.
• Our vines are all grown on their own roots without standard protective rootstock.
• We only make wine from our estate vineyards that we own, control, and personally farm.
• We farm intuitively and naturally to encourage a wild, diverse, and balanced ecosystem within the vineyard.
• Everyone who touches the vines and wines lives on the property. The same family who planted the vineyard in 1990 still farms it today, three generations later. I live on the ranch full time with my family. The vineyard is just outside my bedroom window, and the winery is a minute walk from my house.
• Farming and harvest are all done by hand – we use no power machinery aside from a basic tractor.
• Fermentations all occur naturally with native, ambient yeast that comes in from the vineyard. No “designer” lab yeasts ever.
• I do all of the winemaking personally and manually. No one else is paid to make wine here.
• We don’t use any additives, and limit our protective SO2 to the minimum needed to keep wines safe during aging. Reds are not filtered or fined, and whites are all stainless with no MLF.
• I make wines with the patience and intention of seeing them improve over time (in some cases multiple decades) and hold each vintage until it is tasting as intended.
• Our wine never leaves the property from when it is fruit on our vines to the time it is sold. To maintain quality during bottle-aging, we don’t use outside warehouses or distributors. Everything — from farming, to winemaking, to bottling, to storage — happens on-site here at the estate.